Summary: The stories of the narrow gate, the healthy tree, and the house built upon the rock all have a common theme in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.
Gates, Fruit, and Foundations
There was no denying he had changed. When I was 20 years old I watched a transformation take place before my eyes. I had become a Christian 3 years prior, and I had tried on many occasions to witness to my parents. But I was not successful at helping them to see that my relationship with Christ was based upon acceptance of His forgiveness and grace, and that it was entirely different from the religious works attitude I had as a child and teenager. They just didn’t get it.
And then one day my dad shared with me that He had knelt before the TV while watching a Billy Graham Crusade, and that He had given His life to Christ. I was excited, but skeptical. My dad was always a very religious man, but his religion was more about rituals.
But then I began to observe the changes in my dad. First, he seemed more peaceful and more joyful than he had ever been. He started to read his bible faithfully every day, and he always spent a good deal of time in prayer. Whenever I went out with my dad, I would observe how he always brought the name of Jesus into every conversation he had with strangers. He witnessed in his own way with just about everyone he met. My dad seemed to have a new purpose to life.
There were changes in the way he interacted with my mother also. He started to treat her gently. He was kind and more considerate than he had ever been before. He showed my mother love by his words and actions, and as a result my mother became less angry. She grew in tenderness towards my dad.
For the first time I was actually able to talk with my father about spiritual things. A new openness and trust grew between us. The changes in my dad were small, but significant. My dad demonstrated by his life that he was a true believer in Christ, and not just a religious man.
Change is inevitable and critical when we follow Christ. If we are not changing daily to become more like Jesus, than we either do not know Christ personally as our Savior, or we have willfully walked away from Him and have grieved the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is in every believer and He produces this change. It is what is meant by being born again, a new creation in Christ.
In the Sermon on Mount, Jesus spoke repeatedly about this change. Believers move from religion to relationship, and from head knowledge towards heart change. Using three separate illustrations Jesus drives home this point:
From beginning to end real Christianity produces change
Our first illustration comes from Matthew 7:13-14
"You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.”
1. The hard way versus the easy way.
Jesus begins with an illustration of journey on roads and through gates to contrast the way of salvation with the way of destruction. The imagery would have made sense immediately to the people of Palestine.
There were several different ways to go up to Jerusalem, the city of God. There were wide and well traveled roads that were relatively smooth in ancient times. These roads had been created over centuries and under Roman rule had become even easier to travel on because the Romans would use them to transport their troops and their chariots.
Then there were other paths that were not so easy to travel upon. Some of the roads were very rocky and covered wilderness and dangerous terrain over hills and valleys. There would be the constant danger of wild animals or marauding bands of thieves waiting to attack you like the man helped by the Good Samaritan. These roads would be long and winding with long stretches of loneliness and isolation.
When the travelers arrived at the city, there would be several gates to choose to enter the city. Some of these gates were wide and were used by merchants carrying their wares, or by the soldiers on horseback. Other gates were small and narrow and rarely used by people.
It was with this imagery that Jesus began to teach that the way to God and to eternal life is full of difficulties and challenges. There are not many roads that you can take, there is only one way. Jesus would declare later that “He was the way, the truth and the Life. No one could come to the Father apart from Him.”
Jesus emphasized that all of us are on a journey, but only those who travel the right path and use the right gate will find entrance into the city of God. There aren’t multiple paths. There is only one. Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, and Church-goers – though all well meaning and sincere - are doomed to destruction if they do not take the correct path. There are many gates, but only one gate will gain you entrance, and it is a narrow gate. Only one person at a time can fit through it. You can’t get in on the coattails of anyone else. Each person must enter themselves, alone.