Matthew 7.13-14Introduction: As I studied this passage, I was reminded of a famous poem by Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Although Robert Frost was not talking of one’s eternal destiny, he does highlight well the notion that the choice one makes about which road to follow can make all the difference in one’s life. And this is a point Jesus is making as well. He is talking about two roads that diverge in the life of everyone, except that He is talking about a choice one makes either to follow the road to destruction or the road to life. And which of these roads one chooses definitely does make “all the difference”! We shall see this difference very clearly as we look at 1) the road to destruction, and 2) the road to life.

I. The Road to Destruction

This road is described in verse 13.

NKJ Matthew 7:13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction [ἀπώλεια], and there are many who go in by it.

Here Jesus clearly refers to “the way” – or the road – “that leads to destruction.” But what is the destruction He is talking about? Well, we may be helped to grasp Jesus’ meaning if we examine other uses of the same Greek word for destruction in other similar contexts. For example, the word is used later to describe the fate of the beast in the Book of Revelation:

NKJ Revelation 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition [ἀπώλεια, or destruction]. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

Now, without getting into speculation about the identity of the beast here, let’s take a look further on in the book of Revelation to get a better idea about what this destruction entails:

NKJ Revelation 19:20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

NKJ Revelation 20:10-15 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. 11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

That Jesus has this same fate in mind for those who follow the road to destruction is seen not only in the use of the same word to describe this fate in the Book of Revelation, but it is also seen in Jesus’ own teaching later in the book of Matthew:

NKJ Matthew 25:31-33, 41, 46a When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left … [And then in verse 41 He says:] 41 Then He will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angel …” [And then in verse 46 He adds:] 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment ….

So, Jesus is talking about the eternal destiny of the wicked when he speaks about the road to destruction. But can we learn anything more about this road from Jesus’ teaching here? Yes, we can. In fact, we see three specific details in Jesus’ description of this road to destruction.

1. It has a wide gate.

That is, it is an easy road to enter upon, and you don’t have to look hard to find this gate either. As John Stott has observed:

The gate leading to the easy way is wide, for it is a simple matter to get on the easy road. There is evidently no limit to the luggage we can take with us. We need leave nothing behind, not even our sins, self-righteousness or pride. (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 194)

This wide gate doesn’t impose the kind of restrictions a narrow gate would impose. It is very easy to go through, which is undoubtedly why so many choose it.

2. It is a broad way.

The Greek word translated broad [εὐρύχωρος] pertains “to having ample room, [to being] broad, spacious, [or] roomy” and can be used of “a large room… in which one can live comfortably and unmolested” (BAGD3 #3290, BibleWorks).

In ancient Palestine such a road would be much easier to travel in such rocky terrain, especially along the side of a mountain perhaps. So, the road to destruction is an easy road. Just as the wide gate that leads to it, it imposes no restrictions. It is what many might even call the “path of least resistance.” A person can believe anything he wants to believe on this road. It is the road of relativism, inclusion and tolerance.

Pastor Joe McKeever of Kenner, Louisiana tells of a woman who, although a professed Christian, appeared to be on this broad road:

A lady wrote to the editor of our local paper the other day, upset that someone suggested homosexuality is forbidden in the Bible. “My God,” she wrote, “is a God of love and not a God of judgment.”

Now, the lady is free to worship whomever she pleases, and if she wants to make up her own god who will let her do as she will, well, it’s been done for thousands of years. My only question to her is “Where did you find this God without standards?” Certainly not in the Bible. Open it at any page and you will see this God makes demands on His people. He sets limits on their behavior and holds them responsible.

I suspect the writer created her god from her own imagination. This puts her lord in the same class as a rag on a stick in Botswana, a volcano in the South Pacific, or a statuette in a Singapore flat. God-making has a certain appeal – your creation can look like anything you choose and it approves whatever you want to do. (SID)

Yes, on the broad road you can do whatever you want. This is also the road that so many of the ancient Israelites followed to their own hurt:

NKJ Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Perhaps this is why so many choose this road, because it allows them to do whatever they want … whatever is right in there own eyes. This brings us to the third characteristic of this road.

3. It has many travelers.

Kent Hughes is on track when he writes:

Other than platitudes about the good of the majority or the consensus of the people, the wide road imposes few boundaries on conduct. It takes no effort to remain on its broad stretch. It inflicts a deceptive sense of freedom and independence. But the trip itself is all it has to offer, and it is unsatisfying throughout.

Though it is the wrong road, Jesus says that “many enter through it.” The road is heavily traveled. In fact, most people prefer it! You are never alone on the broad road “that leads to destruction.” Eventually the road comes to the edge of an abyss, and there it stops, but the traveler does not! (The Sermon on the Mount, p. 243)

As Solomon put it:

NKJ Proverbs 16:25 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

Thankfully, however, this way of death and destruction is not the only way that Jesus talks about! He tells us we can choose another road.

II. The Road to Life

This road is first mentioned in verse 13, but it is described in verse 14.

