Two weeks ago, my family; along with my parents, went on a 4 day vacation to Grand Marais. We walked along the shoreline until we came to a section of woods. The woods spread out across the entrance of the peninsula called artist point. The shoreline was smaller at this point and more dangerous as the rock ledge got higher and less wide. We decided to follow the one path through the woods to get us to our destination which was the point of the peninsula.
Once we walked for a while through the woods, the one path broke out into various different paths. My mom, who had been there before, told us we could take any path because they all led to the same destination, which was the point of the peninsula. My eldest daughter and I braved the rock ledge, and in time ended up at the point of our destination. The rest of the family took two different paths through the woods. In the end, my mom was right, each path led to the same destination.
But did they? Did all the paths lead to the same destination? Let’s pretend that the entire family was blindfolded and brought along the one path through the woods. Before we came to the point in the path where it branched off into many paths; my mom spun us around and around until we were almost dizzy. She then took off each of our blindfolds and told us we could take any path because they all led to the same destination. Is the statement still true? NO! One path split off into many paths that all led to the point of the peninsula. The other path led us back to shore. Both paths led in entirely different and opposite directions. One path led to a place where there was a city full of food, shelter, and clothing. One could spend the entirety of one’s life at Grand Marais and be quite happy. While the other path led to a rock facing a massive body of water. If a person spent the entirety of one’s life on the edge of this rock, it would be a short life because there was no shelter, and no lasting food.
The point of this illustration is that there are only two paths of life. One path, the path of wisdom, leads to eternal life. The other path, the path of foolishness, leads to eternal death.
Matthew 7:13–14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
The first thing to note about this text is that Jesus is the one who is speaking. He first gives us a command: enter by the narrow gate. This is a command for you and for me. It is not an optional suggestion from our Lord (ie. if you think it would be good, then enter by the narrow gate; or if you feel like it, enter by the narrow gate), but rather an authoritative command. Enter by the narrow gate!
The other thing to note here is that there are two gates. (Ask your kids) Can anyone name me the two gates? (a narrow gate and a wide gate).
The Wide Gate:
Let’s talk first about the wide gate. I know it seems obvious, but the wide gate is big and wide. And when you have a gate that is wide, many people enter through that gate.
I work for an HVAC (heating and air conditioning company) company called Egan. I drive a big one ton white service van. At our office, the back warehouse area is locked by two gates so that no person can drive behind the building after hours. I have access 24/7 by an access card I carry in my wallet. When I drive my van up to the gate, I swipe my badge and the gate swings up by a powerful motor which moves the gate completely out of the way. The gate does not hinder my van, or any van for that matter, at all. The gate is wide. It is very easy to drive any vehicle through this gate. Multiple vehicles can even be next to each other side by side, and still get through the gate. It is easy to enter through this gate. Many people enter through this gate every day. Because Egan is a mechanical construction company, you could say that this wide, easy gate leads to construction.
Jesus tells us that this wide gate, with an easy path, leads to destruction. He tells us many people are on this path. This path is easy to get to, it is easy to find, many people are on it and so there is plenty of company. There is tons of fellowship, tons of like-mindedness, and hardly any obstacles at all. It is easy.
The Narrow Gate:
There is the wide gate, and there is also the narrow gate.
Cambridge MN is about 12 miles from our house. From time to time, our family will head off to the Menards store to pick up some things for a project or two around the house. As we walk up to the wide automatic double doors, we are all able to walk through the door at the same time. These doors are comparatively wide and easy to get through. But after we walk into the store, they have a single turnstyle gate. This gate has a three steel arms which block the way. One arm is strait, the other is low so you can’t crawl under, and the other is high. As our family comes up to the gate, only one can pass at a time. The lead person presses against the steel arm and it swings forward. As soon as the arm pushes forward, another arm immediately comes in behind so no one can pass after. If you try to follow behind the first person, you will get clucked on the top of the head. This gate is narrow. It is intended for only one person to pass at a time. If a cluster of people all press against the gate and try and pass at the same time, the gate will not let you. It is intended to be hard to get through, and allow only one person to pass at a time.
Jesus tells us the narrow gate is hard to get through. He tells us few people find the gate, and few people are walking on the path. He tells us this path is hard. And it leads not to destruction, but to life.
(Questions for the kids)
- When Jesus tells us the wide gate leads to destruction, what does he mean? (leads to hell)
- When Jesus tells us the narrow gate leads to life, what does he mean? (leads to heaven)
- Which path are you on?
John 10:7–10 “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
We have been talking about two gates, with two paths, which lead to two destinations. One gate is wide, with an easy path, and many people are traveling this road that leads to hell. This is the path of foolishness.
The other gate is narrow, with a hard path, and only a few people are traveling this road that leads to heaven. This is the path of wisdom.
Where is this narrow gate, the narrow door? It is not at the Cambridge Menards right? so where is it?
Jesus tells us he is the gate. He is the door which leads to heaven. Everyone in all of the world is walking on one of two paths. One path leads to eternal life, and the other leads to eternal hell and death. One path is filled with fools who do what is right in their own eyes. One path is filled with wise people who do what is right in God’s sight. One follow their own feelings and opinions. The other follows the Words of God found in the Bible. The only way to enter the path of the wise that leads to heaven is to enter through the narrow gate of Jesus.
So what does this mean? Is Jesus a literal gate, or a literal door? NO.
Sometimes I do service work at the Anoka County Prison. When I need to gain access to the basement to work on one of their chillers, I have to pass in through the jail cell block to get to elevator which leads downstairs.
I walk up to the guard who will gain me access into the jail. There is one guard. He is the one who alone will let me through. After I see him at his post, he gives me a badge to hang off my shirt which lets them know I have signed in. I then walk alone to this solid steel door and wait. The guard is watching me on a camera. If he cannot see my badge, he will tell me over a speaker to face the camera so he can be sure it is I. He then presses some sort of button, and I hear these loud bolts disengage and the steel door is able to be opened. I walk inside and the door shuts behind me. Now I stand facing another steel door. One is before me and the other is behind me. I am absolutely stuck between two doors until the guard decides to open the next door for me. Once he does, I am inside and can do my work.
Jesus is both the gate keeper and the door. I must go to him alone to enter the path of the wise which leads to eternal life. He is the door to life, and he alone has the authority to let you enter the path. Like the badge I had to wear to gain access into the jail; he must see upon my heart the badge of his blood. I must be seen with the blood of Christ applied to my life or I will not enter.
There are only two paths of life. One leads to life eternal in heaven, this is the path of wisdom. And the other leads to eternal death and punishment in hell. This is the path of the fool. At this very moment, whether you know it or not, you are all on one of these paths. You are not on both, nor are you one some third option.
So which path a you on?
The beauty of the gospel is that Jesus loves to save fools. He loves to take folks like you and me and move us from the path of the foolish to the path of the wise. He loves it when the fool glances back at the Gate Keeper, and decides to change the direction he is traveling (repentance).