Sermonic Title: The Life Jesus Gives and Promises
Biblical Text: Matthew 7:13-14, 24-27 (comp. Luke 13:23-24)
Date: Sunday, April 21, 2019
Occasion: Happy Resurrection Day! or Easter Sunday
Christ is Risen from the Grave!
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Introduction: The remaining part of the Sermon on the Mount (7:13-27) is a call to obedience to the words of Jesus and a warning to those who disobey his words. It is a passage that discusses the two ways (vv. 13-14), the parable of the two trees (vv. 7:15-23), and the parable of the two builders (vv. 7:24-27). In this passage, Jesus suggests that there are two different types of people in the world: those who will heed to his word, and those who will turn away from his word. In verses 13 and 14, he uses the two-ways category to emphasize who will choose life and be saved, and those will choose death and be damned. “The effect of 7:13-14 in its entirety is to teach that there is a right way and a wrong way” (Allison, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 165).
In verses 24-27, he expounds on the two-foundations metaphors: those who will build their homes on solid rock, therefore, will choose the narrow gate, and by contrast, those who will build their homes on shifting sand, hence, will chose the wide gate. “In each case the first category refers to those who hear, obey, and are saved; the second, to those who only hear and so are destroyed. In each case eternal life and judgment are at stake” (Blomberg, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 131). Yet the thrust of this passage is to make an ultimate decision; the gospel is a call to decide for Christ or against Christ. Just like Moses in Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Moses challenges the people of Israel to make a choice, Jesus in Matthew 7:14-14, and 24-27, challenges his hearers to make an ultimate decision: life or death, eternal blessing or eternal damnation. The failure to respond to the words of Jesus and the Gospel comes with a catastrophic destruction (v. 13), the exclusion in the kingdom of God.
Exposition: Matthew 7:13-14: Two Ways, Two Paths, Two Roads, Two Destinies
- Matthew 7:13-14 draws a sharp contrast between two different people in the world: those who are saved and lost. “This text challenges ‘cultural Christians,’ those following only Christian tradition rather than Christ himself, to realize that they need conversion” (Keener, the Gospel of Matthew, 163).
- Matthew 7:15-23 draws another contrast between those who pretend that they are inside (insiders) the kingdom of God, but in fact are outside (outsiders) of the kingdom.
- Matthew 7:24-27 draws another contrast about two groups of people: those who hear the word of Jesus and responded positively to him, and those who hear the word of Jesus and failed to act upon Jesus’ words in trust and belief.
- 24-27: But Jesus here refers to his own words the way other Jewish teachers referred to God’s law. The language at least implies that Jesus is God’s prophetic spokesperson (Ezekiel 33:32-33) but is more authoritative than is typical even for prophets in this context, the claim is far more radical. One cannot be content with calling Jesus a great teacher, for he taught that he was more than a mere teacher; one must either accept all of his teachings, including those that demand we submit to his lordship, or reject him altogether. Jesus is not one way among many; he is the standard of judgment” (Keener, the Gospel of Matthew, 167).
- Jesus makes it clear that there are two destinations in this life, which are totally apart from each other; similarly, there are the two routes that lead in opposite directions. In other words, the narrow road leads to redemption, salvation, life, and by contrast, the wide road leads to destruction, hell, and death. Jesus pronounces a judgment between those who in the kingdom of God and those who are outside of it.
The Didache (1:1-2) states:
There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between
these two ways. Now this is the way of life: first, ‘you shall love God, who made you;’ second, ‘your neighbor as yourself;’ and ‘whatever you do not wish to happen to you, do not do to another.”
*** The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles is one of earliest body of Christian texts and teachings. The estimated range of dating is 50-120 A.D.
- “some people’s assurance of salvation is a delusion. To enter the narrow gate of the kingdom we must knock, that is, request that God make us citizens of his kingdom” (vv. 7-8) (Keener, the Gospel of Matthew, 163).
- “Most Jewish people in Jesus’ day were religious; respecting God and keeping his commandments were an important part of their culture. These would be the many people of whom Jesus’ hearers would think when they heard him. Yet Jesus…declared that most people lost. Jesus intends his words to jar us from complacency, to consider the genuineness of our commitment to him” (p.163).
