Life is full of choices. In our text today, Jesus tells us about two gates and two roads. There is a “wide gate” which opens to the broad road leading to destruction. There is also a “narrow gate,” which opens to a narrow road leading to life. Almost every sermon I have heard, and every commentary I have read, cast these gates as the gates of heaven and the gates of hell. One sermon even had this inspiring thought: “I would rather be one step from the gates of hell turned in the right direction than one step from the gates of heaven turned in the wrong direction.” The analogy of heaven and hell fit well in such an interpretation and many of Jesus’ teachings are about the end times.
However, notice that all of the verbs are used in the present tense, as if Jesus wanted us to enter the narrow gate now. Notice too that the narrow road leads to life, not life eternal. The action denoted by those who enter through the wide gate is in the present indicative tense, which refers to it as a present fact. People are going though both gates right now. We are called to go through the narrow gate right now. Does this have implications for heaven and hell? Yes. Does this have implications for today and tomorrow? Yes. Our call to follow Jesus is more than an eternal fire insurance plan. It is a call to live our lives as disciples of Jesus. This is the road that leads to “abundant life.”
Jesus defines the narrow gate for us in the Gospel of John. “Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’” (John 10:7-10) Those who follow Jesus discover a life that is meaningful and purposeful as they become the men and women God created them to be. On this narrow road they discover what life is truly about.
Conversely, those who are entering the wide gate are searching for fulfillment and meaning for their lives. Unfortunately, they are looking in all the wrong places. Take a look at the lives of everyone around you. How many of them are seeking fulfillment of life in the pursuit of wealth? Do you know anybody who seeks to fulfill his or her life through the use of drugs, hiding from reality? There are some who seek fulfillment in relationships with others, moving from one sexual encounter to another. The list could go on and on, as people seek to find purpose and meaning for their lives. These people are passing through the wide gate that leads to destruction. Not that they are necessarily heading toward the gates of hell, but they are destroying the life that God intended for them.
Jesus himself is the narrow gate. He is “the way, the truth and the life” and “no one comes to the Father except through him.” (John 14:6) Enter through the narrow gate now and follow Jesus. Share your story with those who are entering through the wide gate, that they may turn and follow Jesus. To paraphrase, I would rather be one step away from hell headed toward Jesus, than one step from Jesus headed in the wrong direction.
The photograph is of the garden gate at Mepkin Abbey, Moncks Corner, SC.