Wisdom Wednesday: The Narrow Way of Wisdom
Submitted by Debbie’s Dad
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. “
-(Matthew 7:13-14 NASB 95)
This verse has always intrigued me because it is almost the only statistical verse in the Gospels. Certainly, it is a quantitative statement by Jesus that “few” (literally a small or little number) will find the way to eternal life. The context of this passage is Jesus’ extended teaching in His “Sermon on the Mount” in Galilee. After teaching about blessed people, righteousness, prayer, living for treasures (in heaven), worry, and judgment, Jesus explained that seeking God is as simple as asking, seeking, and knocking on a door that will be opened (vv. 7-12). If you knock on the door, God will open.
In the following two verses, Jesus explained more detail for those who seek to enter into eternal life. He created a very clear word picture of two roads and two gates:
- A wide road crowded with people and a wide gate results in spiritual destruction. (death)
- A narrow road with only a few people and a narrow gate of entry.
Scholars have wondered if the gate is first, then the road, or is the road first that ultimately leads to a gate. Others have wondered if the context was a statement about the wide path of the Pharisees’ teachings about seeking righteousness through the law, or the narrow teachings of Jesus about believing in Him alone for eternal life. Jesus declared explicitly that He was the “way” (John 14:6). And He also declared that one must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees to get eternal life (Matt. 5:20).
The word “narrow” for the righteous way in verse 14 is a word meaning “to press, or to afflicted” and some have translated it “the way is difficult” because of the difficulty of being pressed into a narrow path. And this is consistent with the concept of a life path becoming more Christlike in a fallen world.
The passage has inspired many to draw how they view the work picture Jesus created. A 17th-century writer, Francisco de Quevedo, created a drawing of this very clear image–showing a large crowd of people filling a wide, tree-lined, flat road leading to a wide gateway; through the gateways are flames of destruction. I counted the people in this man’s image and 18 (considering four in the nice carriage) on the broad path. This was this artist’s estimate of “many”. In the picture’s foreground is a man (the author himself) talking to a man who appears to be seeking to choose a way to go. To the very left side of the image is an alternative narrow, uphill path weaving toward a heavenly building with a narrow gateway. Only three people can be seen along the entire path.
The sad statement of Jesus in this passage is that “few find it”. It makes you wonder how few? Less than 50%? 25%?,or only 10%? At the time of Noah, it was a very tiny percent that entered the door of the ark. And in Sodom and Gomorrah, it was also a tiny fraction that fled and escaped destruction.
In this passage, Jesus instructs His followers to wisely choose the narrow, even difficult, way that leads to eternal life—and He acknowledges it is only followed by a “few”.
These few are walking the way of wisdom, as Jesus confirmed in His concluding words of His sermon on the mount:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. (Matt 7:24–25 NASB 95)