Day 42: “Wide and Narrow Gates” 10.09.2018
Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV) “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Hardly a day goes by without seeing an ad for the treatment of spinal stenosis. One would think that affliction was a national epidemic. Perhaps it is. Stenosis can also develop in the wrist and other places in the body and often accompanies old age. Why mention this as we consider today’s topic? Because the word “stenosis” is also found in our text and with very good reason. The word describing the narrow gate is “stenos” meaning narrow. Stenosis of the spine is understood as a narrowing of the spaces around the spinal cord rendering movement somewhat inhibited. So, in speaking of the narrow gate or the “straight gate” the Lord Jesus Christ is giving us a word picture of a narrow path that is only found by a few. It is not obvious and easy to find. Navigating it will require some searching and deliberate care and caution getting all the way through.
In contrast, Jesus said “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Here we have the Greek word “platos” from which we get the English “plateau.” In other words, the road to destruction is like a great open plateau spreading out with dramatic flatness and easy to cross. Like walking from one side of a huge desert to the other side with no barriers. Many people go that way. Now, Jesus is moving towards closure of the Sermon on the Mount. Why might he have given this rather unhappy warning to us as we sit on the mountainside? Let’s consider …
First, we need to relate this passage to John Chapter Fourteen. We read:
John 14:6 (NIV) “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
This was and is a very exclusive statement. It is not “inclusive” and since the idea of “inclusion” is particularly prominent today, we should not be surprised when it is offensive to the “many.” There was an attitude in the first century that, in a sense, is very like the one we experience in our time. It was perfectly acceptable then to say, “I believe in Jesus.” What was not acceptable was this statement: “I believe in only Jesus.” We hear the same thing. In modern society saying “only Jesus” is where the offense begins and ends. Why? Because the implication is so dreadfully serious.
I once had a Jewish friend who did not believe in his Messiah Jesus. He said to me: “If what you are saying is true, that would imply that my father and all of those I love who have already passed … are eternally lost! No … I just cannot accept this statement that it is “only Jesus” who can bring us to God.” I understood. Actually, he was quite correct. The best thing to do at that moment was to encourage him to think of his own salvation since he cannot do anything about the eternal state of anyone else. But it is so much easier for the lost to take the broad path. The other gate and the other path, to salvation, is a narrow one that requires perseverance. It means that the disciples as described in all our previous studies will find themselves walking carefully and DIFFERENTLY than those who do not care about the Kingdom.
It is interesting to look at the treatment of this teaching as found in the Gospel of Luke. In it, we notice some additional aspects that are very dramatic. We read:
Luke 13:22-25 (NIV) “Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’ He said to them, ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’”
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, the spiritual capital of the world. The center on Earth of the Kingdom of God. Thus, it was no accident that this exchange came up. Someone asked if only a few people will be saved. We also ask that question when we see how much more “attractive” worldliness is to the lost. It leaves us wondering if most people will not find their way into the Kingdom of God . Most people, we sense, will not inherit eternal life. We do not rejoice over this but we simply have to acknowledge it. So, someone asked Jesus about it.
Notice our Lord’s reply. He reminds them that THEY must be careful to pursue the narrow path. Once called to the journey, we must stay focused and deliberate. Then our Lord gives this very ominous warning to all who may be listening:
“I tell you, many will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’”
There will be no second chances as some theologians suggest. Simply stated, this is it! Here and now, every person must make a decision about the Lord Jesus Christ and his claims.
NEXT: “I Never Knew You!”
Peace. Pastor Alberta