13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
A few thoughts for meditation:
In these final sections of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus concluded with some important warnings about false teachers and the importance of recognizing and trusting in His ultimate authority.
Jesus first warned about the hard road for disciples. Often people will object to the exclusiveness of Christianity saying, “if the truth is so clear, everyone should be able to see it” or “if it’s true, then it won’t be hard to follow.” But such objections don’t take into account the strong influence of our sinful hearts and communities. Jesus just finished saying we were “evil”. Our sinful hearts are hostile to God, love their sins and idols, are lazy and undisciplined, and they are dull and slow to understand. There are many other ways to live apart from God, many religions or philosophies to choose from, many more “comfortable” paths to follow, and there will be many companions to join you on these roads, but they all lead to destruction. Christ offers a narrow road, a road that excludes all the others. Only those who follow Christ will find eternal life at the end. And this road is hard, not just because the standards are high (as we’ve seen with all Jesus’ teaching before this) but because so many others resist you with what looks like an easier life. It’s much harder to commit to hard work when you think it is in vain compared to the perks others enjoy with much less labor. So, disciples must always keep the eternal perspective and end goal in mind when it comes to following Jesus. We are resisting a fallen world to pursue eternal life with God, through the only way God revealed it, through Christ.
Next, Jesus warned about false teachers. Another reason the way is narrow and difficult is because false teachers appeal to these sinful desires in our hearts by offering an easier or more attractive way than Jesus offers. Or some will even try to offer Jesus plus the satisfaction of our sinful desires. But the “fruits” of such false teachers will become evident over time. Their teaching may sound appealing and orthodox at first, but the trajectory of their teaching will gradually divide and attack the Christian faith and lead you away from Jesus and the gospel. Sometimes false teachers are obvious, but other times they are more subtle, “ravenous wolves” in sheep’s clothing. This will require patience, discipline, and study as you seek to love and follow Christ on the narrow road. But Jesus also included a warning specifically to the false teachers too; any tree not producing good fruit would eventually be “cut down and thrown into the fire.” Their teaching may sound smoother and easier but, like the wide easy road, it ends in destruction. In the end, you really need to ask yourself, what do you really want? Eternal joy, redemption, and life with Jesus? Or just your best life now with the crowd? You can’t have both.