“Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom…” (Matthew 4.23). The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is our most complete account of the message Jesus proclaimed, the gospel of the kingdom. Within the sermon Jesus reveals what kind of people are in the Kingdom (5.3-12) and the standard of righteousness each citizen must strive to attain (5.20,48). He emphasizes the surpassing value of the Kingdom in contrast to things of this world (6.20,33) and challenges us to view others based on how God views us (7.1,12). With the “golden rule” (7.12), the instructive portion of the sermon comes to a close. Now the Lord, He who spoke with such great authority (7.29), concludes with an earnest appeal for us to choose (7.13-27). “He is saying, in effect: ‘My sermon is ended. Now you must decide what you will do about it. Consider carefully. Choose wisely. Life and death are in the direction you take.‘” (Paul Earnhart)
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7.13-14)
God’s way is narrow
Our Lord offers no illusion; He does not mask how difficult adherence to the ways of the Kingdom will be. There is a path much easier, one which most of the world takes. This path demands nothing from you, holds you to no standard. But the end of this path is doom and destruction. Jesus beckons for us to choose the far more difficult way. The entrance is described as “small”, the way itself is “narrow” and this should come as no surprise for Jesus’ sermon has emphasized the “narrowness” of the Kingdom. Its people are those who are becoming “perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5.48); their aim is firmly set on “His kingdom and His righteousness” (6.33).
Given the smallness of the gate and the narrowness of the way, we must forsake many things in order to choose and follow the correct path. Pseudo-righteous adherence to God’s will (5.17-20), hypocritical worship (6.1-18), things of this earth (6.19-34), and prideful attitudes (7.1-5) are some of the things Jesus says we must leave behind if we are to follow the path which leads to life. Or, as Jesus put it on another occasion, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.‘” (Matthew 16:24–25) Nothing must be deemed to valuable that we wouldn’t leave it behind in order to take the path leading to eternal life!
Perhaps, if we focus on the things we are able to carry on the journey we will forget about the things we couldn’t carry with us. Gentleness (5.5), righteousness (5.6), mercy (5.7), purity (5.8), love (5.44), eternal treasure (6.20), freedom from worry (6.31-33) and assurance that our God will answer our prayers (7.7-11)… the path is not so narrow that it will not accommodate these. In fact, these ease our way on the journey to eternal life. Truly we “have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10.10).
Our view of others.
Jesus appeal for us to take the right path also helps shape our attitude and thinking toward others. First, we must not appeal to the opinion of the majority, for “many” have rejected the call of Jesus, choosing rather the easier path. If our main concern is “will others approve?”, we have forgotten Who’s opinion really matters: “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (5.19).
Second, Jesus’ words emphasize just how important our role is in His Kingdom. We are to be “peacemakers” (5.9), doing all we can to help others achieve peace with their God. We are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (5.13-14), using the gifts of God to show people the way of God. The people of the world need peacemakers, they need salt to preserve them and light to point them to God. They need these things because “many” of them are going the wrong direction.
Finally, Jesus words should help us to appreciate why the many will be lost. It’s not because Jesus is uncaring, for He came to save them and to show them the way. The many are lost because they chose the easier path. Tragically, that path appears to many to be a righteous path. It may encourage many righteous qualities, but it is the wrong path because it fails to demand adherence to all God says (5.19). We must not weaken the message or standards of the Way, for doing so would not lead people to the image of God (5.48) and thus would not lead to Him. The way to eternal life is available to all, but it must be chosen.
A choice MUST be made.
We live in a society where choice abounds. You are free to choose from many options what you will eat, wear, how you will entertain yourself, what you will study, where you will work, where you will live, etc. But for the most important decision, there are only two choices: the narrow path to eternal life or the broad path to destruction. You must choose one or the other, no-one remains stationary. When choosing, keep in mind that the path determines destination. Many desire eternal life (or a concept of heaven), but they prefer the easier path. You cannot get to heaven while on the path to hell. Jesus beckons for you to choose eternal life and to move in that direction every day, no matter how narrow the way may seem.
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