- Jesus also lived in a pluralistic culture and a culture that was open and postmodern in matter of religious affiliation. The Greeks were polytheists; the Greeks were worshippers of many gods. Yet Jesus’ Jewish and Gentile audience were familiar with these various religious claims and traditions in their claim. Jesus made bold claims about the absolute necessity to believe in him for people to have life.
- He understood his culture and knew the people’s worldview and life-decisions. He calls people to an existential decision and to make a commitment to him that will radically change their life.
- Jesus’ command to enter life (vv. 13) through the narrow gage or wide gate
- The Greek word for “narrow” is “thlibo,” which means to experience trouble or difficulty. This implies that the call to follow Jesus is not an easy road or Christian experience. It comes with hardships, difficulties, and require a decisive commitment from those who make that decision in their life for Christ. By contrast, the word “broad” or wide can mean that which is prosperous and increases.
The Wide Gate vs the Narrow Gate
1. The Wide Gate: The gate that is broad leads to a spacious road, and many people enter in it and in great number. A lot of people choose not to respond to Christ and ignore Christ. However, the consequence not to answer to Christ is severe. The broad road leads to a splendid gate and easy to be seen, whereas the path that brings the traveler to the unpretentious gate is inconspicuous and perceived only by those who look for it carefully (Morris, Gospel of Matthew, 174). The way to the narrow gate is the way of God and also is the way of righteousness and a Christ-centered religion. The church father Tertullian writes, “The way of evil is broad and well supplied with travelers; would not all people take its easy course if there were nothing to fear?” (Tertullian, Against Marcion 2.13). The narrow gate is the entrance to life and is equated with Jesus Himself in the Gospel of John (John 10:9)
- In the Parable of the Wedding Feast reported in Matthew 22, in verse 14, Jesus explains to his disciples, “For many are called (invited), but few are chosen.” By contrast, in Jesus’ encounter with the Roman Centurion, as reported in Matthew 8, in verses 11 and 12, Jesus clarifies to the crowd, “11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Yet in the gracious providence of God, Jesus in Matthew 20:28, responds in hope and optimism to the mother of the sons of Zebedee who requested his two sons be seated on both Jesus’ right and left hands when he inaugurates his kingdom on earth, “28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In this passage, Jesus makes it clear that he has come to make salvation available for all people and in fact, he gave his life willingly and deliberately as a substation so a lot of people could be saved and not go to the wide gate, the spacious path. Whatever decision you make today at the hearing of the Gospel bears eternal consequences in this life and the life to come.
2. The Narrow Gate: The narrow gate, which is the right gate, has small dimensions and constricted (Morris, ibid). This narrow gate is not attractive to many people, as it involves commitment, but it leads to life—one that is full and satisfying life. It is the eternal life that Christ promises to those who believe in him. Only few people choose the narrow gate, that is the way of Christ. To enter the narrow gate is to commit oneself to following Christ. The narrow gate leads to the right way, as Jesus himself proclaims that he is the right way to life. The way to the wide gate is the way of the devil and also the way of unrighteousness and a man-made religion—such as those that teach exclusivity. Bonhoeffer in Discipleship writes,
As long as I recognize this road as the one I am commanded to walk, and try to walk in it fear of myself, it is truly impossible. But if I see Jesus Christ walking ahead of me, step by step, if I look only at him and follow him, step by step, then I will be protected on this path. (p.176)
I.There are two ways to enter life
- 1:6: “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish”
- 11:26-27: “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today.”
- : 30:19: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live”
- 21:8: “And to this people you shall say: ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.”
- Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
II. Jesus is the only way to salvation and quality life
- John 14:6, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”
- There is a clarion call to believe in Jesus so one can have spiritual peace with God: John
14:1, ““Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” In Romans 5:1, Paul declares that, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Jesus Is the Gate for the Sheep/ Jesus is the only Door and only Gate: John 10:7-10, “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Exposition: Matthew 7: 24-27: The Solid Rock Foundation and the Shifting Sand
- Rock: “The Hebrew Bible often employed the rock image for the security Israel had in God if they obeyed him (for example, Deut 32:4, 18, 31; Ps. 18:2, 31, 46; 19:14), including in a time of flood and disaster (Is. 28:14-19).”
