20 August 2016Matthew 7:13-14
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (vv. 13-14)
Psalm: Psalm 138
We end the week with another very short passage. Once again we're reminded that Jesus was part of a long tradition of Jewish teaching. Rabbis often pointed to the two ways that were open us, the way of virtue and life, and the way of vice and death. In an English-speaking culture we may be familiar with John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress',with its story of a Christian finding his way along the narrow path to heaven and negotiating its many temptations and obstacles. Or perhaps we remember the more secular poem by Robert Frost, 'The road less travelled', with its implication that it is always more adventurous to take the path with fewer travellers.
For Jesus, though, this contrast between the two ways needs to be read as part of the climax to the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has been setting out his vision of life in the kingdom of God. It's a life in which happiness and blessing come to the very people (the meek, the pure, the persecuted - Matthew 5:1-12) who common sense dictates shouldn't succeed at all. It's a life in which only God sees the true nature of our prayer and charity. It's a life of forgiveness, turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, focussing on God's will rather than our material interests. No wonder it seems a hard road and only a minority are drawn to it. Yet this is the road that takes us to what we most desire. At the end of this chapter, as Matthew's Gospel is winding up the story of the Sermon on the Mount, we are given another metaphor for the choice that lies before us. We can build the house of our life on the secure rock of obediently following Jesus, or on the shifting sands of doing our own thing (Matthew 7:24-27).
- Think of a situation where you had to choose between two very different directions in life. What helped you to decide which course to take?
- Who are the people - living or dead - whose example helps you to see the path ahead? What was it about them that was so helpful? And give thanks to God for them.