Last year, while I was on a guided tour in Israel, I visited the Nazareth Village. It’s a life-size construction of a Galilean village as it would have been 2,000 years ago, when Jesus lived there.
As the guide showed us the reconstruction of a city gate I saw how little I had really understood today’s text. The gate was very big – tall and wide – with a much smaller, narrower one (probably not much more than a metre tall) set inside it. Either gate could be opened independently of the other, but it was obvious that the tall, wide gate would have to be opened for Roman soldiers mounted on horses and wearing armour to pass through. The only way they could have entered by the narrow gate would be to dismount and remove their armour, leaving both the horse and the armour behind.
The saying ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ is so true. As I looked at the gate, the simple yet profound illustration Jesus used brought home to me the absolute impossibility of entering the Kingdom of God by depending on someone else, or with our own self-protection in place.
Like the soldier controlling his horse and dependent on it to take him forward, we can develop a pattern of controlling others and depending on them to make us feel acceptable and loved, especially if we have deep insecurities on the inside. Equally, like the soldier wearing his armour, we can be good at protecting ourselves, hiding the ‘real me’ with all our true feelings inside a hard shell. We can keep people at arm’s length, attempting to avoid feeling the pain of past hurts, and to prevent ourselves from being hurt again.
How sad that, in choosing the seemingly easier way of relying on others, or clothing ourselves in the armour of our own self-protection, we’re unable to receive what we most need. In reality we’re crying out for the Father’s love. This alone can truly satisfy and meet our deepest need. How sad we miss out on the freedom and joy of truly living in the Kingdom, the blessing of real relationship with our Father God and others.
Those who entered the city by the narrow gate had to humble themselves, stooping down low and going through alone, but Jesus said it was this ‘difficult way’ that leads to life. And He calls us to take the difficult way, to come humbly and honestly before our heavenly Father, alone, and just as we are (not depending on anyone else). He calls us to make ourselves vulnerable to Him, repenting of our self-protective ways, with a heart’s desire to trust Him with all that we are, with all the pain of our past. We must trust Him be our strong tower and protection for today. Then as He flings His arms open to welcome us into His embrace, like returning prodigals we’ll know His healing love. We’ll begin to enter into the peace and joy of the Kingdom of God.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord Jesus, for the parables You shared – so simple yet so rich with meaning. Please will You highlight to me the things I do to try to protect myself. Help me to let go of them and choose the narrow gate. I want to allow You to be my Comforter, my Healer, my Protection and my Friend, so that I may truly know Your love, and enter into the abundant life You won for me. Amen.
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