Jesus said to his disciples: “Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it” (Matt. 7:13 – 14). This statement by Jesus probably gave rise to a painting titled: The narrow and the wide way. Prints of this painting have already hung in many homes throughout the world.
On the left in the painting is a large gate with the word “Welcome” thereon. Through it runs a wide road. Along this way there is a place where drinks may be enjoyed, a ballroom and a casino. It ends where the flames of hell rage. At the narrow gate on the right in the painting someone resembling a preacher awaits the people. This road passes next to a church and a cross, up along some stairs and past a church care centre. After a very steep stretch it reaches the golden city, heaven or the New Jerusalem.
According to a pastor Kroes the painting does not reflect Jesus’ intention with his statement. Here Jesus does not talk to people in a ballroom or in casinos. He talks to his disciples. They knew the Old Testament well. They were religious. During this teaching Jesus also said: “Make certain you do not perform your religious duties in public so that people will see what you do. If you do these things publicly, you will not have any reward from your Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). These people also helped the poor: “So when you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it” (Matt. 6:2). They were people who prayed: “When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do” (Matt. 6:7). It was to these people whom Jesus had said: “Go in through the narrow gate”. It was them whom He had warned: “the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy.”
When Jesus talked to his disciples about the wide road, it was about the road which is followed by obeying the law in an effort to secure God’s favour thereby. Religious rituals, even such as praying and attending church, may be followed purely out of habit, without there being any personal relationship with God. The scribes and Pharisees obeyed the law conscientiously, and yet Jesus says to them: “How terrible for you” (Matt. 23:23 – 29).
Jesus explained what the narrow gate is. He said: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). Jesus is the way: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). We cannot pass through the narrow gate on own merit, only through belief that Jesus had died for our sins and had risen thereafter. This faith means that ‘the self ‘ had died: Since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him (Rom. 6:8). The faith means that we then also have risen to a new life. We were buried with him … in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life. (Rom. 6:4). To follow the way through the narrow gate demands a great deal. Jesus not only demands our time and sacrifices, but our hearts, our life: ... whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matt. 10:39). We no longer belong to ourselves because we have been bought dearly by the blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 6:20). We do good deeds, not to be saved, but because we have been saved.
There are steep heights along the narrow way, but people on this road know that their Redeemer always accompanies them. They enjoy the joys of life because they know that their Creator, the Creator of life, had risen. They rejoice over every day: This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Ps. 118:24).
Thank you God that Jesus had made it possible for us to pass through the narrow gate. Amen