Passage: Matthew 7:12-14
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
Towards the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes two different “ways”, or paths that people might take as they approach life—a narrow way and a wide way.
One way of life feels natural and intuitive, and therefore “many” walk this way—it is “wide” and “easy”. There is another “way”, however, that feels “narrow” and “hard”, and Jesus says that comparatively “few” people find this way. Though it can be tempting to simply associate the “wide way” with loose living and the “narrow way” with a strict, moral approach to life, this is not what Jesus is talking about at all, nor would this be in keeping with the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ two “ways” in fact, can be seen throughout the Sermon on the Mount, though the contrasts that Jesus gives. The “narrow” way, which often feels constraining and counterintuitive, refers to the internal righteousness that comes from having a transformed heart, whereas the “wide” way, which feels more natural and intuitive, is the way of mere external righteousness—a righteousness that is done to earn God’s approval, and be seen by others. In the two ways, then, Jesus is not contrasting Christianity with loose living or atheism—he is contrasting true Christianity with the religion of the Pharisees.
Each way also leads to a natural end. The end of the wide way is “destruction” (7:13) whereas the end of the narrow way is “life” (7:14). Jesus is warning us, then, that our choices are actively taking us somewhere. Even before our destination of either destruction or life, we are becoming a certain kind of person, as our future destiny begins showing itself in our present. When we obey Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, it will often feel constraining at first, but such obedience will lead to life and freedom, both eternally and even in the present. When we disobey Jesus’ words, however, it may feel more natural at first, but it will increasingly bring death into our life.
Lastly, Jesus tells us to “enter by the narrow gate” (7:13). In the Gospels, Jesus calls himself the “gate”. Ultimately, it is only through a personal encounter with Jesus in his gospel that we can ever walk down the narrow path—Jesus can never be our example unless he is our Savior. Only a heart totally remade by the grace of Jesus will ever have the motivation and ability to walk on the narrow way. But praise God—our faithful Savior goes before us and has walked this way first!
- The Nature of the Two Ways (7:12-14)
- The End of the Two Ways (7:13-14)
- The Entryway (7:14)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage(s): Matthew 7:12-14
The Nature of the Two Ways (7:12-14)
1) Re-read Matthew 7:12-14 and meditate on these verses together. Consider:
• How easy is it to “do for others whatever we wish they would do for us”?
• What are the various ways that Jesus contrasts the two different paths or ways?
• What does the narrow way represent? What does the wide way represent? What does the narrow gate represent? What does the wide gate represent?
2) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby described the “narrow” way as referring to the life that pursues the true internal righteousness which Jesus describes throughout the Sermon on the Mount, and said that this way of life often feels difficult and counterintuitive—i.e. it doesn’t feel “natural”. Look back over the Sermon on the Mount…which section(s) of Jesus’ teaching feels particularly counterintuitive, or “unnatural” to you? Why?
3) Jesus says that outward moralism/Phariseeism—which appears to be stringent—is, in reality, an “easy” way of life. This may sound counterintuitive or surprising to some. In what ways is living like a Pharisee actually “easy”?
4) Think of an area of your life where you are being challenged to obey Jesus right now. What would it look like to walk on the “wide path” in this area of your life? What would it look like to follow Jesus on the “narrow path” in this area?
5) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that our culture puts a strong emphasis on doing what feels “natural” and intuitive to us. What are the downsides of this emphasis? How do Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:13-14 challenge this cultural value? How, if at all, should this impact the way we disciple people?
The End of the Two Ways (7:13-14)
6) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that not only does each path lead to either “life” or “destruction” as a final destination, but that elements of this life or destruction often begin to show up even in our present life—we increasingly “become what we are” as the sum of our choices. Is there an area of your life where you’ve experienced “destruction” (a lack of life/flourishing), as a result of walking on the wide and easy path? Is there somewhere where you’ve taken the “easy” road for a long time, and are experiencing the consequences now? What might it look like to repent, and change directions in this area of life?
The Entryway (7:14)
7) Re-read Matthew 7:13, and also John 10:9-10, where Jesus calls himself the “gate”. In what sense is Jesus the “gate” to the road that leads to life? In what sense is he a “narrow” gate (entryway)?
8) What happens when people try to walk on the narrow path without having first entered through the narrow gate? What kind of frustrations does this bring?
9) How does a genuine encounter with Jesus in the gospel (“entering by the narrow gate”) transform us into the kind of people who are able to walk on the narrow way?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.