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Sermon on the Mount: Two Roads

Before Robert Frost, Jesus had something of his own to say about two roads diverging.

Written by Mike Biolsi on .

Notes

We are entering the last section of the sermon on the mount. This is somewhat of a conclusion section of the message. And, in typical fashion, Jesus uses another parable to make a statement:

Matthew 7:13–14 CSB
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

Enter

We have but one command in our passage: ENTER. Enter where or what? For what purpose? In verse 13 are are told to enter through the narrow gate. 

When I read this I immediately want to know why and how and what the destination will be. And Jesus DOES tell us these things, well mostly. He does so by starting with the NOT narrow gate.

Two Roads, One Choice.

Let’s look at the two options we have:

  • wide gate
  • broad road
  • leads to destruction
  • many go through it

That is the first choice. The second parallels it but seems to be the polar opposite:

  • narrow gate
  • difficult road
  • leads to life
  • few find it

We are presented with two options and one leads to destruction and the other to life. Since Jesus began with the wide gate and wide road, we will start there.

The Broad Road

to understand what the road and gate might represent, I think we have to start with the destination. IF you follow the broad road and go through the wide gate, where does it lead you?

Destruction

If you have the NLT, this is referred to as the “highway to hell” - surely the inspiration for the 1991 AC/DC hit. However, I do not care for that translation. Highway is very much a modern construct and I suppose it is not a bad to option for a broad road. However, the word for “hell” is not used here. 

It is the word for destruction or waste. Of the 18 times this word shows up in the NT, only in this one does the NLT translate it as hell. 

Earlier in the sermon on the mount, Jesus said if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out because it is better to lose a part of your body than for the whole body to be thrown into hell (gehenna).  If Jesus wanted to refer to hell here, especially since he talked about it already, I think he might have used the same word to hyperlink us back.

If we are going to understand this destination we really need to seek to find out what the Scriptures say about it, and you will get some different answers if you do a word study on “hell” vs “destruction”. You will not find many OT references to hell, just a few NT ones. However, there is destruction throughout the bible - whether it be God destroying the earth by flood (Genesis 6:12, 17; 9:11) or the judgement of the Day of the Lord (Isaiah 13:9) or Matthew 6:19 “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” 

Destruction is the destination - being utterly wiped out or removed, like the flood. 

So what is the road that leads to this? As with many of these teachings on the hill, I have found many scholars with different answers. 

Could it be Jerusalem?

Could Jesus be referring to the wide gates that go into the temple and the broad road that leads to it?Some have suggested this as I read through my commentaries. While it is true that God was going to have the temple destroyed in the near future of the time of this sermon, the temple and the city are just inanimate objects that can neither bring life or death - any more than any other idol could. 

The temple was the place Yahweh chose to have his name dwell. It was not evil, and the destruction of it was not because it was evil. It was because of disobedience:

1 Kings 9:1–9 CSB
1 When Solomon finished building the temple of the Lord, the royal palace, and all that Solomon desired to do, 2 the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time just as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. 3 The Lord said to him: I have heard your prayer and petition you have made before me. I have consecrated this temple you have built, to put my name there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there at all times. 4 As for you, if you walk before me as your father David walked, with a heart of integrity and in what is right, doing everything I have commanded you, and if you keep my statutes and ordinances, 5 I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised your father David: You will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel. 6 If you or your sons turn away from following me and do not keep my commands—my statutes that I have set before you—and if you go and serve other gods and bow in worship to them, 7 I will cut off Israel from the land I gave them, and I will reject the temple I have sanctified for my name. Israel will become an object of scorn and ridicule among all the peoples. 8 Though this temple is now exalted, everyone who passes by will be appalled and will scoff. They will say, “Why did the Lord do this to this land and this temple?” 9 Then they will say, “Because they abandoned the Lord their God who brought their ancestors out of the land of Egypt. They held on to other gods and bowed in worship to them and served them. Because of this, the Lord brought all this ruin on them.”

If this is the meaning of the broad road and wide gate, then the real understanding is that there are many living in disobedience to God, who have taken other gods. This is certainly one possible understanding. 

Could it be the law or prophets?

Some have suggested that the law is the wide road. This in contrast with faith. Since no one could fully keep the law it therefore condemned all people.

Jesus JUST finished the command to treat others in a way that fulfills all the law and  prophets (7:12). And of course, we can never forget these verses:

Matthew 5:17–18 CSB
17 “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished.

The book of Romans talks a LOT about the law! In the CSB, the word “law” appears 76 times in Romans: it appears less than half that many times in all 4 gospels combined!

Paul seems to understand that the problem is not the law! The problem is the lack of righteous living by FAITH in Jesus.

Romans 10:1–4 (CSB)
1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation. 2 I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 Since they are ignorant of the righteousness of God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end [goal/completion] of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

If Jesus is the end, or the goal of the law, then the destination of the law cannot be destruction, can it? 

