Summary: Jesus urges his listeners to the Sermon on the Mount to make The Choice for Life in entering the Kingdom of God, in terms of Two Gates, Two Ways, Two Destinations and Two Crowds.
Jesus was a wonderful teacher. He had the knack of making His teaching on the Kingdom of God interesting and easily understood by the use of graphic pictures. There’s a good example of this in two verses in our reading from Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way 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" (7;13,14). Artists have found inspiration in these words and certainly John Bunyan drew on its imagery in his classic, "Pilgrim’s Progress".
Some years ago Prince Charles caused quite a stir in Christian circles when he said that when he ascended the throne he would prefer to be "The Defender of Faiths" - the word "Faiths" being in the plural. The addition of the "s" makes all the difference because the historic title of the Sovereign is "The Defender of the Faith". Some Christians were upset but perhaps he did have a point. A fundamental human right is that everyone should be able to hold and practise their religion according to their conscience but it carries the responsibility of making the right choice.
The non-Christian religions may well have some insights to offer but this is quite different from saying that all religions lead to God, although by different paths. Those who accept that say: "It’s not what path you choose, but how you pursue it." Christians believe that the truth is to be found in what God has revealed by His intervention in human affairs as recorded for us in the Bible and supremely through His Son, Jesus Christ. We need to remind ourselves of the uniqueness of the revelation that Jesus offers. The apostle Jude urged the Christians to whom he wrote: "to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (3).
As Jesus came to the end of His great Sermon, He wanted to drive home the message of the Gospel. He did so by portraying it in a series of alternatives. He presented the Kingdom of God in terms of choices and he made perfectly clear the choice which would lead to eternal life and which would result in spiritual loss. We see that there are:
When you sit an examination you often find on the exam paper a multiple-choice question. You can choose the part that suits you best. It’s up to you; the examiner doesn’t mind. But I have to tell you that this doesn’t apply in the question of entry into God’s Kingdom. What is immediately striking is how fixed and defined is the choice offered. Yes, Jesus presents two choices but only one of them leads to life eternal. Many people would prefer a greater spread of possibilities of entry in God’s Kingdom. Prime Minister Tony Blair had a clever strategy in making his party electable after many years in the political wilderness - he pointed to a "third way".
There’s a widely accepted school of thought that claims there are many ways to gain acceptance to God, thus eliminating the need of choice between Jesus and all others. But Jesus cuts across this easy way out. He rejects this comfortable solution. Instead he insists that, of the two possibilities, there’s only one real choice. Certainly, in our text there’s Two Choices, but they are poles apart in the end result.
Let’s see what’s on offer. Listen to the uncompromising words of Jesus, "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" (Matt 7:13-14). Jesus spells out these Two Choices in simple illustrations. There are:
On the face of it the wide gate has a lot to offer. You can’t miss it! There’s a large notice board saying "No restrictions here! Come right in and do as you please!" I once saw a yacht in the marina named "Anything Goes!", and thought, how symbolic of the way of the world. There’s no limitation on the luggage of this world that can be brought in by those who choose this gate. Nothing needs be left behind - not even our sins, self-righteousness or pride. But what a contrast when we look at the narrow gate! One has to look for it to find it. It’s easy to miss. Why? Because it’s narrow! As Jesus said to some enquirers of the Kingdom, it’s as narrow as a needle’s eye (Matt 19:24).
In order to enter the Kingdom we must leave everything behind - sin, selfish ambition, covetousness, even, if necessary, family and friends. The width of the narrow gate is for one person at a time. I was travelling through London with a large suitcase and had to go on the Underground. I put my ticket in the slot machine - the barrier opened and I could get through but not the suitcase! I was pointed to a special side entrance and got through, but there’s no such facility to the Kingdom of God. We can only enter the Kingdom through the narrow gate, which is, via the Cross of the Lord Jesus, through repentance and faith in him. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Nothing could be clearer than that.