Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Matthew 7:13-14 KJV
Jesus uses this simple parable to teach an important and sobering truth. Although God has a kingdom that is large and great, the doorway to that kingdom is small or narrow. The pathway leading to that doorway is just as surprisingly difficult, difficult to find and travel. Conversely, the fate of destruction has a wide entrance-way and a broad pathway leading to it. This picture that Jesus paints for His hearers is one that they could visualize without much difficulty.
In the Roman world there were many broad roads between major cities and population centers. Those thoroughfares were busy and well-used by travellers and merchants. Along with the main roads there were also rugged, poorly or un-maintained pathways that crisscrossed and joined the highways of the Empire. Great cities had great gates as well. Jerusalem had a magnificent entry that you could ride a coach and horses through. Then there were also small gates, suitable only for pedestrians.
So consider with me, the wide gate that leads to destruction. It is a comfortable road, one that is sloped downward. It is the type of road that you can coast along and freewheel to the bottom. It is user-friendly and accommodating. It is a decorated and respected road, and the pride of most who travel it. It is paved with good intentions, self-sufficiency and self-righteousness. This way is inoffensive and inclusive of others. It is permissive and non-judgmental. This is the road of choice for most respectable people in society and is traveled by both great and small and strong and weak. This road is described in Ephesians 2:2: “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:” (KJV)
This road is the road to destruction. This destruction is hell. This road is one “… which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” ( Proverbs 14:12 KJV). Jesus does not lead us this way.
There is another path, that leads to another gate. The narrow gate symbolizes the more difficult, yet righteous, pathway that Jesus calls us to choose. Some have said that the narrow gate is actually an illustration of a turnstile. A turnstile allows one person entrance at a time and with no extra baggage. It is tight to get through and this is the point that Jesus is making. To pass through the narrow gate a man or woman must be stripped of pride, self-righteousness, self-rule and any other encumbrance, that would keep him or her from making a full surrender to Jesus’ lordship. Jesus said:
… Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3 KJV
Children are the epitome of dependence. Becoming childlike means becoming dependent on God and this is not something adults naturally choose to be.
Jesus says elsewhere:
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
Luke 13:24 KJV
From these words we see that one does not automatically fall through the gate but, rather, strives to enter it. In fact, some make it through the gate and others do not. Why is this? Is it because God does not want many in His kingdom? No, far from it, God wants all humanity to receive the salvation that He offers. However, the commitment that Christ calls for is very high.
You do not just fall through the gate automatically, nor do you start out your life on the difficult road automatically. This road must be found.
Each of us makes many choices in our lifetime. We choose what clothing we wear, what car we drive, what occupation we enter. Some choices are minor and other choices are major. Jesus is calling us to make the most important choice of entering God’s kingdom. The rewards and consequences of this choice are eternal. Jesus’ call is much like God’s call in Jeremiah where He says:
And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.
The choice and way that Jesus is calling us to is narrow. This is not simply a choice between religion and secular belief or between being pleasant over being cruel. Jesus is calling us to salvation through repentance and faith in Himself. Nothing short of total commitment will do. Jesus’ call cuts across and contradicts the syncretism and inclusivism of our age. There are not many good religions or many good philosophies; there is one way that is right and that is Jesus’ difficult path and narrow gate. All other paths lead away from God’s kingdom and join with the broad road to destruction. All other pathways involve self-sufficiency and self-righteousness and are, in fact, hypocrisy. Jesus’ way is for us an admission that we are sinners and that we need Him to save us. Jesus’ way is substitution of Himself, dying for us, and Him rising from the dead. Jesus’ way is also a call to full commitment to Himself and to His truth.
Jesus taught a narrow gospel. Jesus taught a gospel which included confession of sin, obedience to God, childlike faith, righteousness and true love. All of these things go against human nature. These things also go against man-made religion.
Jesus’ gospel is not narrow because it is too complex for most people to understand. To the contrary, Jesus’ gospel is simple, simple enough for a child to understand. Jesus’ gospel is us repenting from our own way, our own will and surrendering to Him. It is coming to Jesus and trusting in His sacrifice on Calvary and in His resurrection. Jesus’ gospel is us coming to Jesus. Jesus’ gospel is simple but it is also humbling. There is nothing built into Christ’s gospel to inflate our ego or sense of self-sufficiency. Instead, it shatters both of these.
