I am not a person who likes big crowds. I love State Fair time but always try to pick a day to attend when we think there will be the least amount of people. I tend to avoid theme parks altogether because between the thousands of people to wade through and waiting in line for hours (when all waiting time is added up) it is just not a favorite way for me to spend my time. I simply prefer smaller gatherings and open spaces to larger gatherings in small spaces. As much as I love to watch people I do not like getting caught in the jostling flurry when people suddenly forget to use their manners. The “Excuse me for just nailing you in the back” and “I am so sorry I just stepped on your heel causing you to grimace in pain” and “Oh, please – be my guest and go before me” are all lost in the big crowds. People go from nice, decent, and mannered individuals to savage animals pushing and shoving their way without a thought in the world that there are other people present. (Oh, sorry, I guess I just got a little emotional!)
Rude crowds! Long lines! Multitudes of people! How about trying to get through the narrow doors or gates at an event once they are opened to an ocean of waiting people? Unlike water which rushes through small openings, people with solid bodies tend to hurt each other as they rush to be the first through, or at least in front of as many people as possible. I have done it enough times to know the elbowing hurts, listening to curses is not a blessing, and smelling all the interesting odors is… well….let’s not go there. I suppose making thousands of people fit through a few narrow openings is meant to control the onslaught of people by only allowing a certain number in at one time. I do find it humorous when workers are on the “inside” instructing the mass of people to “Slow down please” , “Don’t push”, “One by one please” and “Be patient” as though anybody is listening to them.
Though I avoid crowds, narrow openings at events, and lines whenever possible, there is one narrow gate I do not want to miss and in fact would like to be first in line for. But even if I am not first, as long as I am in the line and on the right road I am blessed. That is the one that leads to life! The Bible tells us in Matthew 7:13-14 “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.” Again in Luke 13:23-24 “Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” I think this is one of the most “fear of God” inducing truths in all of Scripture, especially the phrase “Few will find it”. Jesus would not have said “few find it” and “many will seek to enter and will not be able” if it were not difficult to traverse. Plus, it seems natural to avoid squeezing through a narrow gate when a wide gate is available to enter through. We generally look for the easiest, fastest, most efficient route in most things.
In the Gospels Jesus is using the narrow and difficult gate and path to represent eternal life. Once we are in Jesus, our lives are enhanced and enlarged but there is still a narrow difficult path we trod but it leads to life here on earth and in heaven. As we read these passages it should motivate us to find that narrow gate or door (that would be Jesus), enter through it (Him) and journey the road to life no matter how difficult it is. The great thing is that once we enter and get on the narrow, difficult way – we are never alone – Jesus our Shepherd is right there walking with us. He never leaves or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5); He is with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20); He leads and guides us (Psalm 23:2,3); we fear nothing because He is with us (Psalm 23:4).
It turns out we are much like sheep in regards to narrow openings because they do not like to move through them either. I mention sheep because in Psalm 23 and John 10 sheep and shepherds are compared to Christians and Jesus and through careful study of sheep we can uncover and cultivate a deep desire to be sheep in the hands of a loving shepherd. Going through narrow gates or openings can cause sheep to become nervous, frightened, and stressed. But there are times when they need to move in or out through a narrow opening to safety or greener pastures therefore shepherds train herding dogs to manage and move sheep. A well-trained herding dog works in partnership with the shepherd by obeying commands and performing its job. A properly trained herding dog is able to move sheep just about anywhere including maneuvering them with great precision through narrow openings because they provide firm but gentle control, calm authority, and avoid excessive “commotion”. Since Jesus compares His people to sheep metaphorically, it seems reasonable Christians are just as resistant to moving through narrow openings as sheep. But just because we may not like to go through the narrow gate does not mean we should not or cannot go through. Jesus tells us we must enter through the narrow gate because it leads to life. Interestingly, we are not resistant to the truth that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; that He is the Door, the Gate, and the only way to eternal life. But the trouble comes when we realize the way is difficult because we would prefer “ease” once we are in Jesus.
After discovering the way is still difficult, we tend to wander over to the wide road because we do not look ahead and “see” the consequences; destruction. We can become nervous, frightened and stressed when we are pressing through. But we are given help to maneuver through if we only choose to follow. We do not have herding dogs, but we do have leaders and others in the body of Christ who work in partnership with the good Shepherd to manage and move us, equipping and maneuvering us along the narrow path with gentle control and authority. Beloved, it is worth the effort to press through the narrow opening and walk the difficult path to life and it is always for our own good to go through and keep walking!
There is obviously some deception involved with the roads because if we “heard” the truth Jesus exposes here, we would definitely steer clear of the wide path. But instead we continue to live reckless lives believing the road to heaven is wide and if we only “believe” in Jesus we are on it! The Word tells us even the demons believed. We have this misconception that we can believe and still take the wide road because we do not understand what the word “believe” truly means. To believe something can mean a simple acknowledgement but when we say we believe in Jesus as God, Lord, and Savior we are doing much more than acknowledging. We are committing our entire lives to Him in trust and reliance, living in such as way as to bring Him pleasure through our obedience. It is by the grace of God that we can believe in Jesus and when we have come into that saving knowledge, we know He lived, died, and rose again to be our Lord and Savior. As a result we long to please Him and live according to His will, following Him as He leads and guides us every moment of every day. We no longer desire to do our own thing; but when we do stray and our desires lean towards earthly things, our knowledge and faith in Jesus causes us to steer back to the narrow road.
Perhaps part of the deception is because we confuse the yoke of Christ which is easy and His burden which is light with the narrow, difficult path we are to walk. It is true we find rest for our souls in Jesus, learning from Him, staying with Him as we maneuver through life rather than laboring and being weighed down with the things of this world.(Matthew 11:28-30) But that does not make the walk of faith an easy walk. It is a difficult journey as we live in submission and obedience to God in lieu of living according to the flesh. But being on the journey that leads to life is incredible!
When we are in a crowd of people waiting to enter through a narrow gate or door, we usually endure because on the other side we know there is something we want to see and in which we desire to participate therefore we patiently endure and press through. When we choose to receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior by the power of His Spirit we must be willing to practice the same patience and endure the pressing that will occur before we enter true life.
The next time you are in a large crowd of people, pressing in and through, think about the narrow gate and difficult way; think about Jesus’ words that “few find it”; then praise Him you have found it! Praise Him that He is with you and will never leave you! Praise Him for the enlarged place of freedom and life in Him! Then enter in!!!!!!