Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 7:13–14

Matthew 7:13–14
“Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
(NET Bible)
Note: any Bible reference containing only a chapter number and verse number is understood to be in the Gospel of Matthew.

The lure of the easy life

When I was in school, some people liked the easy way, so they cheated. Can you guess how much they learned? Jesus offers to all a choice of the easy way or the hard. What will each of us choose, and why?

Jesus concluded his description of kingdom-discipleship with the Golden Rule (7:12). What follows, starting in Matt. 7:13–14, is the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. The ending falls into four sections skillfully described by R.T. France, who uses the idea that insiders are believers and outsiders are not:

The resultant four sections therefore press increasingly closer to home: the first is a simple contrast between saved and lost [7:13–14], the second concerns outsiders who merely pretend to be insiders [7:15–20], the third looks at those who think they are insiders but are not [7:21–23], and the fourth draws a line within the group of insiders (who hear Jesus’ words) between those who respond and those who do not [7:24–27].[1]

According to this analysis, today’s passage is the first scene and presents a simple contrast between the saved and the lost. Sadly, Jesus says the saved are few and the lost are many. On the basis of such verses, some interpreters teach that only a few members of humanity throughout the ages will end up in heaven. That assumption may be true, or it may not be. In my opinion, Jesus was speaking of his own time about the Jewish nation.

Craig Keener[2] points out that most first-century Jews thought they were saved by the simple fact that they descended from Abraham, but Jesus was letting them know that their assumption was flatly wrong! Those who actually listened to Jesus’ words would have assumed that the few (7:14) and the many (7:13) were references to the Jewish people of that time. Jesus gave them no reason to think otherwise.

Simple observation will show you that Jesus gives only one command in these verses: “Enter through the narrow gate” (7:13a). All the rest of the material (7:13b–14) explains why. When you think about it, you will realize that Jesus is speaking to people who have each trekked to the countryside of Galilee to find him. They have already taken trouble to hear him, and now he challenges them to prepare for even more. Will they take the narrow gate and the difficult road with Jesus, or will they return to the easier path, the unrestricted gate used by the many?

Presumably, those taking the wide, easy road do not know where it leads. Jesus clearly states that it leads to destruction (7:13). That is a metaphorical description of God’s eternal condemnation. On the other hand, the narrow gate leads to a narrow, constricted road (7:14), making it less popular and certainly filled with danger. But the few who find the narrow road are rewarded by arriving at life (7:14).

Jesus understands the struggles faced by the faithful, and he does not leave them to face danger alone. That God approves of the faithful few is plain, because they are rewarded with eternal life!

Never forget that Jesus understands the hardship of the difficult road. The author of Hebrews tells us this about Jesus: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). Jesus is our gracious and tested high priest. “For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.” (Heb. 4:15–16).

The harder life

Certainly it is easy to think that our contemporary society satisfies the same description Jesus gave to the first-century Jews; many are rejecting the narrow road, if they even think about it at all.

Yet Tim Keller, a well-known thinker and pastor, has established a huge evangelical church in Manhattan. People are still seeking Jesus! Keller says: “We have neither the Western Christendom of the past nor the secular, religionless society that was predicted for the future.”[3]

The narrow gate still stands, and the difficult road remains open for those following Jesus. The reward of living with God is worth the struggle.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007) 286-287.

[2] Keener, Matthew, 250.

[3] Tim Keller, The Reason for God (New York: Dutton, 2008) xv.

 

This entry was posted in Discipleship, Jesus Christ, Salvation, Sermon on the Mount and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!