What makes Jesus’ gospel so narrow? It is narrow because it requires repentance and not just belief of the mind. Many religions are based on philosophies that call men to believe intellectually with the mind. However, Jesus calls us to repent. Matthew records Jesus beginning His public preaching ministry with this call to repentance.
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Matthew 4:17 KJV
Jesus also called men and women to faith, but it was not a faith devoid of repentance. Repentance and faith go together. In fact, faith without repentance is merely faith of the mind. It is not a faith of the heart. Repentance is the factor to activating faith as a response of the heart. The difficult road is the road of repentance and heart-faith.
Some might say, “Can’t I just be a good person and love others and won’t God accept that as my expression of faith?” My friend, hard as this may sound, without the righteousness of Christ working in you, you are not loving others in the way that you may think you are. Jesus has much to say about loving others but His love was displayed by giving Himself up sacrificially to die on our behalf for our sins. This is intense love. This is radical all-consuming love. When a man or woman understands Christ’s love for them they receive His love and His love begins to work and show itself through them. Christian love is a direct result of Christ’s own love at work in the life of one of His followers. Without the understanding of Christ’s love and without the heart-faith experience of Christ’s love at work in you, what foundation do you have for loving? How deep is your love for others? How untainted is it? How sacrificial is it? Is your love something you have generated or mustered up? How enduring is your love? Is it something that flows out of the never-ending stream of divine love, freshly experienced through faith?
Friend, do not claim to be loving if you are only drawing feelings from your own personal emotional resources. Do not claim to be loving if you merely helped someone out in some way. Christ’s way is a way of love but true love is a spiritual experience that is entered into and lived out through the experience of heart-faith. If you do not have heart-faith do not claim to be loving, and do not claim to be a good person. The broad road is a road of sin and rebellion against God. Friend, is this true of your life-course? Are you willing, and choosing and walking the rebellion road?
Only the righteousness of Christ will suffice to substitute for your life and mine. Only the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient to pay the price that we owe. Only the love of Christ is worthy to be called love and is able to fill and animate your life and mine.
Are you offended? Friend, remember that this is a difficult road. This is a narrow gate. This is the humble path that few men and women choose to follow. Most do not follow this pathway but before you make the same decision as they, I hope that you will hear the words of Jesus Christ. I hope that you will not dismiss lightly the words of someone Who, in fact, died for you and for me. He is the One Who said that the way that leads to life is difficult. He is also the One Who said:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
Friend, God has so loved this world, and yourself and myself personally, that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for your sins and for mine. God does not want to condemn you. God wants to save you. Being saved means leaving the broad road. Being saved means you choosing the difficult road. Being saved means believing in Christ. Being saved means repentance and heart-faith. Light has now come to your path and you must choose between God’s light and the darkness of evil. Even in the message of this short article there is enough light for you to make a choice for the right path. It is a humble choice. It is a childlike dependant choice.
If you have not yet chosen to follow Jesus Christ, I invite you to pray with me now.
God, I have been journeying for a long time, not really knowing where I am going. Today I have heard Your words and learned that I am on the broad path. Oh Lord, I am on the wrong path. I have learned that there is another way, a difficult way that leads to life, and this is now my choice. I want to be on Your side, in Your kingdom and living with Your love in my heart. Lord, I lay down anything and everything that would prevent me from passing through the narrow gate. I lay down and part with my pride, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness and self-rule. I am a sinner in need of Your forgiveness and for Your forgiveness I now plead. Jesus, you died for my sins and then You rose again from the dead. I choose to believe, and I choose to believe and trust in You personally. I choose the difficult road and the narrow gate. I repent. All along it has been my will that has been the problem. I now surrender my will to You. Accept my life and my faith as I give it completely to You in a childlike way. Thank you for Your great love. Thank You for the road to life. Thank You for the open gate. Thank You for dying for me. Thank You for loving me. Amen.
Booth, Catherine. Papers on Godliness. The Salvation Army Supplies And Purchasing Department. Atlanta, Georgia.
Hendrickson, William. New Testament Commentary: Exposition Of The Gospel According To Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1973.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 8–15. Chicago: Moody Press, 1987.
Wenham, David. The Parables Of Jesus. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
KING JAMES TRANSLATION BIBLE USED.