The chosen path: Devotional Commentary for January 10-16
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
And Jesus continued:
13"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.
14"For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
So far, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount focused on Kingdom living, Kingdom perspective, and Kingdom principles. But now, the closing verses of Jesus' teachings direct our attention to the manner in which we should respond to His exhortations, the choices we should make. He outlines distinctly defined choices and identifies the godly option to be preferred.
The majority of the Sermon on the Mount entirely pertains to the Lord’s revelation of Kingdom life. Jesus follows this exhortation with the challenge to choose the Kingdom way of living. The choices are distinct and clear-cut. But they are not easy.
Jesus identifies two gates and two pathways set before us. He describes both gates and exhorts us to choose the right way. He says one is narrow and difficult while the other is broad and easy. But Jesus urges us to choose the narrow gate even though it is difficult and hard to find. Only a few would find it, He adds.
The broad way is wide open and easy to find. Many would choose it and happily take it. But Jesus affirms that its end is certain destruction. It is a familiar path. It is the way of the world. It leads away from God, away from His Kingdom. It is the way that seems right because its gate is wide open and attractive. But it ends in death and destruction. Its end is godless.
On the contrary, the narrow gate is neither attractive nor readily at hand. One must be lead, (drawn) to its entrance. The path is straight and narrow but riddled with trials and tribulations due to the evil campaign waged against Kingdom living by the enemies of God's Kingdom. But its end is eternal life, freedom, and rest. The journey is hard but the end is eternal bliss. It is the way of God. It is the Way to God. It is Jesus Christ Himself.
And Jesus continued:
15"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
16"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?
17"So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
18"A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
19"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20"So then, you will know them by their fruits.
Jesus is fully aware of alternative perspectives offered by false prophets. These are friendly teachers with vicious objectives. He characterizes them as ravenous wolves disguised in sheep's clothes. But in reality, they are ferocious predators ready to devour and destroy, like their father: the roaring lion roaming about and the thief who comes to kill and destroy.
Jesus warns us to be aware of such. Their appearance might be deceiving at first glance. But those who know the Kingdom principles can easily identify false prophets by the fruit they bear. These ravenous wolves disguised as mild sheep might appear to us to have chosen the narrow gate. They play the role well. But their words and deeds produce ungodly fruit. Once again, Jesus alerts us to be constantly vigilant and discerning, so that we might distinguish what is true from that which is false.
Naturally, a tree bears a fruit of its own kind. This is the natural law that God had established when He commanded the earth to bring forth trees at the time of creation. Grapes are harvested from a grape vine not from a thistle or a thorny bush. Therefore, Kingdom people must be able to distinguish false prophets from true and faithful teachers by what they say, what they do, and how they live or serve. The testimony of their fruit will reflect their true identity. A bad tree delivers bad fruit while a good tree brings forth good fruit. God's people are equipped by the Word of God to recognize false prophets.
The Kingdom principles declared by Jesus are not presented in a vacuum. They are to be observed and applied by Kingdom people living in God's Kingdom. That is, Jesus spoke on the foundational truth that there is God's Kingdom in which Kingdom people live according to Kingdom principles. But how did the people become Kingdom citizens and get to God's Kingdom? Through the narrow gate, the only gate.
Jesus says there are two gates and two pathways set before us, the narrow gate and the wide open way. The narrow gate is offered by Jesus while the wide way is advanced by false prophets. One of these two ways provides the path to a destiny of life while the other leads to death.
Jesus says the narrow gate is to be preferred by Kingdom people, even though it is difficult to traverse and hard to find. It leads to life eternal. But the wide way is to be rejected even though it is familiar and easy to find. We are born into it as sinners. That is what we know. The road to death and destruction is wide open and attractive. But its end is disaster.
Jesus makes a clear distinction between the narrow gate and the wide road. The narrow gate is a single path to eternal life, the only path, the only way. It is the only way to victory and enduring freedom. But the wide road is a grab bag of assorted avenues, choices, and preferences leading to the same bottomless sinkhole of death and destruction. It is a medley of everything that points away from God. That is what the false prophets propagate as good.
In his Gospel narrative, John records that Jesus describes the narrow gate as a portrayal of Himself. Jesus says: He is the Gate. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. That is, He is the only Gate and the only Way to the Father. No one can come to God except by Him. Thus, the Way to God's Kingdom is not just narrow. It is a single path. It is Jesus Christ Himself.
But Jesus warns us that choosing Him is costly. As the disciples of the only Gate to heaven, those who choose Him will face the hostilities and persecutions mounted against Him by the enemies of the Gospel. But the end is eternal rest. The choice is clear: We choose Jesus Christ—the narrow Gate, the only Way—becuase He chose us first. What awaits us in heaven cannot be compared with the passing suffering we experience as the followers of Christ. The Kingdom choice is the narrow Gate. The Kingdom choice is Jesus Christ, the only Way, the Truth, and the Life.