Summary: There are only two ways. which way are you on?
The Straight Gate
Verse thirteen begins to conclude the Sermon on the Mount, we had mentioned in the previous sermon on the Golden Rule of the theology of the two ways which Jesus has used throughout the Sermon on the Mount. We also mentioned that the Sermon on the Mount is in many ways a commentary on the 1st Psalm which contrasts the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. This psalm shows the eventual outcome of each group. Even though the wicked might seem to flourish for a season in this life, it is the righteous who shall ultimately flourish in the end.
The two way theology which is common in the Old Testament as well as the teaching of Jesus becomes most explicit here starting with these verses. Jesus tells of the two possible ways one can follow and the outcome of each way. In two way theology, there is no third choice that can be made. One cannot choose not to enter either way. The wide way becomes the default option for those who do not choose to enter the narrow way. This means that all who do not choose the narrow way which leads to eternal life are on the road to destruction.
Each of the ways has a gate of entrance. In the case of the way which leads to eternal life, the gate is narrow. The word for narrow here in Greek is the one which is used for a stint which is placed in a heart artery to open it up when it is clogged. In other words, it is placed in the narrow place which is clogged by a clot to improve blood flow. Here, the narrow gate tells us two things. First of all, it is only wide enough for one person to enter at a time. This stresses the individual decision which has to be made to the hearing of the Gospel.
The other is that there is no room to take any baggage with you. One in a sense leaves Broadway behind and has to go on the straight road depending only on the provision of God. This is in a sense to follow God’s people across the Red Sea into the wilderness like the Children of Israel in Moses’ day. There way unfortunately became quite crooked for them as they disobeyed and grumbled. They failed to trust God for their provision. Their way meandered and that generation perished without entering the Promised Land, save that of Joshua and Caleb. Even Moses failed to enter. The baggage of Egypt which the Israelites took with them became a snare at Mt. Sinai where they made a golden calf out of the gold they took out.
So what Jesus is saying is that one must enter alone and in a sense naked in relation to the world’s goods. Faith is Jesus’ provision is the means of our sustenance. This does not mean that we are called out to some monastery or a literal wilderness. Instead, we are to live out our faith in the world as witnesses to the modern Egyptians. In Matthew 16, this is made clear by Jesus’ exodus from Israel to the very Gentile region of Caesarea Philippi. In a sense, the rock face where the former shrine to Ball and then current shrine to the Greek god Pan was becomes the new Mt Horeb. From a cave called the “Gates of Hades (hell) came the main source of the Jordan River which is similar to the water which came from the rock at Horeb. (See the sermon “Upon this Rock” in this sermon archive). The Christian journey is then a reverse exodus from wilderness sanctuary to a hostile world with a mission not to exterminate but to bring the message of salvation to the Canaanites.
God might provide His manna to us by many means. We do not necessarily expect the bread to fall from heaven. God uses human means of provision as the normal means. At the time of the writing of this sermon, there are 40,000 trapped Iraqi’s including Christians who are facing certain death at the hands of their persecutors. It was on the news that bread has started to fall from heaven upon them, courtesy of the United States Air Force. I don’t know to what result this might lead, but at least for them it is the daily bread which God provides. However, God can provide other means of sustenance. For since the ultimate goal of the Christian is to be eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, the gate of our deliverance is by crossing the Jordan River of death. Ultimately speaking, the bread which sustains our life in this world will fail to sustain us anymore, and each of us who believe in Jesus will be called home to the Promised Land of our inheritance. There, the manna of this world will cease, and we will feast on the new manna. Though the way be hard in this life, the reward is worth it all.