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“The Narrow Gate”
Matthew 7:13-14


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost—July 10, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

A common theme in science fiction, such as “Star Trek,” is the supposed wormhole or other portal between different dimensions of reality.  There is a TV show called “Stargate” that is all about people traveling through such a portal to different dimensions.

In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus tells a little parable about such a portal, a gateway between different dimensions of reality.  But, this gateway to another dimension that Jesus speaks of is not fiction.  It really exists, and he invites you to pass through this gateway into another world: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and easy the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But narrow is the gate and hard the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

There actually exist two possible gateways to another dimension.  One of them takes you from this world to hell: “For wide is the gate and easy the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”  The other gateway to another dimensions takes you from this world to heaven: “But narrow is the gate and hard the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

The purpose of this little parable is to confront you with a question: Which road am I on?  Which gate am I passing through?  What is my final destination in life: heaven or hell?

“Enter through the narrow gate.”  “Truly, truly I say to you,” Jesus declares, “I am the gate . . . whoever enters through me will be saved.” “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”  The narrow gate to heaven is faith in Jesus Christ.

Right now to get into the evacuated section of Dakota Dunes you must have a special ID card with a bar code that is scanned by the guards, otherwise they won’t let you in.  None of us on our own has the right to enter into heaven.  Because of our sin we all deserve to be turned away at the heavenly gates. 

But, Jesus said about himself, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus gave his life as a ransom for you.  He was crucified, dead, and buried for you and your salvation.  He paid for you the penalty for all your sins.  As Martin Luther says in the Small Catechism: “[He] has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death. . . he daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers, and will at the Last Day raise up me and all the dead, and give unto me and all believers in Christ eternal life.  This is most certainly true.”

Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross your ID card, the bar code, that will get you into heaven.  “Enter through the narrow gate.”  Trust in him as your Savior.  “Truly, truly I say to you, I am the gate . . . whoever enters through me will be saved.”

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and easy the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But narrow is the gate and hard the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Outwardly, it would seem Jesus has it backwards in this saying of his.  For, if you outwardly compare Christianity to other religions, Christianity doesn’t seem harder, but a lot easier. 

During July and August in Adult Bible Class, after worship in the Fellowship Hall downstairs, we’re watching a DVD series on “Christianity and the Competition,” a fascinating look at other religions compared to Christianity.  This morning we’re looking at “The Religions of the Far East,” including Hinduism and Buddhism.  In a couple of weeks we’ll look at Islam, and we’ll also consider American cults such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witness. 

Such false religions place all sorts of burdens on their followers.  Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t celebrate any holidays, not even their own birthdays.  Mormons are forbidden to consume caffeine.  Jews can’t eat pork, Hindus can’t eat beef.  Muslims have perhaps the most oppressive demands and restrictions.  Compared to all of them, Christianity sure seems like the broad and easy way.

So, why does Jesus say, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and easy the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But narrow is the gate and hard the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”?  What is so “easy” about these false religions, with all their demands, but so “hard” about Christianity, with its wonderful freedom?  

The answer is that all these false religions appeal to our human nature.  We think we should be able to save ourselves by our own good works.  And that’s what all these false religions teach.  That’s why they have so many man-made dos and don’ts.  It’s to rack up points to get yourself into heaven.  That appeals to our human nature, so it’s easy to accept and believe.  That’s what Jesus means when he says, “For wide is the gate and easy the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

Christianity, on the other hand, means confessing, as we do in our Liturgy, that we are “poor, miserable, sinners,” who are therefore incapable of earning our own salvation. Christianity means admitting, as Luther says in the Small Catechism, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him.”  Christianity means putting your hope for salvation not in yourself and your good works, but in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and his work of salvation for you.  As Paul says in Philippians, “Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” He puts it this way in today’s Epistle Reading from Romans, “For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.”

Christianity is like that team-building exercise where you let yourself fall into another’s arms.  If you’ve ever tried that, you know how hard it is to do, how against our natural instincts.  In the same way, it goes completely against our natural spiritual instincts to rely for our salvation not on ourselves but to fall back into the arms of Jesus.  That’s what’s “hard” about Christianity, to go against the world, which says you can and must earn it yourself, and instead to rely for your salvation on Christ alone.  That’s what Jesus means when he says, “But narrow is the gate and hard the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

“Enter through the narrow gate.”  The Lord declares in today’s Old Testament Reading, “I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.”  Not exactly a “politically correct” thing to say.  And Paul is even more “politically incorrect” in today’s Epistle Reading, when he passes judgment on all who follow any way other than the narrow way, any religion other than Christianity: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.”

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and easy the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But narrow is the gate and hard the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Amen. 

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