Romans 9:30–32 CSB
30 What should we say then? Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained righteousness—namely the righteousness that comes from faith. 31 But Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not achieved the righteousness of the law. 32 Why is that? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.

I think we get a pretty good idea of what the broad road or wide path might be: any kind of self-righteousness or works-based religion.

We have a lot of this today. People who try to work their way into heaven. “If I am good enough God will accept me”. People who try to pay their way into heaven. Churches that lead people astray by teaching that we are saved through baptism, membership or any other work. 

 In this case the law could be the broad road IF that road relies upon our own woks and our own righteousness and not faith. 

It is the Pharisees?

Is it possible that the broad road is the way of the Pharisees? We started this sermon on the hill talking about this:

Matthew 5:20 CSB
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

Religion does not save souls. A relationship with Christ does. 

WE can look the part - being very spiritual in appearance and words, knowledgeable of the Bible, serving the poor and giving gifts to the church and to others and really not even know God or be known by Him. 

All three of these possible examples of what the broad road might be right. When you boil them all down they all come o a similar conclusion: living in disobedience to God… 

The temple and Jerusalem are not the road. The law and prophets are not the road to destruction. BUT, the heart of man and the actions of mankind in rebellion to God is: 

Study the theme of destruction and you will see so many things that cause it:

  • sacrifice to other gods and be set apart for destruction (Exodus 22:20)
  • have false idols, you will be set apart for destruction (Deut. 7:26)
  • turn your back on God, you will be set apart for destruction (Hosea 8)
  • pride leads to destruction (Proverbs 16:18)
  • reject Christ and oppose Him and you are marked for destruction (Philippians 3:18-19)

Believe the road to destruction is wide and widely painted in the narrative of the Bible. It all goes back to the garden when man and woman decided to choose to define good and bad for themselves. Adam and Eve failed to act in obedience to Yahweh. The destruction of creation and relationships has been felt ever since. 

The Narrow Gate & Difficult Road

Let’s begin with the destination: LIFE. Not destruction! 

The way that leads to life. This goes back to the garden! There were 2 trees, one of the knowledge of good and bad and one of life. Obedience would have led to life, disobedience lead to destruction. 

So what leads to life?

We mentioned that rebellion leads to death, the scriptures also teach that obedience leads to life. This concept would be familiar to the crows on the hill. 

Deuteronomy 5:32–33 CSB
32 “Be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you are not to turn aside to the right or the left. 33 Follow the whole instruction the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess.

This idea of staying on the path and not turning to the side or getting off track is about faithful obedience to God and his commands. 

As a matter of fact, the idea of who roads or two paths is directly connected to this.

Deuteronomy 11:26–28 CSB
26 “Look, today I set before you a blessing and a curse: 27 there will be a blessing, if you obey the commands of the Lord your God I am giving you today, 28 and a curse, if you do not obey the commands of the Lord your God and you turn aside from the path I command you today by following other gods you have not known.

This thread is restated in the covenant between God and Israel: “I have set before you two roads”. 

Deuteronomy 30:11–20 CSB
11 “This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. 12 It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 13 And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 14 But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it. 15 See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 For I am commanding you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the Lord your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not listen and you are led astray to bow in worship to other gods and serve them, 18 I tell you today that you will certainly perish and will not prolong your days in the land you are entering to possess across the Jordan. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 love the Lord your God, obey him, and remain faithful to him. For he is your life, and he will prolong your days as you live in the land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

For the listeners on the hill, the direct connection would be that obedience to God would be the narrow path. This is not a wrong understanding, and certainly Jesus is making the care for obedience in this closing section, but there is an even deeper meaning that has not yet been revealed...

But fist, we have to wrestle with a few things:

Narrow

Why is this road described as narrow? Is it because it is hard to find? It is because it is too difficult? Is it because it is the path less traveled? 

Well, the last passage in Deuteronomy stated that it was not too difficult. And the last passage we studied in the sermon on the hill said:

  • If we seek, we will find!
  • If we knock, it will be open!
  • If we ask we will receive!

This is not a message of impossibility, hiddenness nor or hardship. This is the same word, “find” that was in the previous verse. But if all who seek find, then the issue is not in the finding, but in the seeking. We must be seeking the right things:

Matthew 6:33 CSB
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

Matthew is going to share a lot more teachings from Jesus about finding the kingdom, so you can just stay tuned for those. 

Narrow, I believe, also means that there is only one way - one path. The Christian message of being restored to God through faith in Jesus alone is a message of exclusivity. There is but ONE WAY:

Jesus is the road/path/way. 

John 14:1–7 (CSB)
1 “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also. 4 You know the way to where I am going.” 5 “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Not only is Jesus the “way” or the “road” or “path”, his followers belonged to “the way”. We often use the phrase, “Christ-follower” instead of Christian. Apparently, the statement of Jesus that he is THE WAY (The Path) was one that stuck, so much so that people who followed Jesus, disciples, were identified as belonging to “the way”. 

