Doing, Doing, DONE? – 12th week in ordinary time – Matthew 7:21-29
The Sermon on the Mount now draws to a close. From a literary perspective it ended with the ‘golden rule’ in Matthew 7: 12. However, from a pastoral view it draws to a conclusion here. Remember that the Chapters and verses were added to the Bible as late as 1551 by Robert Estienne also known as Stephanus, who added verse divisions to his fourth edition of the Greek New Testament, while en route between Paris and Lyons, France.
This last section of the Sermon on the Mount addressed a growing issue in the community of St Matthew. There was a clear dichotomy between thought and behaviour which perhaps threatened this growing community. While they professed their faith in the Lord their motivations have now become questionable.
While this questionable behaviour flows through the text it is highlighted the most in verse 28 and 29. The crowds were astounded at the Lords teaching because he taught them with authority. This authority was not merely one that came from an office he held but by the fact that his words and deeds matched.
Here in lies the warning to the disciples of the first century Judeo Christian community; they are warned not to slip in to the same mould as ‘their scribes’( verse 29) but remain true to Jesus. It is evident that Matthew’s community too had scribes who had now joined the fold from Rabbinic Judaism but their inauthentic lives would stand out when matched with the Master should they not fall in line.
The text of today can be divided into two sections. Verse 21-23 contrasts ‘sayings with doings’ and verses 24-27 contrasts ‘hearing and doing’. In both the sections, the doing is the proof of the pudding. When we do a bit of self-introspection we realise we have a set of assumed beliefs, what we think we believe which may not match our doings. We may say we believe in being honest and in truth but should we be faced with challenges then this belief is simply compromised. The question Jesus is asking us is; do our beliefs truly shape our practices?
In verses 21-23 the disciples were given a glance of what the heavenly court would look like. Here there are no pretences for all will be revealed. Merely calling out on the Lords name does not grant us a place in heaven. It is GOD who will be our judge for verse 21 reminds us that while we may call out to Jesus it is the FATHER who will be the judge of our doings.
Interestingly the advocate and the witness in the heavenly court is JESUS. This is seen in verse 22 when the petitioner appeals to Jesus as advocate with the words, “Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name? And Jesus in his dual role as witness also says, “I never knew you, go away from me you evil doers.”
As Jesus draws to a close the Sermon on the Mount, he is making it clear to those who desire to follow him. Discipleship is not a flash in the pan, it is not a new flavour of the season and it is not merely a Sunday mass affair (get my drift?). True discipleship is a daily response that is lived in action and ready for action.
Fr Warner D’Souza