By Kyle Rapinchuk
Millions of Americans associate themselves with the Christian faith. It may be easy, especially in areas of the country such as ours where seemingly everyone is Christian, to believe that the road to heaven is exceedingly large. But Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount challenge our perceptions on many points, especially with respect to the road. Not only does the narrow road suggest, as Jesus clarifies, that only few will find the gate to the kingdom, but it also highlights the restrictive nature of the life chosen by Jesus’ followers. There is no room for turning to the right or left and getting off the path. It is a focused, straightforward lifestyle that resists temptation. Consequently, few will choose to take such a path, opting instead for a wider path that allows for more freedom to do as they desire. We find that those who choose the kingdom may find they do so alone. Those who reject the strict demands of the kingdom will have plenty of company (based off Charles Quarles discussion in his book The Sermon on the Mount, 310). I was reminded even more strongly of this truth in preparing to teach on Deuteronomy 5-6 a couple weeks ago. At the end of Deuteronomy 5 (v. 32-33), Moses tells the people that they are not to turn aside to the right hand or to the left, but rather that they are to walk in the way which the LORD commanded them. It seems little has changed with respect to this command from the LORD. Much like the LORD commanded Israel walk in his way, the Lord Jesus commands his followers to walk the narrow way, and whether or not we stay on the path has eternal implications.
As I read through John Piper’s reflections on Luke’s account of the narrow way (Demand #22 in What Jesus Demands from the World), he does a wonderful job of showing how both pleasure and pain are potential dangers to our soul. Often times, worldly pleasures related to money, comfort, entertainment, and more can lead us astray and hinder our ability and willingness to follow Jesus. Additionally, there is the danger of pain, of trials, hardships, and suffering, that could convince us that following Jesus is simply too hard and not worth the risk. Much safer to hide from the world than to confront it as a follower of Jesus. And yet the sobering truth is that Jesus never called us to an easy life; in fact, he called his disciples to a life of being persecuted for righteousness’ sake (Matt 5:10). At the same time, this life is the only truly rewarding life because it gives us a joy that cannot be attained through earthly pleasures, nor can it be killed by earthly suffering, but it endures because it is eternal. Jesus has promised us the greatest treasure: himself. For those who embrace his call to follow him on the narrow way, no matter the cost, we find at the end a gate, with entrance to his kingdom, in which we will find an unimaginably good gift–relationship with Jesus Christ, unhindered by sin. So long as our eyes are set on Jesus as the greatest treasure, I think we can be confident that we have our eyes fixed in the right direction, and we can walk boldly on the narrow way, not swerving to the right or to the left, and enter through the gate that leads to everlasting joy!