08.04.06 Mt. 7:13-14
NARROW AND WIDE GATES OF LIFE
13 “Enter through the narrow gate.
For the gate is wide and
The road is broad that leads to destruction,
and there are many who go through it.
14 How narrow is the gate and
difficult the road that leads to life,
and few find it.
The idea that the first would be last is the direct opposite of Jewish thought. Jesus again speaks to the Jewish people about their prevailing belief that just because they were descendants of Abraham, all would inherit heaven. This doctrine was promoted by the Pharisees who taught that all Jews would enjoy eternity with God and all Gentiles would be damned to hell – but Jesus clearly disagreed.
The metaphors “the gate” and “the road” are reflective of the decisions of life. Jesus spoke of the lifestyle that is grounded in His Word and compared it to the popular Hellenistic ideas and philosophies. The Hellenism of the first century was no different than the humanism of today. There are still two destinies from which one must choose; one leads to life and the other to destruction (Gk. phthora). In essence, decisions determine destiny. The Hebrew Bible has some definite directives on making the right decisions concerning worship and obedience to God.
- Joshua told his people to decide today whom they will serve (Jos. 24:15).
- Moses told his people to choose life so their descendants might live (Deut. 30:15-20).
- Jeremiah told his people that God said that He set before them a way of life and a way of death (Jer. 21:8).
Furthermore, Jewish literature, and especially poetry, was abundant in contrasting ideas because it was an integral part of the first century Jewish thought process. Themes such as “light” and “darkness,” or “wise men” and “foolish men” are found throughout both Testaments, extra-canonical books, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. A few of many examples are,
- The contrast between the way of life and the way of death is found in Jeremiah 21:8 and the Didache 1:1.
- The way of the wicked and the way of the righteous is contrasted in Psalm 1:6. Similar contrasts are found in Proverbs 14:2, Mishnah, Aboth 2:9, and in the Testament of Asher 1:3-5.
- Light and darkness is contrasted in Barnabas 18:1 and Dead Sea Scroll 1QS 3:20-21.
These writings demonstrate that from Moses to Jesus, there were always those who were concerned with making godly decisions in life. An example from the second century B.C. era is the words of Jesus ben Sirach who said,
“The way of sinners (as) smoothly paved with stones but at its end is the pit of Hades.”
Ben Sirach 21:10
But the essential message is that most people will choose not to follow God and go the popular route; few will chose the road less traveled that leads to eternal life. Jesus understood very well that decisions determined destiny.
. 1QSa 2.11-12; 1 Enoch 62:14; 2 Enoch 45:2; 2 Baruch 30:4; Mishnah Aboth 3.17.
. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 17, page 12.
. Barclay, Jesus. 264.
. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 225.