Why is the way so narrow?
Some people don’t seem to care about life. They appear indifferent. You’ll hear them say “I don’t care whether I live forever or not”.
However, if these people where suddenly placed in a critical life-threatening situation, watch how much they care about their life. They don’t want to die, and they desparately cling to life with everything they have!
All of us have an in-built longing to live! We long for life.
God also longs for us to have life.
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
The longing desire in God’s heart is for us to live!
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” Luke 13:34
This verse shows us the longing in Christ’s heart for the people of Jerusalem to experience life and salvation.
We’re off to a good start! We all long and desire life. We want it. God wants us to have it.
This may come to you as a suprise then:
“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14
Despite the fact that both God and humans long for life, the way that leads there is difficult to find. It is so narrow that few find it! Wow!
Why? Why is the way to life so narrow and difficult?
Naaman’s Narrow Way
We learn something about what makes the way so narrow, by the story of Naaman. You’ll find this in 2 Kings chapter 5.
“Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable,” – 2 Kings 5:1
Naaman is the captain of the host of Syria. A powerful, great, honourable man. This guy is a war veteran. He is highly respected, wealthy, and in close aquaintance of the king of Syria. He commands the entire Syrian army. Syria at this time was a powerful military nation, much stronger (in human terms) than the nation of Israel.
How did people treat Naaman? Imagine seeing him walk down the street. People would show him great respect, perhaps even bow as he walked past. No doubt he always went with a retinue of servants, and maybe even bodyguards. When he spoke, people listened and obeyed him without question.
Naaman contracted leprosy, a fearsome and deadly disease. A young Israelite maid told Naaman’s wife about the prophet Elisha who could heal Naaman from his leprosy. Naaman, incredibly enough, listened to his wife and the maid and decided to make a trip to Israel and visit the prophet. The king of Syria helped with a letter of introduction to the king of Israel.
This is where the story gets interesting.
Naaman arrives at the prophet Elisha’s house with a retinue of chariots carrying gold, silver, servants and bodyguards. What a surprise to see a very humble, simple and lowly-looking house! Naaman was probably thinking: “Have I come all this way for this? If were a successful prophet, surely he would be a wealthy man and have a mansion with many servants! Maybe he is actually a scam. He might just humiliate me and send me back. how embarassing would that be”. Many doubts were likely running through Naaman’s mind.
And then! Movement was seen at the door. With tense expectation Naaman strains to catch the first glimpse of the man who can save his life. But alas! The man at the door is not the prophet. How disappointing. How insulting that the prophet would send his servant to speak with the haughty captain. “So, I’m not good enough for the prophet to speak with me directly”, Naaman may have muttered under his breath. And then the servant speaks:
“Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” verse 10
This was the last straw. Naaman was furious. It was humiliating enough for the captain of Syria’s army to act on the advice of a servant girl, an Israelite maid. It was humilating enough to trek through the land of Israel and be stared at by all the people passing by. It was humilating enough to seek help from someone so humble and lowly as Elisha turned out to be. It was downright offensive and insulting that the prophet didn’t even come out to see him. And now the servant of the prophet tells him to wash in the muddy waters of Jordan!
“But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.” – 2 Kings 5:11-12
In a rage, Naaman began to return home. As they went his servants reasoned with him thus:
“if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” verse 13
Listening to their logical reasoning, Naaman turned down to the Jordan river, and dipped in seven times. And through the miraculous power of God, he was healed.
Imagine Naaman now as he returns to the prophet’s house. He would be thinking “What a fool I was! I almost lost my only chance of life! My pride almost cost me my life!”
Now, if you were travelling that hot and dusty road, and came accross the river Jordan, how easy would it be to jump in, have a quick swim and cool yourself off? Really easy, right? If I was hot and dusty, I’d love to jump in the river for a few minutes to cool off. So it wouldn’t be difficult at all. I’d rate that 1/10 for dificulty.
But how difficult was it for Naaman to carry out the instructions to wash in the river Jordan? You know, it was almost impossible. Why? Why was it so hard for Naaman to jump in the river? Because of pride. His pride was offended. The difficulty for Naaman was 9 or 10/10.
For Naaman, washing in the river Jordan was a narrow way.
Dear reader, this is what makes the way of life a narrow way. It is not narrow because it is truly difficult. It is as simple as “wash and be clean“. That’s not hard is it? But our proud sinful heart makes it almost impossible.
Please take your time to slowly and thoughtfully read through the following powerful testimony.
“Nature, like Naaman, is full of prejudices. She expects that Christ will come to make her clean, with as much ado and pomp and bustle, as the Syrian general looked for, when ‘he was wroth, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper’ (2 Kings 5:11). Christ frequently goes a much plainer way to work: and by this means disconcerts all our preconceived notions and schemes of deliverance. ‘Learn of Me to be meek and lowly in heart: and thou shall find rest unto thy soul’ (Matthew 11:29), the sweet rest of Christian perfection, of perfect humility, resignation and meekness. If thou wilt absolutely come to mount Zion in a triumphal chariot, or make thine entrance into the new Jerusalem upon a prancing horse, thou art likely never to come there. Leave, then, all thy worldly misconceptions behind, and humbly follow thy King, who makes His entry into the typical Jerusalem, ‘meek and lowly, riding upon an ass, yea, upon a colt, the foal of an ass‘ (Matthew 21:5).” – Fletcher
Christ’s methods are simple, modest, meek. Commenting on the above statment from Fletcher, a Christian gentleman Charles Fitch, writes:
“These remarks were particularly blessed to me. It seemed to me, indeed, a most delightful thing to sink into the meek and lowly spirit of the blessed Saviour. I had before been laboring to rise above my sins, and thus leave them; now I felt willing to sink below them, into a depth of humility, where the proud, unhumbled spirit of sin would not be willing to follow, and it seemed a delightful thing to sink in the arms of my Saviour, below the reach of all my spiritual foes, when I had long been seeking in vain to escape them, by soaring above.
I felt then in my spirit a most sweet and heavenly sinking into the arms of my Redeemer, such as I had not before experienced, and it was followed by a calm, unruffled, blissful peace in Christ-such as I need not attempt to describe to those who have tasted it, and such as I cannot describe to the comprehension of those whose hearts have never felt it.
It was attended with such a full and delightful submission in all things to the will of God; such a joy of heart, in the thought of being for life, and for death, and for ever, altogether at God’s disposal; such a gladness in giving up earth in all its possessions and pleasures for Christ’s sake; such an overflowing of humble, penitential, grateful love to my Redeemer; such a satisfaction in the thought of having Him as my only everlasting portion; such praise to His name that I might possess Him as the portion of my soul for ever; such full-hearted and unshrinking confidence in all His promises, and such a readiness to do and suffer all things, even to the laying down of life for His name’s sake, that I felt constrained to say, this is purity of heart.” – Charles Fitch, 1840
The way that leads to life is narrow because it is a way of lowliness, modesty, humility, meekness and simplicity. Let us nobly embrace this way. Let us sacrifice self and our pride, and embrace the lowliness of the narrow way. Let us cast ourself at the feet of our dear saviour and redeemer and allow him to strip away all our selfishness and pride.
Is the way too narrow?
It was wide enough for Christ; it is wide enough for me!