“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many miracles in your name?’ And then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21–23, LEB)
As I mentioned in part 1, this verse comes near the end of the sermon on the mount and is really tied together nicely with Matthew 7:24-27. These words Jesus is teaching are important to understand if we want to get at the heart of this verse.
Jesus opens the teaching on the mount with 9 statements that begin with the Greek word Makarios. This word has the idea of being happy and blessed. I really like how Stanley Hauerwas understood this section…
Too often those characteristics [of the Beatitudes] … are turned into ideals we must strive to attain. As ideals, they can become formulas for power rather than descriptions of the kind of people characteristic of the new age brought by Christ…. Thus Jesus does not tell us that we should try to become poor in spirit, or meek, or peacemakers. He simply says that many who are called into the kingdom will find themselves so constituted. 1
Skye Jethani comments on these words with his own synopsis…
Jesus is not prescribing how to be blessed, but rather describing who is blessed. While the world says the strong, powerful, and happy are “well off,” Jesus turns our expectations upside down by saying it’s the weak, sad, and overlooked who are well off in God’s kingdom. 2
As he continues to teach His disciples, Jesus tells them that they are to be salt and light to the world around them, for the simple reason that as the world sees your good works it will give glory to the Father in heaven.
Jesus then tells them that he has come not to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to bring them to fullness and completion.
So, with that foundation, he turns their eyes towards the Law and prophets and begins to unpack the true heart of God in this. He tackles anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, love of your enemies, giving, praying, fasting, where your treasures are, what concerns you each day, and judgment of others.
As he unpacks these things, he is not driving home that you must walk in perfect obedience to these things, but rather it is more about the condition of their hearts. Why is this so important to Jesus, and to the Father?
Back in Deuteronomy 30:15-18 Moses was telling the people about repentance and forgiveness and of the Lord’s circumcision of the heart. In the midst of this speech to the people, Moses says these words…
““See, I am setting before you today life and prosperity and death and disaster; what I am commanding you today is to love Yahweh your God by going in his ways and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his regulations, and then you will live, and you will become numerous, and Yahweh your God will bless you in the land where you are going. However, if your heart turns aside and you do not listen and you are lured away and you bow down to other gods and you serve them, I declare to you today that you will certainly perish; you will not extend your time on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to go there to take possession of it.” (Deuteronomy 30:15–18, LEB)
What is God’s concern? If their hearts turn aside and they refuse to listen. Moses even before he dies warns them again…
“then he said to them, “Take to heart all the words that I am admonishing against you today concerning which you should instruct them with respect to your children so that they will observe diligently all the words of this law, for it is not a trifling matter among you, but it is your life, and through this word you will live long in the land that you are about to cross the Jordan to get there to take possession of it.”” (Deuteronomy 32:46–47, LEB)
Did you get that! The words of God are not a trifling matter, but life! But, God’s chosen people who literally had God’s presence in their midst have a repeating problem, a problem that God through the prophets warns the people of their condition…
“Put to your lips the trumpet like a vulture over the house of Yahweh, because they have broken my covenant and rebelled against my law. They cry out to me, “My God! We, Israel, know you!” Israel has spurned the good; the enemy will pursue him. They appointed kings, but not through me; they made officials, but without my knowledge. With their silver and gold they made idols for themselves for their own destruction…(Hosea 8:1–6, LEB)
They were doing lots of things, but they were not doing it through God. Later in Matthew Jesus would quote Isaiah while talking to the Pharisees…
…and you make void the word of God for the sake of your tradition. Hypocrites! Isaiah correctly prophesied about you saying, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far, far away from me, and they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”” (Matthew 15:6–9, LEB)
Looking at all these things, Jesus is driving home how important God’s words are, but not as rules and regulations, not as religious things to do, but where our hearts are. In it is a stern warning for us not to repeat again what God’s people have done in the past.
- (Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 38–39. Found in: Jethani, Skye. What If Jesus Was Serious? (p. 183). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.)
- .(Jethani, Skye. What If Jesus Was Serious? (p. 17). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.)