Two Messages, Two Teachers, and Two Followers (Matt. 7:13-23)
Every good sermon closes with a call to action. Having established what life in the Kingdom of Heaven is to look like (Matthew 5:17-7:12), Jesus now invites us to choose whether we will follow the path he has laid out in this Sermon or the way of the world.
The Christian life, while difficult, leads to life.
Having concluded his sermon, Jesus now calls his audience (and us) to action. Throughout the Sermon, he’s made it clear that there’ s only two ways to live: the way of the world and the way of Jesus, and we now have to make up our minds as to which way we will follow. Jesus uses several contrasting pictures to emphasize this point.
First (Matt. 7:13-14), he compares the way of the world to a wide path that is popular, full of company, and quite easy to walk on. But while popular, the road leads to destruction. By contrast, Jesus calls his followers to a narrow road. It is small, confining, and far less populated. It requires discipline, commitment, loneliness, and persecution. At times, those on this road may be tempted to look at those on the wide path and envy them, thinking they’re living the good life.
This was the experience of Asaph in Psalm 73. He looked around and noticed that the ungodly seemed to have easy lives free of pain while the godly suffered. Is following God even worth it? he wondered. Asaph was encouraged to persevere, though, when he “went into the sanctuary of God” and was reminded of where their path led (v. 16). In the same way, Jesus encourages to endure in the difficult lifestyle he calls his followers to by focusing on the joy that awaits them at the end of the road.
Jesus’ second illustration concerns two kinds of fruit (Matt. 7:15-20). The Pharisees were a perfect example of people who looked like they were on the narrow path but who were on the wide path to destruction. As Jesus has made clear in the Sermon on the Mount, the Pharisees knew the Bible very well but completely missed the point of it. There’s a great need, then, for the church to be on guard against false teachers (see also Acts 20:29-31; 1 John 4:1-3). Their teaching may sound correct, but at the end of the day, we can spot them by observing their lives. As “ravenous wolves” they will use others for their own gain instead of laying their lives down for them as Jesus did (John 10:15; 1 Pet. 5:2). In this way, they embody worldly leadership that exploits rather than serves (Mark 10:42-45).
In his third illustration, Jesus contrasts two kinds of followers (Matt. 7:21-23). Not everyone who claims allegiance to Jesus the King is a citizen of his kingdom. True allegiance is seen not in spectacular spiritual achievements but in obedience, because while prophesying and casting out demons can be counterfeited (Acts 19:13-16; Rev. 13:11-14), godly character can’t. It can only be produced by the Holy Spirit.
- How have you seen evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life since becoming a Christian? How have you seen him shaping your character lately?
- When does the Christian life most feel constraining and difficult? Do you ever look at those on the broad road and envy them? How does David address these moments in Psalm 37:1-11?
- According to Jesus, what makes false prophets so dangerous? How can we spot them when they show up?
Matthew 7:21 – “‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’”