“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. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” [Matthew 7:13-15]
Isn’t it interesting that right after this short little parable about the straight and narrow way, Jesus instructs those who were listening to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, meaning the false prophets, and we were just talking about that. The last sentence in the above snippet is not actually part of the parable, itself. But I thought it fit in with the flow here, so I included it. I wasn’t thinking, when I mentioned wolves in sheep’s clothing (at the end of the last chapter) that the next parable on the list would bring us right back around to these wolves, again. I like to refer those instances as “divine guidance.” No, I did not really see this coming, at that point. But God did. I’d like to take credit for the smooth segue, but I cannot. Thank you, Lord.
Many times, when I sit down to write, I have no idea what I am actually going to end up writing. Oh sure, I have a general idea of the topic and how I want to explain it. But, along the way I get inspired by maybe one tidbit or another and that leads to a story, an illustration or whatever hits me at the moment, so I write it down. Then, when I go back and proofread it, it might seem to be more like something that someone else wrote, not me.
I believe that is how the Holy Spirit works in all of us, not just me, if we will only allow ourselves to yield to it. King David expressed the same sentiment when he wrote Psalm 45 to explain his amazement at how God inspired him to write down what was in his heart and share it with others so we could still be moved by his works centuries later.
My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
That is one of the joys of writing for me. I am never quite sure what is going to come out. The Holy Spirit is the One who leads, all we can do is try our best to follow. In fact, the word “inspiration” is derived from “spirit,” which comes from the Greek word “pneuma.” And pneuma can also be interpreted as “wind” or “breath.” So yes, I believe inspiration comes from God, whether it is to write a song, paint a picture or write a book.
And I believe it is also by divine guidance that you have this book in your hands at this moment in time, because as the Bible teaches, all of our days are numbered in advance. Nothing happens purely by chance and God is in control of every tiny detail, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. So, I would not take it lightly. I believe God has led you to read this book for a reason, and it has nothing to do with me being the author. Trust me on that. God has a much greater goal in mind. His goal is apprehending your heart.
One of the gifts that a truly good storyteller possesses, is the ability to leave you with that one key phrase or one key statement, that stays with you long after the story is over. Jesus most certainly had that ability and used it quite often. Let’s look at the first portion of this parable. The part about, of all things, the width of a gate. C’mon now. That could not possibly have any spiritual relevance, could it? I mean, it’s just a gate.
Well Jesus said, regarding the gate that leads to life (meaning eternal life), “…there are few who find it.” Uh-oh. Wait a minute. Is He talking about me? Where is the cut-off? How do I know if I am in, or I am out? Thousands of people were gathered on this hillside, listening to what started out as a somewhat inspiring message. You know the opening part of this sermon well, no doubt.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
All generally positive and uplifting stuff. I am sure most of the folks were feeling pretty good about themselves for a while there, and why not? Jesus was sharing a message of hope, mercy and redemption.
But not long after that, reality sets in as the same teacher who was shining light into their hearts only minutes before, now seemed to be “raining on their parade.” And long after they left and headed for home, they probably forgot all about the warm and fuzzy parts, and were left with just this nagging image of a narrow gate that only a few would be able to find. What does it all mean?
It seems this tiny story, about a narrow gate, near the end of a lengthy sermon on a hillside near Jerusalem over two thousand years ago has become, not only for those who were present, but for you and I and all who read the Gospels, a matter to be wrestled with. Certainly, not ignored. Is that what they mean when they say a story is a “cliffhanger?” I’d say so. This one certainly left some people hanging.
It seems Jesus is pointing to holiness and purity of heart, as the way to enter the narrow gate, if I am reading this correctly. But at the same time, isn’t Jesus the one who would eventually die for the sins of the world, offering forgiveness to each and every one of us? That sounds more like the wide gate to me. If everyone is forgiven, wouldn’t you need a very wide gate?
And right back around to “the kicker” we come. No, you only need a gate wide enough for those who “find it”. Remember, not all lost “sheeple” want to be found. Some are quite happy being lost, I presume, rather than being herded around by some shepherd. Some like to “come and go and do as they please.” They do not see any real benefit to being controlled or fenced in. Plus, they fail to recognize the dangers of not being protected from their natural enemies. Their focus is only on the “here and now” and finding the best grass to eat. And that makes them easy prey, not being aware of their surroundings and the dangers that lurk about, be they physical dangers or spiritual ones.
Hence, the need for a shepherd, hopefully a good one. And when it comes to gates, the narrow one, especiall, few are those who find it. But, those who do, they are precious in His sight.
Sometimes questions only lead to more questions, especially when it comes to matters of faith and God and the proper way to interact with Him. I sometimes wish that, in this day and age, we had the ability to gather on a hillside and listen to Jesus face to face. I would think that would make it all much easier to digest, wouldn’t you? But, it doesn’t seem that was the case for those who were right there with Him. Sadly, for many, it only led to more confusion and created more frustration. It seems that maybe they were looking for the answers they wanted to hear. But, the Lord had no intention of tickling ears. No, He never took the Dale Carnegie course on “How to Win Friends and Influence People,”
Rather, He only spoke the things He had heard His Father say and He only did the things He saw His Father do. He was not interested in compromising His message to lure people in His direction and His intent was not to destroy the traditions of the Jewish faith, as some surmised He was intent on doing. After all, He said He came to fulfill the Law, not abolish it.
His only goal was to reunite fallen people with the One who made them, by simply speaking the truth in love. He wanted them to focus more on what was ahead than on what was behind them. Jesus knew that people cannot change their past, but they can most certainly change their future. He also knew they would never change if they were content to follow the masses, go with what’s popular or become too comfortable with the old cloth or the old wine that we talked about earlier. The “mounting question” being raised by this parable was about holiness, sanctification and being willing to leave the old ways behind and embracing the new.
Jesus Christ introduced the world to an entirely new way of “being holy.” In days gone by, it was believed you were holy only if you followed the Laws of Moses perfectly and completely. But, knowing we all fell short of that, the priest would offer up a sacrificial lamb, once a year, for himself and the sins of all the people. Sure, it was ritualistic, but it seemed to suffice. The people understood it.
Jesus became that lamb, once and for all time. The yearly offering no longer needed to be made. And being holy was no longer about obeying all the religious laws (which was humanly impossible). Holy meant “being separate, set apart for God,” It meant turning from your old life, from following the crowd or trying to earn your own salvation. It meant fully putting your trust in Christ and the blood that was shed as full payment for all the sins of mankind. Past, present and future. Being holy now meant accepting God’s mercy and turning from the powers of sin and self and submitting to the Holy Spirit. It meant, as they say, to “Let go and let God.”
The answer to all these “mounting questions” was Jesus Christ.
He, alone, is “the gate” by which we all must enter through, as He taught us in John Chapter Ten.
Nothing more and nothing less.