words and meanings to keep in mind.
sha`ar – gate; opening, city/town,
halak – through; walk; torah
enter- be invited into
In Jewish life philosophy there seems to be this trend. A trend marked out by two choices. One of life and one of death. We see this throughout the Old Testament. Jeremiah is some of the inspiration for the words of Jesus in Matthew amongst other non-biblical sources, including the Sirach and the Dead Sea Scrolls to name a few.
Jeremiah 21:8 (New International Version)
8 “Furthermore, tell the people, ‘This is what the LORD says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.
Jesus is playing on the idea of choice. That on a daily basis we have to make a decision to follow the crowd(wide is the gate) or to be art of the minority. In context, Jesus is talking about teaching. Since the verses surrounding it speak of false teachers. These verses then become about how people use Torah. Jesus deals with false prophets in this context. False prophets think they are doing what God wants them to do. But they too are given a choice. They can either unlearn what they have been taught (narrow gate) or maintain their practices and travel into the wide gate.
Into Jerusalem there were many gates. Some of them were narrow. Jesus alludes to this same gate when he talks about the camel coming through the eye of a needle, which is a direct reference to one of the gates which happened to be called ‘eye of the needle’. Jesus was referring then to what he could also be referring to now. To enter through the narrow gate you had to unpack everything. Unload all that you came with. Everything you knew you had to leave behind to get through. All your theology. All of your answers. To get through the gate you had to let go of everything.
But, the wide gate was easy.
You could take everything with you. You could all of the things you learned and keep them close like a blanket. You could accrue even more as you went along and still had room for more. You could keep consuming as much as you wanted because the wide road had room for that. The wide gate invited you in. It gave you the feeling of having arrived. The feeling of arrival makes you feel safe and secure because you have the answers.
The wide gate is safety.
Couched in context, Jesus is giving the Jewish scholars a choice. Either they unlearn everything that have come to know and experience heaven (a metaphor for a perfect reality) or keep all that they had mentally amassed and end up living their life as it was not meant to be lived (hell).
Later on in verse 22, Jesus starts talking about a day when people might use flash terminology to get in God’s good books. In context, the person speaking to God already knows the words. Knows how to address god as ‘Lord,Lord’. Remember, Jesus is talking about people who aren’t using the Torah correctly and false prophets here. So he is saying that there are some religious people who think its about saying the right things. Its about scripting God. Or that by simply having information one can experience the divine. And its as if Jesus says God will get amnesia. God will forget. God will turn his back on those who live their life on stage. These are terms of Judgement, I might add that they are a warning not what is going to happen, but what might happen if these ‘know-it-all’s’ keeping walking through the wide gate. I also don’t think the point of this short story is whether God is angry enough to deny people access to Him. Again, heaven is a metaphor for a perfect state of experience. Jesus is saying that there are behaviours that can impede our experience of the Divine. That by excluding others, depending upon our own answers (theology), and denying ourselves the willingness to let it all go will keep us in the wide gate.
Jesus is giving us the choice, daily. To give it all up and unlearn what we think we know. To be a blank slate toward the day(s) ahead. To be open to receive. To be an open vessel. To hold what we know lightly. When we do this, when we choose to not take ourselves so seriously, we get to enjoy life as it was meant to be. Jesus wasn’t