“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Have you ever had one of those moments when you thought you were going the right way and then it turned out, disastrously, that you weren’t?
I can remember the tail-end of a trip to England with my sister. We were returning home on different airplanes from different airports, so I helped her through the streets and underground trains of London to get to her plane, before returning into the main part of the city to pick up my own luggage and get to mine. I’d under-estimated how long the turn-around would take, and the first signs of panic started to edge into my consciousness. I needed to hurry! I got to the underground station and moved too quickly in selecting the train – the one in front of me seemed so obvious, the door so openly inviting, that I stepped right in, only realizing once it started moving that I was going in exactly the wrong direction! Real panic ensued. I got off at the very next stop, backtracked, lost more time, rushed, then rushed some more, then caught the right train to the airport, sweating the whole time. Suffice it to say, I got there, but only just.
The wrong route is disastrous. Even when it looks so obvious, so inviting, so quick and easy. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.
Jesus said, “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction.” It’s the easy route, the default setting, the thoroughfare you end up taking without even thinking about it. It’s the path most travelled.
The right path, on the other hand, requires deliberate selection. There’s a narrow gate to be chosen, with a very specific path opening from it, requiring the traveller to place one foot after another in the same direction, not straying to right or left.
All of this starts sounding very restrictive and exclusive, indeed “narrow,” which tends to raise the hackles of people in our day and age. “There are many paths,” people will say. “Who are you to say there is only one?” Yes, it would be the height of arrogance to make that claim.
But Jesus does it. “Enter through the narrow gate … (S)mall is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” The consequences are huge. Life and death hang in the balance. The broad way, with many walking it, leads to destruction. But if you want life, you have to join the few walking the narrow way, leading on from that narrow gate.
It’s only later that Jesus makes clear he himself is the path and the entryway. None other will do. “I am the gate,” he says, “whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9). Later, intensifying the issue, he says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
All of this would be painfully restrictive, were it not true. But since Jesus is also “the truth,” we are wise to heed. “Enter through the narrow gate” is an embracing word of invitation. He welcomes us in. Don’t follow the crowd into other things. Keep your sights on me, he says. Don’t pursue destruction. Follow the way of life.
This is true for salvation. “There is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). All the talk of “many paths” is simply distraction from the narrow gate. Don’t miss it. Jesus invites us in.
But it is also true for fullness of life here and now. To quench our thirst (with living water), to fill us up (with streams of the Spirit), to wash us clean (like the leper made whole), to open sightless eyes (like the man born blind), to restore what was lost (like the girl raised from death) – all of this comes only through Jesus.
“Enter through the narrow gate.” Don’t take the broad way. Don’t get on the wrong train. Embrace Jesus.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for this strong word that both warns and invites. You welcome me, again and again, to walk in your way only. I choose to follow. Help me avoid the broad, easiness of destruction. Speak the word: this is the way, walk in it. I am listening.
Reflect: Is there anything that is sidetracking you currently into easy distraction – into the broad way? Ask the Lord for insight. Listen to his voice. Respond. Walk in his way.