You know the famous verse in Matthew 7 where Jesus says:
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Mt. 7:12-14).
I’ve always thought these verses were saying that many people will not find Jesus and those who do find Him sign up for a difficult, strenuous life, always struggling with the desires of the flesh, and will even be in danger of losing their salvation if they don’t keep the 10 Commandments.
I’m glad I was wrong.
This idea does not resemble the Good News of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, does it?
Well, why did Jesus say this and what did He mean?
Salvation by works
First, we need to understand Jesus spoke to law-keeping Jews, not to you. Jesus’ audience had only known of a righteousness that came from law-keeping.
However, the law-teachers and Pharisees had watered down the law making it easier to keep. The purpose of the law, therefore, was not fulfilled which is to reveal sin and the need for a Savior.
Jesus preached Moses 2.0 because He had to raise the standard of the law to the level of perfection (Matt. 5:21-48). Jesus even concludes His challenge by saying “be perfect therefore as your Father is perfect.”
Jesus raised the standard for them to prove that it was not only difficult to earn your way to heaven, but also not accessible without Him!
In fact when someone asked Jesus, “Lord are only a few people going to be saved?”, Jesus urged the Jews to “strive to enter the narrow gate.” He cautioned them that many of them will seek to enter but will not be able to (Luke 13:23-24).
“To strive” is to force oneself through with great determination depicting self-effort.
Simply put, the “narrow path” and the “narrow gate” that “few will find” describes the law’s way to salvation.
This path was not only difficult but actually completely impossible! Salvation by works is such a narrow gate, that in the end a few might find it, but even then nobody will make it into a relationship with God based on their own merit.
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New and living way
Although the Jews had a narrow way of accessing God through rules and rituals, Jesus came to open a new and living way of drawing near to God for all mankind.
For Jesus to bring a new way, He had to pass the old difficult way successfully; He had to fulfill the law perfectly in order to abolish it as the way of salvation.
In other words, Jesus came and took the narrow path and difficult way on our behalf.
Because Jesus walked along the narrow path and went through the narrow gate for us, the narrow path is now obsolete; that is, no longer valid. It has disappeared (Heb. 8:13).
Jesus is the only Way
Keeping the law is compared to the narrow path in the sense that it had a lot of restrictions and requirements. While living in disregard of the law was compared to a broad way.
The broad way is simply choosing to live one’s life independent of God rather then dependent of God.
Either way, Jesus is the answer.
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
And Paul said,
Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved (Rom. 10:13).
The Jews had to believe in Jesus who came to be the only way to relate to God.
This is what most Jews found hard to accept. They now had to turn away from trusting their old covenant sacrifices and observances of the law as their way of relating to God and instead embrace faith in Christ as the new and only way of relating and accessing God’s blessings.
Easy and smooth way
The narrow path is man’s ability to keep all the requirements of the Law of Moses in order to be blessed by God and earn eternal life.
“For the law was given through Moses but grace and truth came through Jesus (John 1:17). The narrow path was given by God through Moses but Jesus came as the Way that takes away the difficulties of the narrow path (Col. 2:13-15).
Jesus came to straighten out the crooked paths that were so difficult to walk on.
A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation (Luke 3:4-6).
This is a prophecy referring to John the Baptist, but ultimately it’s a prophecy referring to Jesus.
The way of the law was crooked and rough. Jesus has now, through His finished work, made the crooked paths straight and the rough ways smooth.
Now all people will see the salvation of God.
It’s not difficult to enter any more.
Now there is no one seeking to enter in without being able to.
Salvation is finished and whoever wants to receive it will receive it for free.
The way to the Father is now cleared of any obstacles once for all.
The message is: “believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31).
The narrow path story is pointing to Jesus and not about signing up for a difficult, strenuous Christian life with a bunch of do’s and don’ts hanging over your head.
Jesus is the new and living way to relate to the Father (Heb. 10:19-20). By going through Him the way is smooth and easy.
The Highway of Salvation
The prophet Isaiah prophesied of this new and easy way by talking about the arrival of “a highway of Salvation, a highway of Holiness, where whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray. In this highway the redeemed of the Lord shall come to Zion with singing and everlasting joy. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Is. 35:8-10).
Here, Jesus is is the highway of Salvation. He is the highway of Holiness.
There is no more striving to enter.
A person need to do nothing but believe in Jesus to have a joyous smooth free ride on this highway enjoying an everlasting relationship with God the Father.
Our Christian life isn’t about walking on a narrow path nor about striving to enter, but to depend entirely on what Jesus has done for us, thus entering into God’s rest.
This is God’s highway of salvation and holiness. It’s a highway filled with singing and everlasting joy because now we can serve God, not in the old, narrow way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit (Rom. 7:6).
“Do it yourself” religion
Unfortunately the message of a narrow gate and difficult path is still being preached today as if Jesus didn’t accomplish a thing. (If you are not a Jew by birth it was never meant for you in the first place). This message deceives people to try and earn God’s blessings by taking it upon themselves to make God accept and bless them according to their good works.
On top of that, one might end up believing their eternal security hangs in the balance depending on their holiness or lack thereof. After all how much striving and hernia popping efforts are enough to ensure God’s blessings or your place in His family?
This “do it yourself” approach makes the Christian walk difficult and burdensome even though Jesus said it’s easy and light!
Beloved, Jesus meant it when He said, “For My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).
This isn’t fairy tale stuff.
That’s not to say we’ll have an easy life without any pain or hardship. No. But what Jesus is saying is that in the midst of our circumstances we can live from a place of salvation with ease instead of a place of working for salvation with difficulty.
Here’s Tullian Tchividjian on the “do it yourself” religion:
Once you made that initial Christian commitment, it was time to get your act together and be serious. We conclude that it was God’s blood, sweat, and tears that got us in, but that it’s our blood, sweat, and tears that keep us in. We view God as a glorified bookkeeper, tallying our failures and successes on His cosmic ledger. We conclude that in order for God to love us, we have to change, grow, and be good. Staying on the straight and narrow out of fear is incredibly stressful, but you tell yourself it’s better than the alternative: naked trust in the too-good-to-be-true goodness of Someone you can’t control. There is, after all, no free lunch. If you want love, you must earn it.
Share the Good News
Beloved, let’s not forget that the narrow, difficult path that Jesus pointed out to the law-keeping Jews has now been cleared up and made wide; valleys are filled, mountains brought low, crooked ways made straight and smooth.
Now we have a smooth main road.
It’s easy to find and it’s easy to travel on.
Even the fool will not get lost.
A highway that’s cleared of obstacles, straight and even, that’s the salvation available for all mankind.
The “narrow gate” or “narrow door” is related to “keeping the law,” which many will try but will not be able to do.
While on the other hand, Jesus portrays Himself as the “other” door that will usher in many people from the east, west, north and south who will sit down in the Kingdom of God (Luke 13:29).
Let’s tell people that Jesus is the open door to the Father (John 10:9). And that without striving or sweating they can enter into a relationship with the Father.
As many as received Jesus to them He gives the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
No longer will few find the way and the gate; the Gentiles will arrive “in full number” (Rom. 11:25). I am not saying everybody will get saved, but I am saying that God’s house will be full of guests (Luke 22:10).
And there will be a great multitude that no one can count, from every nation, tribe, people and language (Rev. 7:9).
Now, that’s good news!
Who can you think of that can benefit from hearing this message today? Simply use the share buttons below to show them your love 🙂