"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."
- Matthew 7:13-21
We are reading through the Sermon on the Mount. We began with the Beatitudes, then we read You are the salt of the earth, Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill, Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment, Let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No," "No," Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven, Pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly, Our Father in heaven, You cannot serve God and mammon, and Your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Yesterday, we read that Jesus preached, " "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye;'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." My study bible tells us that the description of "two ways" was widespread in Judaism (see for example Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 1; Proverbs 4:17-18, 12:28). We also find it in early Christian writings such as the Didache and Barnabas. In Luke's version (Luke 13:24-30), there is a more eschatological focus, as it refers to the end of the age. My study bible says that because we restle against sins and human weaknesses as well as spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12), entering the Kingdom is therefore the more difficult way.
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them." Again there is a warning about hypocrisy here, this time a warning to beware of false prophets -- those who put on a show of religion and are inwardly something quite different. My study bible says that this type of deceit in religious guise is much more dangerous than evil outright. It invites us to an even deeper caution among those who are outwardly virtuous! By their fruits you will know them finds a reflection in the teachings of John the Baptist. In Matthew 3:10, John says exactly the same thing: "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." Jesus is preparing His disciples for the future, and by their fruits you will know them remains a watchword for us now.
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." And here the eschatological emphasis becomes especially clear. Ultimately, this is all about Judgment, the age which is initiated even by the call of John the Baptist. It is an explicit kind of call to discipleship, one that relies on a depth of relationship to God, and not with those whose virtue is only outward. This is also an explicit statement linking Christ to the Lord of the Old Testament, and thus the divine name "Yahweh" (for which the title the Lord - "adonai" - was interchangeable). "The will of My Father" establishes His relationship to God the Father, and also that they share this will. It is clearly a statement that He is Judge, a place only God can fill.
The eschatological nature of this reality can't be mistaken in Jesus' statements, which clearly pertain to the Judgment -- the end of the age. This is the reality initiated even by the call of John the Baptist to "Prepare the way of the Lord." This is the time of the end, even the time we are in now, the time initiated by the coming of the Lord as human being. It's important that we understand this focus, and the reality of Christ's life, what it meant and means for the time that we live in now. "End times" aren't just about what might happen someday. They happen even as we live our lives now, they unfold in the period in which we live, this "age" that began with Incarnation, the visit of our Lord, "God with us." As such, this understanding colors the ways we see our lives and the ways in which we live our lives. Jesus doesn't tell us to follow blindly any leader who seems to be holy. He tells us something really different. We are to practice discernment. He wants rational sheep, not blind obedience to those who are themselves blind. This is a part of the call to a depth of relationship to God. It's a part of the call against hypocrisy, Jesus' emphasis on the internal life of the heart, on purity of heart. All of it fits together, no matter which way we look at it. It is all a part of the ministry that teaches that God is Spirit and is looking for those who can worship in spirit and in truth. He's teaching those of us who would be His disciples just what that means for us, how we are to be in this world, how we are to follow His Way. It is part of the more difficult way. We must carry light in the world, light in our eyes against the darkness of blindness, as we carry His Kingdom within us. He calls us to be awake and alert. This is what it is to do the will of My Father in heaven. We are in a time of the end, it doesn't come later, it's now, a reality with us. We are to make His paths straight, as the Baptist said, quoting Isaiah the Prophet. Jesus teaches us what it is to be on this straight path, this way (the word in Greek means "road") -- His Way.