Last night we finished our study through Matthew chapters five through seven (“The Sermon on the Mount”). Here are the notes:
The picture Jesus draws: Two gates, one wide, one narrow, leading to two ways. The Wide Gate leads to a wide road with lots of people traveling on it, and it goes to what Jesus calls “destruction.” The Narrow Gate leads to a road that’s difficult to walk on with not a lot of people traveling on it, and it leads to eternal what Jesus calls “life.”
The command he gives in response to this reality is “enter” and the means to enter is by passing through the narrow gate. Based on verse 14 this must mean “enter into life. Based on other verses, including Matthew 18:3 (which speaks of “entering the kingdom of God”) and Matthew 18:8 (“enter into [eternal] life”), this “life” must be the eternal life in the kingdom of God Jesus frequently referred to.
So “enter” must mean, “begin the journey now, by making a decisive decision, which will have ramifications for your life, This decision will literally shape the rest of your existence, and it will ultimately lead to eternal life.” …Which means that the two ways are not ends in themselves, but their significance is found in the destinations each of them leads to.
So Jesus challenges anyone within earshot, especially those who have some connection to him, to make a decisive choice to step into the hard life of following him. He pictures the choice as a gate which is restrictive, and which few pass through, maybe because it is so narrow. He promises that this, and this alone is the way to life. If you’re a believer, this encourages you to press on up the hard road, remembering why you’re on that road—you’re headed to life.
If you’re not on that road, Jesus calls you to repent—which in this teaching means—turn aside from the broad road, leave the common way of living and thinking, and enter the narrow gate. Choose life by choosing the way of following Jesus now even though it has real short term costs, like persecution and minority status.
- Life really is this serious. In our time we’re tempted to think of everything as kind of a joke and a party. In jokes and parties things don’t really matter, just having a good time. That’s why being chill and funny are the two traits we esteem most. But here is Jesus being drop-dead serious. There are times in life to get this sober—to realize that really life is not about the joke and party, but about the destination we’re headed to.
- It’s not really about the journey. It’s about the destination. The destination determines whether the journey is meaningful, significant, and worth it. If the journey ends in destruction, the whole struggle, the whole party, was a waste. If the journey ends in glory (in “life”), the whole struggle, all the joys and victories, are gathered up into eternal significance. The destination is everything.
- Jesus asks us to totally redefine what we think life is. He tells us that there is not a rainbow of choices. Unless he’s ignorant, or lying, there are only two choices in life: a wide road and a narrow road. Our culture has declared that there are many paths, and one destination. Jesus declares that there are only two paths, and most certainly there are two different destinations. We must choose: who is our authority, and who should get our allegiance? Anyone can choose to disagree with Jesus. But then they should admit who they follow and why they gave that person authority to say what life is all about. And if someone makes that choice, they must personally reject Jesus’ claim to authority—especially if they’ve heard about Jesus. What is not available to any honest person is the option of saying that life has many roads, and at the same time saying Jesus agrees with them. He does not.
- If this is true, why does there seem to be many roads? In other words, if Jesus knows what he’s talking about, why isn’t it more obvious? Why does there seem to be many ways of living, thinking, and worshipping? And why isn’t there more help in evaluating all the choices? Why is it so confusing? The answer is right actually right here in this teaching. The broad road has “many people” on it—so by definition it is wide, in other words, it takes in all kinds of things. It’s a big tent: it seems to accommodate every possible way of living and thinking, and so it is easy to mistake that one broad road for many different roads. But Jesus says that’s not the case—It’s actually all one road, and only leads to one place. The huge numbers it boasts doesn’t change that fact.
- Why are there only two roads? “The reason there are only two ways is that one is exclusively by revelation.” (D.A. Carson) In other words, there is only One God to know, and therefore only one path into relationship with him. And that one path is only illuminated when he shows us the way. So people can have all kinds of ideas about how to find God, but only God really knows. What ends up happening is what Paul says in Romans 3:4—God is true, and every man a liar.
- Which gate have you entered? Which road are you on? Which destination are you headed to? The bible gives us a very definite way to know the answer to that question. Have you entered by the narrow gate of repenting of your sin and acknowledging Jesus Christ as the Lord of everything, and of you personally. Have you affirmed in your heart what the Bible says—that he was perfect, was killed, and is now alive because he rose from the dead. In effect, have you pledged your allegiance to Jesus to be his follower regardless of what it costs. If you have, your road will be hard but you are walking to life. If you have not, you are on the wide road, and whatever hardships you have in life, you won’t face persecution because of an identification with Jesus, and your road leads inevitably to destruction.
Don’t listen to just anyone who claims to say what God thinks. Instead, look at their words and their lives. Do their teachings match the teachings of Jesus? (For instance, do they teach that the gate is narrow which leads to life and the road has only a few people walking on it?) Does their life match the life Jesus called his followers to? Does it seem to evidence the power of the Holy Spirit?
If not, you don’t have to listen to them. We shouldn’t be surprised that there are so many ideas about God, and about how to know God. We shouldn’t even be surprised that people use the name Jesus in so many different ways. Jesus told us to expect this. The fact that he has to warn us about wolves in sheep’s clothing means that people will mimic truth for the sake of promoting error. So all these ideas about God don’t disprove the bible; they confirm its predictions.
Jesus himself tells us to be discerning: Don’t listen to everyone who claims to speak for him! Examine their words, and examine their lives. Match it against the only records about the real Jesus and his teachings we have—the documents collected in the New Testament. That’s our only sure guide to distinguish between the wide and narrow roads.
End: Read Mat 7:21-29 – If we’re tempted to doubt if we should listen to Jesus, we need to grapple with the historical reality of who Jesus was, and therefore who he is now. To listen to him was to be struck by his authority.