“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.
Tucked in the middle of Matthew 7 (the concluding lessons from The Sermon on the Mount) is this short discourse on the “two ways” wherein Jesus challenges us to consider our personal path and examine our steps. Jesus begins with a present imperative: “Enter through the narrow gate.” The fact that the gate appears first and then a way implies that this is referring to one’s coming to know God in a personal way through Jesus’ teachings and then following where He leads. This verse implies that salvation is not an easy decision which fits in with the mainstream of culture, but a decisive change of life which issues in obedience to the principles of God. The fact that one way leads to destruction shows the ultimate outcome of those whose lives are lived independent of God. Jesus is inviting the people to come to Him – to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through Him – in order to find true life … abundant life … eternal life. You can see this metaphor with similar connotation used in the Gospel of John:
John 10:1-10 (NIV)
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep listen to His voice. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what He was telling them. 7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
So Jesus is the “small gate” that leads to a “narrow road” whose destination is “life”; as contrasted by a “wide gate” that leads to a “broad road” whose destination is “destruction”. And the issue of great concern here is the number of people who travel down each path. Many are those who remain in the deception of the world and its darkness; and few are those who embrace the light of the Gospel and follow Jesus and obeys His commands. There is something of grave importance for us to observe from this passage … and we need to examine the direction of our walk before God. Have we truly entered the narrow road (lifestyle) that leads to life through Christ Jesus; or have we entered the superhighway of the world and the culture (lifestyle) as its speeds toward its own destruction? Sometimes it is hard to distinguish professing Christians from those of the world; and I think this parable anticipates that phenomenon….
If you continue to read beyond Verses 13-14, you will find a series of “contrasts” related to “religious” people
1. The two ways of approaching God (Matthew 7:13-14)
2. The two types of religious leaders (Matthew 7:15-23)
3. The two foundations of a religious life (Matthew 7:24-27)
The question is not so much which lifestyle or group of religious people Jesus referred to; rather, the focus is on how people respond to their understanding of God’s will. Some discard God and religion altogether. Some use religion to gain immediate praise and rewards from other people … but in vain. (Cf. Isaiah. 29:13-15; Colossians 2:16-23). True disciples; however, order their lives in light of Jesus’ words about the present and coming Kingdom of God. He knows the sincerity our hearts! As Jesus said, the time is now when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth – for they are the kind of worshipers that the Father seeks. (Cf. John 4:23-24) Until you have Jesus, you do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. And without the Holy Spirit, you cannot worship the Father in the Spirit or in truth…. So the small gate and the narrow road are significant in our response to the lavish grace and mercy of God for our salvation. Jesus made it quite clear, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6)
This parable from Matthew 7:13-14 is paralleled in Luke 13:23-27, and I would like to contrast the two so you can see the intent of the message:
Luke 13:23-27 (NIV)
23 Someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 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.’ 26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
Note here the “many” who will try to enter and will not be able to do so – because “the owner of the house gets up and closes the door”. Herein lies the pressing nature of the Great Commission … the evangelical mission to share the Gospel and to urge people to “enter” through the “narrow door” while there is still opportunity to do so. It is appointed for people to die once, and after that to face judgment. (Cf. Hebrews 9:27) When the door is shut from a hardened or deceived heart, death, or the Second Coming of Christ, there does not appear to be any more opportunity to intentionally trust Jesus Christ for salvation. Again, “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.” Jesus bids all people to enter through Him. It may seem “narrow-minded” to have this view (as Christians are often accused), but Jesus declared He is the only way! And as each day passes, the door inches a little more towards the frame and latch. Oh, I pray we will be about the Father’s business, inviting people through the door that leads to light and life – to an authentic encounter with our Lord and Savior. Amen.