The Narrow Way
I’ve been reading in Matthew 8 this week. These are the stories that follow Jesus’ greatest sermon. In fact, verse one of chapter eight reads, “When he came down from the mountain great crowds followed him.” The irony here is that most of Jesus’ concluding statements of his sermon in chapter 7 are line-in-the-sand kinds of statements meant to differentiate the crowds from the core:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom…”
“Beware of false prophets…You will recognize them by their fruits.”
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man…”
And, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
And yet, many still followed him as 8:1 indicates. This is a good thing. I ain’t knocking the crowds. But I am very interested in how Matthew conveniently complies the subsequent stories after this sermon to show the markings of those few who find the narrow way. And the biggest indicator of such fortitude both in chapter 8 and throughout the gospel accounts is faith. Faith, in this instance, is a belief or trust in Jesus’ power, authority, and provision. Here, faith is contrasted with fear. This is best illustrated in the story of the disciples on a boat in a storm. After Jesus rebukes the storm and waves, he then turns and rebukes his disciples: “Why are you so afraid, O you of little faith?”
Another example in this chapter where both following and faith is tested is found in verses 18 through 22. Two “followers” express the desire to stay and learn from Jesus. Their intent is most likely sincere. Jesus is able to expose their primary excuses. In doing so, Jesus also exposes for us who share their desire what often stands in our way. Like the first man, we lack the gumption to follow Jesus into the insecurity of trusting his provision. Can we really pray for our daily bread? Can we, as the sermon encourages, not be anxious about what we are to eat or wear? Can we truly trust the God who can calm the storm to provide our most basic needs? And like the second man, we too have much difficulty with the thought of being disconnected from our relationships. Can we die to our status in the community? Are we ready to take on Jesus’ name, leaving behind our own or that of our family’s? Can we die to our own identity?
I am not condoning an interpretation of the narrow gate or any of Jesus’ other difficult line-in-the-sand statements as an understanding that few people will be saved. Thanks be to our gracious God, I believe He will absolve our sin including even our inability to closely follow Him as we should. However, there is a way that leads to life. And it is narrow. It is not easy to give up so much to follow Jesus. We are all motivated by fear from time to time. But there is life found in a trusting relationship with our Lord.
Personally, Lauryn and I are finding great joy in praying for and learning to trust God to provide a place to lay our head, financial security to feed our children, and daily provision to follow through with the calling God has placed on our lives. There will be storms and we will find ourselves doubting on occasion. But we know and trust that Jesus is with us right there in the boat. He can control the wind and waves. We stand in awe of Him. And we believe He can provide.