Acts 9:2 CSB
2 and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

See also: Acts 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22

The book of Acts seems to be the only place in the NT that this phrase is used this way, but it is used 5 different times. However, the exclusive nature of the gospel is necessary because there is no human apart from the god-man (Jesus) that could live the way God intended. His life, death and resurrection purchase the freedom of all souls that will obey Him.

John 3:16 CSB
16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

So, though this is an exclusive message, it’s intention is inclusion of as many as possible. The way into the kingdom is through the way - through Jesus.

Jesus is the gate.

PROPHETS: It is mentioned regarding the Messiah who will be the “gate” to God.  Let me chase this one down with you.

Psalm 118 has some prophetic passages in it regarding the Messiah. One of the most famous is the “cornerstone” passage:

Psalm 118:22 CSB
22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Jesus said he was this cornerstone in Matthew 21:42 “42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is what the Lord has done and it is wonderful in our eyes?” 

Peter claimed it in Acts 4:11-12 “11 This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”” 

Basically, Jesus is being connected to the temple and the Messiah. Why does this matter? Check out Psalm 118: 19-20 just a few verses before that, yet in the same “verse” of the Psalm: ⚡

Psalm 118:19–20 CSB
19 Open the gates of righteousness for me; I will enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the Lord’s gate; the righteous will enter through it.

What is the gate? The gate of righteousness that leads to the temple of God? It is the stone the builders rejected: the Messiah. It is Jesus.  Such a cool hyperlink there!

Jesus even makes this gate connection for us:

John 10:9–10 CSB
9 I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

In this parable, Jesus is both the good shepherd and the gate. There are thieves and wolves mentioned, but that goes along with next week’s passage ;)

For now, we just want to focus on the gate - the way in and out of a place. Jesus makes the claim that he is the gate - the promised Messiah who provides a way in to life.

So Jesus is the PATH and the GATE to LIFE. 

Jesus said this road was difficult. However, Jesus also said that it was not burdensome of heavy. 

Matthew 11:29–30 CSB
29 Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

So I do not think that difficult means it will be challenging in any physical way.

Difficult

I believe it is difficult because it requires faith. If it was something I could physically buy, it would not be as difficult. If it was something I could earn, it would not be as difficult. 

I think we stumble and we struggle with Jesus because the method of freedom comes from faith. Obedience, yes, but that must be a by-product of faith. 

Hebrews 11:1 CSB
1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.

This is a brick wall for some. “If God would just reveal himself to me I would believe.” Well, frankly, Jesus DID come to earth and he DID  reveal himself and the Father to those around him, and they still didn’t believe. 

It is hard for us to accept that which we cannot see. We want tangibility.  But that is not what faith is. Hebrews 11 is a fantastic chapter all about that. 

Hebrews 11:6 CSB
6 Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

There are those words, “reward” and “seek” - which we have seen over and over in our sermon on the hill.  We cannot please God without faith. 

THIS is a difficult thing. If you want to know God you must start with faith. If you want LIFE, and FREEDOM and entrance into the family of God, it comes by faith: ⚡

Ephesians 2:8–9 CSB
8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—9 not from works, so that no one can boast.

If I can do it on my own, it is a man-made religion, like that of the Pharisees Jesus is rebuking, it is a wide road.

The road is narrow in that there is only one way - Jesus; and it is difficult in that it requires faith. For some, this seems too easy or simple. I assure you it is and it is not. It is easy in that the work has been done for us, but it is hard in that it sets a standard for living that requires daily reflection, repentance and commitment.

Oh, that the difficulty would be that there were so many people it was hard to fit them through the narrow gate - like the doors of Walmart on Black Friday. 

Unfortunately, the crowds seem to head towards the path that leads to destruction.

Enter

Jesus started this conclusion paragraph with the command to “enter.”

Matthew 7:13–14 CSB
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

So we have before us two paths: 1 leads to destruction and 1 leads to life. WE can either accept the path that God has provided of faith in Jesus, or we can define what is good and bad in our own eyes and head down the wide road. 

Proverbs 14:12 CSB
12 There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.

I want to encourage you to choose the path that leads to life.

We were just told that those who ask receive, those who seek find and those that knock have the door opened. He then commanded his followers to ENTER the narrow gate.

Friends, the two paths are the same today, and every man, woman and child is invited to enter into the kingdom and life by placing their faith in Jesus.


Sermon on the Mount: Two Roads

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North Country Fellowship Church
NCF was started in 1987 to minister to the growing population of Fort Drum and Jefferson County. Located in Carthage, just minutes away from Ft Drum, Lowville and Watertown, it is a blended congregation of local and military folks, single soldiers, young families and grandparents.