Remember how Romans 10:9 combines words with reality: “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord” and “believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.” The profoundly sober warning here is also a precious gift – Jesus wants his hearers to recognize the danger before it is too late. The reality he seeks is a real relationship with God the Father so that we want to do his will.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has undoubtedly stood the test of time. It remains well-known in church circles and well-quoted even outside the church. However, we might want to question how much it has been taken to heart and implemented. Jesus knew there was no guarantee that his hearers (and subsequently, Matthew’s readers) would implement it. That is why his conclusion is so firm.
Let’s consider the four parts of the conclusion:
1. Everyone Must Choose Their Path in Light of Jesus’ Exclusive Claims
(Matthew 7:13-14) We live in a world that loves the idea of there being many roads and that they all lead up different sides of a mountain to the same lofty peak. That is a nice sentiment, but it is not reality. Jesus taught that there are only two. There are two roads, two gates, two crowds, and two destinations. To take the wide gate onto the broad road is easy. No discernment is needed, no stand needs to be taken, the crowd is large, and affirmation flows freely. That road leads to destruction.
C.S. Lewis reflected on the point in his education where he began to “broaden his mind.” He wrote,
“I was soon altering ‘I believe’ to ‘one does feel.’ And oh, the relief of it! . . . from the tyrannous noon of revelation, I passed into the cool evening of Higher Thought, where there was nothing to be obeyed and nothing to be believed except what was either comforting or exciting.”
It is easy to pass through a wide gate. All baggage is acceptable, even our sins, self-righteousness, and pride. But getting through a narrow gate requires us to pass through alone – without being propped up by others or weighed down by baggage. Jesus is the only way to God. That may be uncomfortable to hear in our contemporary culture. Still, it is no less valid or demanding than ever.
2. The Narrow Road Requires Vigilance
(Matthew 7:15-20) There will be false prophets who seek to lead Jesus’ followers astray. Two things are true of these false prophets. They are both disguised and betrayed. Disguised means they are not easy to spot – they are not cartoon villains! But they will ultimately be betrayed by their fruit.