Parable of the Rock from Death Row: Jeff Hood & Bart Johnson

Parable of the Rock from Death Row: Jeff Hood & Bart Johnson January 2, 2024


The Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, Death Row Spiritual Advisor

Bart Johnson, Prisoner on Alabama’s Death Row


Matthew 7:24-29


Parable of the Rock from Death Row: Jeff Hood & Bart Johnson


The ones that build their house on the rock.  That’s who we’re supposed to want to be right?  Not the sinking sand that won’t hold the house.  But…what is the rock?  Throughout its history, the church has taught that the rock is Jesus and we are supposed to put our house…or our lives…on the rock.  Such might be true…but the problem is that church answers are rarely applicable to the outside world…the experiences of real human beings…the experiences of us.  Sure, Jesus is the rock.  But what does that mean?  Perhaps, it’s more helpful to think about the perfect ideals that Jesus represents…for our purposes in this writing…think love and justice.  Thinking about building your house on these rocks changes the way we think about the passage.


What does it mean to build your house on the rock of love?  When we give our lives to love…to the rock…we are doing more than simply moving our partial love around when it suites us…we are consciously making a decision to love without limit from wherever we are.  Love on the rock is timeless and unshakeable.  The rock is about us learning to give love in ways that are unshakeable.  Building our house on the rock of love means that we have decided to not be moved by the emotions and feelings of the day….we have decided to be a rock in the lives of all that we encounter.  We have decided to love as Jesus loves…selflessly and endlessly.  We have decided to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  That is what it means to be the rock…for our house to be located on the rock.


What does it mean to build your house on the rock of justice?  The work of justice is full of people who take up causes for a minute…yet never build their house on justice itself…a permanent place to carry out the work of justice.  Those who plant themselves firmly in justice do not keep rebuilding their house.  They demand justice for all that they encounter.  They stand for justice no matter how dark the hour.  They are not easily swayed by what is happening around them…for they have built their house on the rock of justice…they will not be moved by circumstances no matter how insurmountable they are.  When we decide to fight for justice for others as just as hard as we seek justice for ourselves…that is what it means to be firmly planted on the rock of justice.


The rock is so much more than otherworldly fantasies that feel out of reach.  Jesus is present with us.  We can know the rock.  We can know love.  We can know justice.  Whatever you want to call the rock…we can know it.  There is no greater venture in life than to find the rock…your rock…the place where you firmly build your house.  If you build anywhere else…anywhere but the rock…you will find that you are building your house on sinking sand.

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