Matthew 7:13-14 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.
I remember a picture that made a big impression on me when I was a little girl. There was a wide smooth road, interesting and pleasant, with lots of people walking together on it. Children clung to their mother’s hands as they stopped to look at things along the way. I didn’t really understand what some of those things were, but I just knew they were things I shouldn’t do! The big wide road curved gently around with the final destination out of sight of the travelers, and I was shocked to see that, around the bend, people were falling into a big pit full of flames! But then I noticed that further back on the wide road there was a little trail that went off to the right side. Only two or three people had decided to take that little path, and I could understand why. It was rough and rugged, and right away it started going uphill, but there were pools of clear water and some lovely shade trees along the way. To my surprise, I realized that those few people, after a pretty steep climb, were arriving at a lovely golden gate. The door was open for them, and all of them looked very happy.
It seems so simple when it’s in a picture, doesn’t it!
When Jesus talked about the gates, He was teaching right out of everyday life. The people listening to Him that day could picture this so well, because their cities and towns were full of gates. The main city gates were large and could be found easily; others were small and easy to miss unless you knew right where you were going. But what exactly does it mean to find that small gate and narrow road that leads to life?
We are all longing for the reassurance that when our lives here end, we will go to heaven. People are hoping that whatever religion they have chosen to follow or whatever good things they are able to do will take them there eventually. Often when they hear about that small gate, it does not seem big enough, and that narrow road is not broad enough. People are hoping that even when they have followed the wide road, it will end up as if they have been on the narrow one.
In John 10:9, Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” He is the only way onto that narrow road, the one that leads to heaven. He willingly died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins, and by doing that, he provided us a gate, an exit off of the wide road and an entrance onto the narrow one. This gate is not big and shiny and attractive. We will not see it advertised with flashing lights or recognize it by the long lines of people pushing their way through. It is the small humble gate, the one that takes only one person at a time, the one that is nearly hidden behind a cross.
Choosing that small gate and walking through it, off the familiar wide road and onto that narrow way, is a simple thing to do, but it is not easy. When I was a little girl, I decided to go through that plain little gate and onto the narrow road. I remember the night I cried like my heart would break because, for no humanly explainable reason, I felt so separated from God. I knew I wanted Jesus to forgive me and for everything to be right between Him and me, but I had no idea what that narrow road would be like. I was only intent on getting through the gate.
But now, looking back on the road that is behind me, I can see that on that important night, I became a disciple of Jesus. I started following Him up that narrow path and learning His ways and letting Him teach me. It has meant carrying my own cross, taking responsibilities for my own failings, asking for His forgiveness. It has meant giving up what I would sometimes like to do when He has pointed out to me how “wide road” doing it would be. It has meant humbling myself to be someone else’s servant, something very hard for me at times. It has meant stumbling over rocks and hurting myself, yet always knowing He will help me up again. But it has also meant enjoying the cool water and shady trees along the way, and best of all, I have that reassurance we are all longing for – that some day I will be welcomed in through that shining gate!
Thank you, Jesus, for that plain narrow gate that cost You so much. Help me to fix my eyes on my final destination which is so much more important than the comfort and fun of my road today.