Jesus uses another common parable from the Talmud. It was widely known in that part of the world that during rainy season, it could fall in torrents, rinsing the rocky places bare and flooding the wadis. Jesus could have easily cited the place where He sat teaching for this parable. Keep in mind that, while we cannot be sure of the exact location of this sermon, there are few steep craggy places near the northern Sea of Galilee where He had been ministering. Most of the likely sites were gently sloping hills composed of stone, left standing above the surrounding terrain because neither wind nor rain could remove them. They frequently had buildings on them, or ruins from past structures.
Thus, those who studied the revelation of God and obeyed it were likened to those who built on such rocky hills, and the heavy rains had no effect. Those who studied but did not obey were like those who built down in the wadi. Not just a shack, but these two were building a whole house, a large building with two stories, an exterior wall and inner courtyard with rooms all around. By extension, this house represented his household, his family and the legacy of all his work. This was his very life in this world, everything that mattered in the minds of Ancient Near Eastern men.
It’s obviously more than mere individual existence that counts here. But it’s also far more than just one’s own immediate family; it’s a picture of one’s contribution to the covenant community. How will you be remembered? What will your descendants have to live with when you are gone? Did you build shalom and divine justice, or did you fritter away your existence simply playing by the rules? It’s not enough to know the revelation of God and take the path of least resistance. We are obliged to put work into it and strive against the human moral entropy we inevitably encounter in this fallen world.
The shalom is far more than just the product of wise social science. It is the power of God to ameliorate the Fall. It is the favor of God and Creation itself, finding us delightful because we truly believe that it matters. Give your heart to God. Commit yourself to His ways and His wishes. That word “faith” means a heart-led commitment to a person.
It’s critical here to notice the reaction of Jesus’ audience. They were used to rabbis quoting previous rabbinical teachers and lawyers. Jesus taught from the Living Law burning brightly in His soul. Yet the people recognized instinctively the inherent authority of someone who had become the very living expression of God’s revelation. His teaching called out to their hearts and they recognized the truth of what He said.