My terms versus other’s terms. Interesting contest and at a primal level I am drawn to root for the former and not the latter in my relationship with anyone or anything in my point of contact. Being a tourist can be a good case in point.
For the first time in almost thirty years I went to Disneyland this year and was struck by the gate I had to go through. They searched my bags to make sure I brought no outside food so I could be a consumer of their products on their terms. They also had to have an eye on weapons so I could not be a danger. Part of the price of admission with some of it being because of 19 men on planes one Tuesday morning in America.
But what about the vendors? They would not have to go through that checkpoint. They could go through a vendor gate and not be under the same standard because they would be going in as an equal to a great extent. Their gate would be wide and works as a metaphor for the relationship being more open.
As Jesus drew closer to closing the famous Sermon on The Mount, He addresses this in part on how the hearer sees themselves before God but also in respect to how one sees themselves in the spiritual environment that Jesus declaring: the Kingdom of Heaven.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few (Matthew 7:13-14).
This isn’t Disneyland. It’s more expensive. For a small family you could be looking in the thousands of dollars. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be formed away from a selfish agenda and the following citations will illustrate that point.
From the Ignatius Study Bible we see the gate explained as, “…smaller gates permitted only pedestrian traffic [as opposed to “caravans of people and animals]” (Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch). Ignatius goes on to note that “The Jerusalem Temple had a series of gates that prohibited entry for the unqualified;only a privileged few had close access to God”.
So the themes in the background is that for a narrow gate coming into a fortified city one needs to be a pedestrian who is not an equal vendor to it and baggage would need to be left behind. From the temple one is is not encumbered and is elite after going through many steps.
the road broad that leads to destruction—- This is important because if one tries to be an equal with God things do not turn out so well. Insisting that our baggage of what is contraband should follow a life of holiness is presumptuous and wrong. Typical things that qualify would be anything that opposes God’s ways. If one wants a hint I suggest looking at my prior blogs through this series of Sermon On The Mount or just reading the verses and prayerfully considering what they say.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.—- At this risk of over-repeating myself, “When is a train most free? On it’s tracks”. This is to say that we are made for structure and to deny that structure is like tipping a train on its side and calling it “free”. They way to life is very structured and very personal. Society would be well informed to consider this when hearing, “I am spiritual but not religious”. This could be translated from BS-ese to “I like fiery judgment with ketchup on top!”
And those who find it are few— Jesus is not being a downer. Yes it is rare for someone, of their own initiative, to seek out the message of Jesus in some way. But it does not end there.
Saul of Tarsus does not seek out Jesus but Jesus finds him, blinds him and calls him to be in the same side that he persecuted. Life of the true kind in God finds us. God expressed in Jesus of Nazareth indeed is the definition of life.
But if one is partly to very informed of what it is to follow Jesus then who finds who? It does not have to be one or the other with everybody. The encounter with life can be you on the path or Jesus reaching to you in varying proportions. In that sense there is a beauty in the mystery of the gospel being applied to ones life. What is not a mystery in this passage is that to follow Jesus is about surrender in place of a meeting of equals.
What is stopping us? Pet ideologies? Rejection from loved ones? General pride? It is not worth it. Following Jesus can cost us everything but it is worth the price.