Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever lived, and what we’ve read today adds proof. He illustrated the truths He taught with examples His hearers could relate to easily. Today we’ve read about narrow gates and broad highways, wolves pretending to be sheep, trees producing good and bad fruit, houses built upon rock and sand, and winds and floods. All these things make it easy for us to remember what Jesus wants us to do.
The easiest way to remember how God expects us to treat other people is to recall what is called The Golden Rule : “Do for others what you would like them to do for you” (Matthew 7:12). Jesus said that one rule summarizes the teaching of the Old Testament. How would you like other people to treat you? That’s how you should treat them. Let’s apply this to you and your brothers and sisters. Do you want your sister to share a favorite music CD? Share what you have with her. Do you want your brother to remember you before he eats the last piece of pizza, saving some for you? When you have the opportunity, save some pizza for him. One of the nicest things about following the Golden Rule is that when you treat others nicely, they will probably treat you nicely in return. It’s hard being mean to someone who’s nice to you!
Jesus told His followers early in this sermon that they had to obey God better than the religious teachers and the Pharisees did, otherwise they wouldn’t get into heaven. Just like today, there were many religious people in Jesus’ day who weren’t really saved. The majority of people are on “the highway to hell,” and it’s the minority who are on the true narrow path to heaven. Jesus wanted those who were following Him to make sure they were His true disciples, and that they were following leaders who were also on the right path. The way they could tell if they or a religious leader were on the narrow path was by looking at how they lived their lives.
Jesus first talked about phony religious teachers by calling them false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing. Outwardly they look harmless, but their inward motivation is selfish. They want to take advantage of those they lead. The way to identify them is to look at their “fruit,” or their actions. Good people act good. Bad people act bad.
Also, we should be careful not to follow someone just because he does miraculous things. Jesus said many people would stand before His judgment seat, listing the miracles they did and hoping to convince Him to let them into Heaven. If they lived sinful lifestyles, however, they would be refused entrance. Jesus said that those who don’t produce good fruit will be “chopped down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 7:20). That means they will be cast into hell.
Jesus was not saying that we can earn our way into heaven by doing good things. Our salvation is a gift from God’s grace, offered to anyone who will believe in Jesus. However, those who truly do believe in Jesus will produce good fruit, just as a good, healthy apple tree naturally produces good apples.
Q. When Jesus finished His sermon on the mountainside, the people were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had real authority. That means Jesus spoke knowing exactly what He was saying, and no one had a right to disagree with Him. What does this tell us about Jesus?
A. It either indicates that He was a very proud, opinionated, bold and self-centered human being, or else He was God, pure and holy, telling the truth.
Application: Have you ever built a sand castle close to the water along the seashore? If you have, you know what can happen to a house built upon sand when a big wave comes in. Anyone who is not doing what Jesus said is just like a person building his house on sand—he’s heading for a big disaster. That’s why we should take very seriously all that Jesus had to say, including everything He said in this sermon on the mountainside. Are you building your house on a rock, doing what Jesus said?