“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)
What is the 'wide gate' and the 'broad road'?This statement is often interpreted by sectarian teachers to be a discussion of money. While money may be an element within the topic, Jesus' metaphorical discussion runs deeper.
Jesus is describing two possible paths one can take in life. What are they?
“Destruction” is being translated from the Greek word ἀπώλεια (apōleia) which can also mean, according to the Greek lexicon, "the destruction which consists of eternal misery in hell."
In other words, it is the state of spiritual destruction: our continued ignorance of our relationship with the Supreme Being. This is the sum and substance of hell.
"Wide is the gate and broad is the road" is the description given of the choice that leads to "destruction."
The broad road is the easy path. The path of least resistance. It is the materialistic path. The path of following those who do not worship the Supreme Being. The path of focusing upon the temporary pleasures and accolades of the physical body.
Most people determine their path by what others are doing. They follow the crowd because they yearn for the respect and admiration of others. This results in them following whatever the trends are, thinking if “everyone else is doing it, it must be right.”
This is the broad path because it is quite easy to follow the crowd. It is easy because there is little resistance from others. On this path, we fit in. As long as we fit in, we are comfortable as long as others approve of our actions and our direction in life.
What is the 'narrow gate'?The more difficult - and therefore more narrow - path is to strictly follow the core teachings of Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and other exalted devoted servants of the Supreme Being, who instructed us to focus our lives and energies not upon what others are doing, but upon loving and pleasing God.
These great teachers taught us not only with their words but with their lives that we should focus our energies upon what is pleasing to God, disregarding the whims of our society and regardless of what fits in. This the narrow road because it is difficult, and others will not understand us.
This is precisely the meaning of Jesus' allowing his physical body to be persecuted and tortured upon the cross. Many sectarian institutions and their teachers focus upon Jesus' suffering as some kind of ritualistic sacrifice so they can feel "saved." But the true lesson and meaning of Jesus' sacrifice - and the manner in which it can "save" us - was to illustrate to us that the physical body, and all of the trappings of this world, including comfort, money, and the acceptance of others, is not worth sacrificing our relationship with the Supreme Being.
Let's break this down a bit more. We know by Jesus' actions that he was not concerned about the life of his body since he allowed his body to be arrested and beaten. He did not try to avert the situation during his trial. During the trial, he did not deny or downplay his teachings because he considered those teachings - the lessons he gave to us regarding the Supreme Being - as more important than the physical comfort of his body.
And he endured the condemnation of others during and following the trial.
Yes, Jesus personally showed how to endure the narrow path.
This also illustrates the last point in this statement: “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
What does Jesus mean by 'the life'?If we follow the example Jesus left us regarding "life," we know that the "life" Jesus is speaking of has nothing to do with the life of the physical body. Otherwise, Jesus would have averted being captured and traveled to another land once he understood he was to be arrested. He would have done whatever needed to be done to keep his body alive.
Furthermore, his actions of overturning the selling tables at the synagogue and otherwise teaching in the temple courtyards inflamed the situation. He would not have done this for fear of being condemned.
So as we examine the combination of Jesus' teachings and his entire life, including his willingness to endure the pain and condemnation of those that tortured him, we should honor and understand that Jesus himself took the ultimate "narrow path."
To understand the meaning of the "life" Jesus describes, we must remember that Jesus sought in all circumstances to do God's will. This was "life" to Jesus. Jesus prayed:
"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will."(Matt. 26:39)Jesus' concern was doing the will of His Father. He was wanting to please the Supreme Being. This is the "life" that Jesus is speaking of.
This is also the element of Jesus' disappearance that will "save" us. Jesus endured ridicule, torture and even the death of his body in order to please God and do God's will. We are saved by realizing this and acting upon it - by attempting to take the narrow road ourselves in a practical way (and not imitating).
Jesus made access to this narrow road very clear with his most important instruction:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Matthew 22:37)