Summary: Why does Jesus say the road to life is narrow?
I understand the tendency that people have to question what’s true, to want more than an explanation, to want evidence. We take pride in the fact that we are not easily fooled. I want to test your ability to discern fact from fiction. We’ll call this game: Accept or Reject.
1. Life Savers® candy was invented by a man whose daughter died choking on a mint. The hole in the middle allows you to breathe, even if it gets stuck in your throat. Reject. That’s not true.
2. The Jelly Belly Candy Company makes jelly beans flavored like soap, spinach, and sardines. Reject. They do make black pepper and ear wax flavors, but not these.
3. The kid who played “Mikey” in the Life cereal commercials died when his stomach exploded after consuming Pop Rocks® candy and Coca-Cola®. Reject.
4. The combined weight of all the world’s ants is equal to that of all the humans on earth. Accept. There are an estimated ten TRILLION ants on earth, and their combined weight is equivalent to the entire human population. That’s roughly 1.6 million ants for each person.
5. Swallowed chewing gum takes seven years to digest and pass through your system. Reject. Though chewing gum is largely
indigestible, it makes its way through your digestive system at the same rate as anything else.
I have one more statement for you to accept or reject.
6. Jesus is the Son of God who died for the sins of the world and rose again. Accept or reject? Whether you accept or reject the
previous statements is really insignificant. But whether or not you accept or reject this statement changes everything. Sadly, the most common response to the person Jesus is rejection.
“Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it.” - Matthew 7:13-14 (GN)
I want us to look at a couple of bystanders Jesus would have seen as He looked out from the cross, who were transformed by their experience that day. They didn’t know when they got up that morning that they were about to be completely changed. But they were because of Jesus.
And that same transforming power is available to us today. Maybe for you, this day seemed about the same as every other. But maybe today will be the day when everything changes for you.
Bystander # 1: Simon of Cyrene - Mark 15:21
Cyrene, a city in Libya, had a big Jewish population. Evidently, Simon had traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover. Maybe he had saved for years, dreaming of one day eating a Passover Feast in the Holy City. But on Friday, when he arrived, he was caught up in pedestrian traffic. People lined the streets to watch an execution parade, and he stopped to watch, too. He saw Jesus of Nazareth, carrying His cross to Golgotha. He had been beaten and scourged - something so severe many men died from it. Exhausted, he stumbled and fell right in front of Simon. The Roman soldiers had the authority to force citizens into temporary service. They looked at the crowd and picked out Simon to carry Jesus’ cross. Simon didn’t have an option. He couldn’t refuse.
This close encounter with Jesus transformed Simon forever. Perhaps he looked into Jesus’ innocent eyes; or felt the blood of Jesus run off the cross onto his neck; or heard Jesus whisper, “Thank you.” Perhaps he stayed and listened as Jesus prayed from the cross and asked the Father to forgive these people for what they had done. We don’t know. But it appears that Simon accepted Jesus and was transformed.
Mark refers to him as “Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus.” It is safe to assume Alexander and Rufus were known to the readers. In fact, Romans 16:13 (NIV) reads, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.” It appears that Simon and his family were converted. Simon came to the Holy City to sacrifice his Passover lamb, but instead he came face-to-face with the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for him.
Some of you are here today because someone pressured you. I wonder if it’s possible this is a day God has known about before you were born. A day where you would meet Jesus and be changed. My prayer is, you will be like Simon, who took up the cross because he was forced to, but he volunteered to never put it down.
Bystander # 2: The Roman Centurion - Mark 15:39