NKJ Matthew 7:13a, 14 Enter by the narrow gate … Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Just as with the road to destruction, so with the road to life Jesus has in mind one’s eternal destiny. We have already seen the fate of the wicked taught by Jesus in the passage about the sheep and the goats, but let’s recall what He says there about the righteous:

NKJ Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46 When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world …” [And then in verse 41 He says:] 41 Then He will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angel …” [And then in verse 46 He adds:] 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Thus the road to life leads to everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven. It makes me want to know more about this road, so I’m happy to see that – just He did regarding the road to destruction – Jesus gives three specific details about the road to life.

1. It has a narrow gate.

Jesus actually stresses this point twice. He commands us to “enter the narrow [στενός] gate” in verse 13, and then in verse 14 He again describes the gate as “narrow” [στενός]. The same Greek word is actually used in the LXX in a way that helps to shed light on this passage:

NKJ Numbers 22:26 Then the Angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow [στενός] place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.

With this word Jesus thus emphasizes that this gate imposes restrictions upon the one who would enter it. It has boundaries that must be honored, just as He taught elsewhere:

NKJ John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

NKJ John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

So, the narrow gate is not the inclusive gate by which one gains access to the road to destruction. Rather, it is an exclusive gate. It demands that one believe only the truth and that one seek salvation in none other than Christ. We should never be ashamed, then, to make this exclusive truth claim just as Peter did:

NKJ Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

We must be careful to proclaim this truth with boldness and clarity, especially in our increasingly pluralistic and syncretistic society.

Not only does the road to life differ from the road to destruction because of its gate, however, it also differs in that it is not a broad, easy way. This brings us to the second characteristic of this road.

2. It is a difficult way.

Jesus says in verse 14 that “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life.”

The Greek word translated difficult here is thlíbō [θλίβω, verb, Perf.Pass.Part.], which “strictly [means] press, rub together; hence compress, make narrow.” Thus, a leading Greek lexicon suggests that this passage be translated “literally restricted is the road that leads to life, i.e. in order to receive eternal life, one must live as God requires” (Friberg #13706, BibleWorks). This word also often means “figuratively [to] afflict, oppress, cause trouble to” or to “experience hardship, be afflicted” (passive).

D.A. Carson observes that this word “… almost always refers to persecution. So this text says that the way of discipleship is ‘narrow,’ restricting, because it is the way of persecution and opposition – a major theme in Matthew” (EBC, Vol.8, p.188). This also fits with the teaching of Jesus earlier in the Sermon on the Mount (5:10-12) and elsewhere:

NKJ John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation [θλῖψις, noun]; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

The Apostles were also faithful to teach about the difficulty of the road to everlasting life in the Kingdom:

NKJ Acts 14:21-22 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”

Kent Hughes is again helpful when he writes:

Having entered the narrow gateway to life, the traveler finds that the road remains narrow. Christ is absolutely up front about the fact that the road remains narrow and difficult. There is no attempt to lure us onto the road with assurances that though it will be difficult at first, the road’s contour will eventually widen. (The Sermon on the Mount, pp. 243-244)

How unlike Christ and the Apostles are so many teachers and preachers today! They often readily appeal to our desires for personal peace and affluence – or, as Norm Wakefield likes to put it, our desire to be “happy and comfortable.” Many of them overtly preach that God will give us all the money and healing we could ever want. But these are perhaps not the most dangerous. Perhaps the most dangerous are those who tell us about the many blessings we can have, such as forgiveness and joy in the Holy Spirit, without telling us about the many temptations and trials that await us as Christians! They tell us of victory in Christ, but they do not tell us as readily about the many battles left to fight.

So many evangelists can be heard emphasizing the blessings to be had in Christ without ever speaking of the hardships that await their converts. Jesus, however, was always very clear about such hardships! No wonder there were so relatively few who responded positively to His message. But, then, Jesus knew that this is what is to be expected on the road to life, as we shall see next.

3. It has few travelers.

In verse 14 He says “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

I think that Jesus is saying this to encourage rather than to discourage His disciples. How easily we can begin to think that, because we are relatively few in number, perhaps we have made the wrong choice. It is hard not be be so tempted. After all, we might think, how can so many people be so wrong!

Well, we may be encouraged that this minority position is just the position Jesus was in and just the position He said His followers would be in. That we are so few is, then, in reality not an indication that we are wrong, but an indication that we are right! As Jesus said elsewhere:

NKJ Matthew 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

And thus we are reminded that those few who are on the road to life are not on that road because they are better than others or because they are inherently wiser in their ability to choose God, but rather because of God’s grace in choosing them.

Conclusion: Remember again the final stanza of the poem Poem by Robert Frost:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Today I pray that each of us has recognized that two roads diverge in each of our lives – the road to destruction and the road to life – and the one less traveled by is the one that leads to life. And it most assuredly makes all the difference!

For those who may not yet know Jesus as Savior and Lord: Choose the right road today! Enter through the narrow gate… through Christ alone!

For those who are already Christians: Ask yourselves these questions: Can people tell what road you are on by looking at your life? Does your life reflect the road you claim to be on? Does it demonstrate that you have entered through the narrow gate? After all, you can’t very well spend all your time walking on the broad road and really believe you have entered the narrow gate, can you?

Leave a Reply