Matthew 7:12–14: The Narrow Gate and the Hard Way
So far through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been teaching us how to live—that is, teaching us our ethical responsibilities before God. This is a difficult stretch of Scripture, where Jesus tells us exactly what a “righteousness [that] exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees” (Matt. 5:20) would look like. Jesus doesn’t sugarcoat the infinitely, high-as-heaven standard of God. Now, in Matthew 7:12–14, Jesus brings this section to a conclusion with an incredible summary statement (known as the “Golden Rule”), and an exhortation to follow Jesus in spite of the fact that his gate is narrow, and his way is hard. Even so, Jesus makes clear that to follow him is the only path to find life itself, since Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
1. How does the Golden Rule in v. 12 connect with what Jesus has taught previously in the Sermon on the Mount? How does the Golden Rule summarize the Second Table of the Law (“Love your neighbor as yourself”; Lev. 19:18)? How does the Golden Rule summarize the First Table of the Law (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”; Deut. 6:5)? How does Jesus characterize the ethical center of the Law?
2. In v. 13, what makes the wide gate so wide? What makes the easy way so easy? What factors cause so many to enter by this gate, and to travel down this way? Why, then, does this road ultimately lead to destruction? In your own life, what kind of bulky baggage do you find yourself trying to bring along with you on this journey? Why does the prospect of carrying this baggage make the wide gate and easy way so appealing to you personally?
3. In v. 14, what makes the narrow gate so narrow? What makes the hard way so hard? Why is the narrow gate and hard way so difficult to find? Why, though, does Jesus insist that this narrow gate and hard way alone are the pathway to the deliverance of salvation? In your own life, what parts of your bulky baggage are difficult to give up in order to pass through the narrow gate, and to travel down the hard road?
4. How is Jesus the narrow gate (John 10:9)? How is Jesus the way to life (John 14:6)? What makes the hard way of Jesus such good news for laboring and heavy-laden people (Matt. 11:28)? How can Jesus’ yoke be both hard, and yet also gentle, lowly, restful, easy, and light (Matt. 11:29–30)? When push comes to shove, do you end up clinging to your bulky baggage, or are you willing to leave it behind in order to find life in Jesus alone?