The Narrow Road

When Jesus sent his disciples to announce the “Good News” to the “lost sheep of Israel,” he warned them they would be like “sheep among wolves.” Hostile men would haul them before “councils and whip them in their synagogues,” and they would be hated “by all men for my sake.” The men who should have welcomed the Messiah instead fought what he represented - Tooth and Nail.

To walk the same path of suffering and self-sacrifice as Jesus did is the only way to become his true disciple and achieve “greatness” in his Kingdom. The student is “not above his master”! Only by “enduring to the end” will we be saved. If they persecuted our Lord, the “enemies of the cross of Christ” certainly have no qualms about mistreating his followers.

Narrow Road - Photo by Frida Aguilar Estrada on Unsplash
[Photo by Frida Aguilar Estrada on Unsplash]

Jesus never promised his followers lives of ease and luxury. According to his clear instructions, they are to expect suffering and persecution for his sake:

  • Think not that I came to send peace on the earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be they of his own household.”

The Nazarene did not wage war against humanity or governments, but conflicts began whenever men rejected him and his teachings. Inevitably, men and women who choose to emulate him suffer persecution. While such warnings strike us as grim, he also declared - “He who does not take his cross to follow me is not worthy of me. For he that finds his life will lose it, and he that loses his life for my sake will find it.”

The faithful disciple will reap great rewards in the coming age, but the narrow road that leads to life is rough and dangerous. Anyone who desires to become his disciple must first count the cost. “Enter by the narrow gate: For wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leads to destruction.”

The call to follow him One is an all-or-nothing proposition. The half-hearted man who does not give Jesus his total allegiance will fall by the wayside when times become difficult.

This does not mean that all disciples will experience persecution, but the potential and often real loss of property, health, freedom, and even life for his sake is the price of following the “Lamb wherever he leads.” The New Testament does not sugarcoat it.

In Revelation, for example, the followers of the “Lamb” are found standing majestically on “Mount Zion” with him. Before reaching that glorious summit, they had to overcome the “Dragon.” They did so by the “word and their testimony, and because they loved not their lives even unto death.”

The significance of the last clause is the willingness to endure martyrdom. In the same manner as did the “Faithful Witness” – Jesus – his disciples “overcome” and qualify to reign with him on his throne by remaining faithful even when doing so means suffering and unjust death – (Revelation 1:4-6, 3:21, 12:11, 14:1-5).

HIS ROUGH PATH


Jesus foretold his arrest, trial, and execution, but his disciples either did not hear or comprehend his words. Instead, they began jockeying for positions in the coming Messianic kingdom. However, he used the opportunity to teach them just what it meant for him to be the Messiah and for them to become his disciples.

James and John asked to sit at his right and left when Jesus came “in his glory,” positions of great honor and power. Their request highlighted their cluelessness. As his words and deeds demonstrated, the followers of Jesus are summoned to serve others just as he did. Moreover, sacrifice, suffering, and death precede glory and promotion.

Jesus challenged them. “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” He drank the “cup” of God’s wrath on behalf of others in his trial and execution - (Psalm 11:6, 16:5, Isaiah 57:17-22, Jeremiah 25:15-28).

When James and John declared they could drink this “cup,” his response pointed to their ignorance. However, they would drink the same “cup” when they suffered for his sake in the years ahead.

This warning was not just for James and John, but also for all his disciples. Collectively, his followers were destined to endure suffering, deprivation, and persecution for the Gospel. But since James and John desired high positions in his Kingdom, Jesus explained exactly what that would entail:

  • You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones tyrannize them. Not so will it be among you. But whoever wishes to become great among you will be your servant, and whoever desires to be first among you will be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Contrary to the ways of this world, “greatness” is achieved by self-sacrificial service for others, not by promotion to power, rank, and privilege, and certainly not by exercising DOMINION over others.

SERVANT OF ALL


He who would become “great” must first become the “servant” of all. The term translates the Greek noun diakonos used elsewhere as a general term for “servant,” and often for the slave assigned to wait on tables - (Luke 22:26-27).

The disciple who desires “greatness in the Kingdom” must first become the “slave” of others, just as Jesus came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his soul as a ransom instead of many.” His saying alluded to a passage from the ‘Suffering Servant’ song of the Book of Isaiah:

  • Therefore, I will give him a portion among the great, because he poured out to death his own soul, and with transgressors let himself be numbered, he the sin of Many bare, and for transgressors interposes” - (Isaiah 53:10-12).

Giving his life for “many” did not mean a limited or exclusive company. The term is a verbal link to the passage in Isaiah where “the many” referred to the “transgressors.” The contrast was not between “many” and “all,” but between the one Christ who gave his life and the many beneficiaries of his sacrificial act.

In Greco-Roman society, ransoms were paid to purchase the freedom of slaves. His statement highlighted his mission: To give his life to free others from enslavement to sin, death, and Satan.

Alpine Path - Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash
[Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash]

Thus, Jesus used his self-sacrificial death to illustrate what it meant for anyone to become his disciple, both then and now. His call to service applies to everyone who desires to follow him, both then and now. The self-seeking man cannot be his disciple.

Hence, to follow the “Lamb wherever he goes” means walking the same rugged narrow path that Jesus did and living a cruciform life of service for others - to the poor, the weak, the disadvantaged, the marginalized, and especially to one’s “enemy,” just as Christ offered his life when we were “yet enemies of God.”



RELATED POSTS:
  • To Follow the Lamb - (The Messiah of Israel submitted to the way of the Cross and summoned his disciples to follow his example in their daily lives)
  • His Path - (Jesus proclaimed a very different political reality, the Kingdom of God, one that bears little resemblance to the governments of this evil age)
  • Ransom for Many - (His disciples are called to engage in self-sacrificial service for others just as Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many – Mark 10:35-45)

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