- Storm: “The storm could represent any test, but surely represents especially the final test, the day of judgment (for example, Matthew 24:37-39). Jesus’ clear assurance of deliverance in the final test contrasts with the fears some of his contemporaries; many people had little certain of the afterlife. Jesus spoke with unparalleled authority (Mt. 7: 28-29).
- The wise builder chooses life (vv. 24-27) whereas the foolish builder chooses destruction (the total collapse of the house, v.27)
- Jesus is emphasizing here that Christian discipleship is not just an answer to the call to follow Christ; rather, it requires authentic and unswerving commitment to Christ. The one who builds his home on solid rock is one who is wise, obedient, and in the time of storms and spiritual warfare, his faith will not be shaken.
- By contrast, the one who builds his home/his life on shifting sand/shakable foundation and worldview has no solid foundation when judgment comes. He will perish with his house because he has not placed his faith in Christ. Jesus is calling people to obedience, that is to believe in him, in both instances. He is giving a warning about not to disobey him.
- The wise person builds on the rock and choose the narrow way.
- The foolish builder builds on the sand and chooses the wide way.
- Sand/Foolish/Hearers: the one who builds his house on the shifting sand does not receive the teaching of Christ or does not build his home according to the teaching of Christ. Although he hears the word of Jesus, he discards him and disobeys his precepts. What makes this guy a foolish person is because he hears the word of Christ and fails to live life according to it.
- Rock/Wise/Doers: the one who builds his hone on the solid rock is the one who hears the word of Jesus and does it. Jesus’ word becomes part of his life and it defines his worldview, action, and thought. He is on the right road to the narrow gate. He is obedient to Jesus’s words. What makes this guy a wise man is simply because he hears the word of Jesus and lives life according to it.
III. The Promise of Life is in Jesus
- The urgency to choose life is now: Mark 1:15, “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
- John 3:18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
- Jesus’s call is for people to decide for life or death: “He who believes in [Jesus] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:18
- Acts 16:31, “They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
- Paul in Romans 10:17 declares about the promise of salvation and the promise of life in Christ Jesus, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
IV. The consequences for rejecting Jesus and the life he gives
- To reject Jesus is to choose the path to destruction and to eternal damnation.
- The warning not to reject the words of Jesus: divine judgment is pronounced to those who do: “And if anyone hear My words, and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” John 13:47-48.
- People reject Jesus because they love darkness and therefore are condemned: “And this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” John 3:19-20
- Spiritual death that is eternal and everlasting is promised to those who choose not to believe in Jesus. Their sins will not be forgiven before God: John 8:24, I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”
- Jesus warned and rebuked people who trusted in themselves for salvation and life: Luke 18:9-14. Jesus connects the entrance to the kingdom of God with proper response to him or to his words.
.Conclusion: Finally, the Bible says that in Psalm 16:1, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” The way of Jesus is the path of life, and not to choose the way of life is to opt for the road to destruction and the eternal separation from God. The greatest promise of life by Christ is expressed in his own words: “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). This is a call to obedience, to obey the Gospel, to trust in Jesus, and to surrender your life to him so you can live. To have the life Christ promises is an act of obedience leading to a life of obedience. In both texts, Matthew 7:13-14 and 24-27, Jesus makes an invitation to you today to make a choice between life or death, preservation or destruction, to obey his word or choose to ignore him. He kindly commands you to “enter through the narrow gate” (v. 13) and not only to hear his words but to acts upon them, that is to embody his life and character in your life (v. 24). The wise builder will do that; the foolish builder will just hear the word of Jesus and moves on in life without Jesus. This is dangerous. You don’t want that. In verse 13, Jesus already makes a good recommendation to you, a rightful one to you, for your spiritual destiny and the life to come. To choose life is to choose Christ, and to enter the narrow gate is the only way to salvation and to Christ Jesus.
Corporate Scriptural Reading:
The Resurrection of Christ: 1 Corinthians 15:1-28
Leader: “15 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Congregants: “10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Leader: “12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.”
Congregants: “ 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Together: “20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.”