Read Matthew 7:13-29
Our reading for today takes us to the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the most famous sermon ever recorded. Jesus had been speaking to a large crowd that had gathered. For how long, we don't know. But we do know one thing – Jesus’ words were hitting home. The last verse in this chapter says that the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one Who had authority.
I know that the entire Bible, God's letter to mankind, is inspired by the Holy Spirit. But whenever I come to a passage where I read the actual recorded words of Jesus – God-in-flesh – my attention is a little sharper, my concentration a little clearer. Jesus is speaking. The breath that first spoke life on the planet is now forming words for my ears. The heart that wore a path to mine is putting into words the love that drove Him there. The Spirit that gives transforming power is now working through human words to transform me. This is Jesus speaking. And I am definitely listening.
That's why Matthew 7:14 is so sobering. Have a look…
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. ~ Matthew 7:14
Small is the gate... narrow is the road. Sounds a little... scary? Not when we know the gatekeeper. But there’s more. Let's look at verse 15 together. And Jesus said,
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. ~ Matthew 7:15
Jesus' words are very plain. Sheep feel secure around other sheep, and wolves know that. The evil in this world will always try to overpower the good and will usually do it in very subtle ways. That's why we need to stay close to the Shepherd.
Which brings me to a Christmas present my husband received a few years ago. You may have heard of it. It’s one of those comic strip desk calendars, and every day there is a different cartoon. One particular cartoon drives this message home.
A serene group of very phony looking sheep (okay, wolves dressed up as sheep) is suddenly disturbed when one of them realizes that the real sheep are nowhere to be found. He jumps up and shouts, Wait a minute! Isn't anyone here a real sheep? It appears the dumb sheep outsmarted the sly wolves by doing just one thing... staying close to the shepherd.
And the same goes for us. As long as we are close to the Shepherd – I mean intimately close to Him – we don't have to be afraid of wolves. We just need to be aware of them. And what about that narrow gate? How do we know where to find it? Again, we can trust the Shepherd, Jesus, to safely point us in the right direction. For Jesus not only showed us where the gate is, He actually became the Gate. In the book of John, Jesus said…
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6
The Shepherd, Who’s also the Gatekeeper, then became the Way ... to everlasting life. Following Him is not easy. But then again, worthwhile things never are. They require hard work, dedicated discipline, and painful sacrifice. That's what Jesus did as the ultimate Sacrifice.
And He did it just so we would know the way.