June 16th, 2019
Disciples of Jesus are to enter through the narrow gate and travel along the hard way that leads to life.
I.The Wide Gate & The Broad Way (7:13)
Three questions to ask of each option presented:
What is this gate & road like?
Who is on it?
Why are they on it?
The gate is “wide” and the road is “broad” or “spacious.” It is meant to be the obvious point of entry at first glance, and can accommodate the “many” travelers, pilgrims, or merchants who are attempting to enter a city.
The traditional interpretation of this passage tells us that those on the “broad” way are those who practice immorality, have no moral compass, and who are living with an “open-mind” that leads to overt sinful behaviors. Meanwhile, it is the religious, self-controlled people who travel on the “narrow” and “hard” way.
However, this is not the kind of person Jesus has been warning about in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. He’s been warning about the religious elites of the day (the scribes & Pharisees - the “hypocrites”). This broad way is even wider than we might initially think.
The gospel has two equal and opposite enemies:
Relativist: avoids God by ignoring him altogether and running away in obvious, sinful rebellion (or: those who do not view sin as a problem because they are saved by “grace’)
Moralist: obedient and compliant toward the commandments of God, but not to seek God for salvation; instead, they use God to achieve their own salvation. “I obey, and therefore I am accepted.”
There has to be enough room through this wide gate and broad road for both the relativist and the moralist, because there are only two choices presented. What is the connecting thread at the bottom of both of these approaches to life?
“In the end, moralism, and relativism in churches are not just equally wrong; they are basically the same thing. They are just different strategies of self-salvation built on human effort.” ~ Tim Keller
The pull toward the wide gate and the broad way where the majority travels is strong, because the natural path of least resistance is to lean into our flesh and self-salvation strategies. Where are we drawn to the traps of moralism or relativism?
II. The Narrow Gate & The Hard Way (7:14)
“Narrow” has the idea of being “restrictive” or “confining;” the KJV translated this as “strait” (like a “straitjacket”). “Hard” is a word used for suffering, hardships, and afflictions. Jesus is indicating that following this way hurts.
Because of the narrowness and the cost of taking this choice, only the “few” find it. It’s a gate not for the masses, but for the individual, leaving behind all that is necessary in order to ‘squeeze’ through.
The key to why we are invited to take this road is to recognize that not all “hurts” should automatically be avoided. Hardships, affliction, and the difficult tasks we are called to often have a formative role in our lives.
The hill, though high, I covet to ascend,
The difficulty will not me offend
For I perceive the way of life lies here.
Come, pluck up my heart, let’s neither faint nor fear;
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is Woe.”
~ John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
We must never lose sight of the destination: this narrow gate and this hard way described in the Sermon on the Mount ultimately leads to life. And we are called to enter into this life of the Kingdom. But the way we enter and remain is critical. The gospel of John reminds us:
Jesus is the “door” for the sheep to enter (10:7-9)
Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” who guides us on our way (10:11, 14)
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (14:6)
Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly (10:10)
Eternal life is knowing God and knowing Jesus (17:3)
Despite all of the different religions, philosophies, and ways of life that exist, this is why there are ultimately only two options. The wide road says “This is how you get to God,” while the narrow path of Jesus says “Got came to get you.” The narrow way is the way of Jesus.
“This is not a legal, but a gospel exhortation… [Christ] himself is the only gate, or the door, by which we can find admission, and the way to enter in through Jesus Christ is not by working, but by believing. Then, as to the strife we are urged to carry on, it is an earnest endeavor to steer clear of all the rocks, and shoals, and quicksands of popular fallacies and deceitful traditions, and to sail in the deep waters, with his covenant for our chart, and his Word for our compass, in simple obedience to his statutes, trusting him as our pilot, whose voice we always hear, though his face we cannot see.” ~ Charles Spurgeon