Take the Road that Leads to Life

We tend to avoid sticking out (do you want to be the only person at the dinner who thought the dress code was casual?). In Matthew 7:13–14 Jesus calls you to be different—and there are eternal consequences to the choices you make.

Beware of the wide gate. The broad road is attractive. By nature we like the broad, easy road. The wide gate attracts. It is the path of least resistance. Not surprisingly, this broad road is popular. What Jesus calls blessed in the Beatitudes is not what the world finds attractive. Jesus is emphasizing the antithesis between the kingdom and the world. One of the best commentaries on what Jesus is laying out here is Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

The wide gate leads to destruction. The wide gate and broad road have a destination. It is destruction. Destruction is more than financial or social ruin. It is certainly far more serious than the embarrassment of standing out in a crowd. Ultimately it is eternal ruin, separation from God. It is the death of which God warned Adam and Eve in the Garden. The ungodly, whose way is warned against in Psalm 1, ultimately are like the chaff, blown away by the wind. “To such an eschatalogical death-apoleia (‘perdition’ [or ‘destruction’]) refer Matt. 7: 12; 10:28; John 17:12. This of course describes far more than a state of alienation from God. It expresses the absolute, eternal ruin awaiting the evil-doers at the end.” (Geerhardus Vos, The Self-Disclosure of Jesus, p. 265). As popular as the attractions of the broad road are, they fail to lead to the proper destination. The Sermon on the Mount begins with tenderness, with Christ blessing the poor in spirit. But it concludes with a series of warnings. Rejection of the King has consequences!

Enter the narrow gate. Jesus commands you to enter the narrow gate. Jesus points to a narrow gate and a narrow road. It is inconspicuous enough that some might miss it. Few find it. Don’t push the numerical indication beyond Jesus’ intention, see Matthew 8:11; 20:28, where he speaks of saving many. Jesus point is that the narrow gate is not the popular, natural choice of the world. This gate has to be found. Remember that Jesus begins this passage with an imperative verb, a command, “enter!” While Jesus talks of both a gate and a road, we can push the imagery too far (does the gate provide entrance to the road, or does the road lead to the gate at the destination?). The questions go beyond Jesus’ intent in the passage. It is clear that he requires not only an evangelical turning to him, but also a life of obedience. Taking the narrow way will cost you. It involves giving up the standards of the world, rejecting your natural self-centeredness, and instead, living by the standards of the kingdom.

Jesus has taken this route before you. The Lord Jesus Christ is not just a road sign pointing you to the narrow way. He is more than a prophet directing you to the correct path. He commands you to enter the narrow gate, because he has trod that path before you. He, and he alone, has walked perfectly the path of obedience to the Father. Not only does he command you to enter the narrow road, but, as John records, he is the way, the truth, and the life. Thus Psalm 2 summons you to obedient submission and trust in the Son.

This road leads to life! It is hard to be different. But it is worth it to take the narrow way, for it leads to life. The path to the tree of life had been blocked by the angel with the flaming sword. But in Christ, the way to life has been restored. “The whole of future bliss is concisely summarized in the word ‘life’. . . . By the term ‘life’ Jesus means authentic, imperishable life.” Herman Ridderbos The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 275). Psalm 1 describes the one who does not walk in the way of the ungodly, and compares him to a tree, planted by waters. That looks back to the Garden of Eden. Revelation picks up the Edenic imagery in describing the new Jerusalem, where you have, not just a restoration to Eden, but the fulfillment of what what held out to Adam, had he obeyed. What you lost in the fall of the first Adam, you who trust in Christ, have gained in the obedience of the second Adam. Life in all its glory, life which includes fellowship with God now and for eternity—that’s what makes it worthwhile to dare to be different by finding the small gate and walking narrow way.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is not good advice which you can take or leave. He commands you to walk the narrow way. And the consequences of your action are eternal!

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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