Word for Today Archive

Pastoral Commentary for Matthew 7
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie

"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. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

When I lived in Washington State there was a 15 mile paved trail near my house that I would frequently ride on. The Foothills Trail was used by walkers, runners, skateboarders, inline skaters, and of course, cyclists, but was restricted to any kind of motorized vehicles. In an effort to enforce this, whenever the trail crossed a road there were three large metal posts, one at either side and one in the middle of the paved trail. The posts were placed close enough together to prevent a car or an ATV from entering the path.

This was not a problem when I was riding on my own. However, sometimes I would pull my grandson in a trailer behind my bike. The trailer was wide enough to hold two children, and the wheels of the trailer would barely fit between the two posts. As a result, whenever I came to a street, I would have to slow way down and carefully thread my way between the two posts so as to not hit them with the trailer, which would have been disastrous for both me and my grandson.

I thought of this experience as I read Jesus' words above from Matthew 7:13-14. In fact, I thought in particular about Luke's account of Jesus' words. Luke quoted Jesus in this way: "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to." The Greek word for "make every effort" is "agonizesthe". It's the root of our English word "agonize."

Jesus said that many would try to enter the narrow door and would be unable to. Why? I envision a problem similar to the trailer on the back of my bike that caused me to "agonize" each time I passed between those posts for fear of hitting them. Some people want to enter into eternal life, but they do not want to repent of the sin in their lives. They think they can hang on to their sin and continue in it, yet somehow still be saved. But the only road we can travel while holding on to our sin is the broad road that leads away from God and toward destruction.

Others think that the way to enter eternal life is to show up at the narrow door laden with all the good works and kind deeds they have ever done, as though these will be their "ticket" to heaven. Instead, those good works in which they place their trust become a "wide load" that prevents them from passing through the narrow gate. Rather, we need to come to the narrow door empty handed, repenting of our sin, and trusting only in Jesus to save us. Then He will throw open the gates to heaven and welcome us in.

So don't waste time agonizing over whether you're "good enough" to go to heaven. Instead, agonize over your sin in heartfelt repentance. Then put your faith in Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Trusting in Him, you will find that one narrow road that leads to life, and by His grace spend eternity in heaven.

Pastoral Commentary for Matthew 7
Author: Pastor Zach

I am an avid contact wearer. Several years ago, I used to wear glasses until a friend of mine suggested that I switch to contacts. At first, I was reticent to make such a switch, for sticking my finger in each of my eyes twice daily to put in and remove my contacts sounded less than appealing, but once I got into the habit of it, I loved my contacts. No more blurred peripheral vision. No more foggy lenses when I walked outside on a humid day. I soon began wearing my contacts from first thing in the morning until late at night. That is, until one day.

It was right in the middle of a Vacation Bible School at my former church. My left eye, no matter how many times I flushed it and rinsed my contacts, was always sore and blurry. I finally decided to make a trip to the optometrist when, after lots of vision tests, a couple of puffs of air, and a dilated pupil, he informed me that my eye was infected and I would have to stop wearing my contacts immediately. I was not pleased. "How long will I have to wear glasses instead of contacts?" I demurred. "I don't know," came the reply. "Probably a few months until your eye gets better."

Those few months seemed to be nearly an eternity to me. Office visit after office visit. Vision test after vision test. And still, the eyesight in my left eye remained troublingly blurred.

In our reading for today from Matthew 7, Jesus speaks to a kind of stymied vision that is much more significant and dire than that which can be blurred by a simple eye infection: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (verses 3-5). Sadly, many people misinterpret Jesus' words here to be either a prohibition against any kind of condemnation of sin whatsoever, or a minimalistic perquisite against having anything too bad in your own life so that you can self-righteously sock it to your brother or sister in Christ without being embarrassed by your own shortcomings. Neither interpretation is correct or faithful.

The problem which Jesus addresses in these verses is simply this: We have a spiritual vision problem. There is a timber of transgression in every human eye. And with such obstructed vision, it is not that we should not try to remove a speck of sawdust from our brother's eye, it is that we cannot remove a speck of sawdust from our brother's eye because, with such a large lath in our own eye, we cannot even see our brother to help him in his sin! In other words, Jesus is not saying, as some would maintain, that we dare not judge our brother's speck because that might seem narrow-minded or accusatory. No! The very reason Jesus wants us to remove the plank from our own eye is so that we can help our brother with his speck. Jesus wants us to be able to help others repent of their sin! But, then again, we also must never turn Jesus' word into some shallow precondition meant simply to keep us from looking too hypocritical so that we can ruthlessly and mercilessly judge others. Instead, Jesus calls to us to really examine ourselves and remove our planks and to really help others with their specks of sin by calling them to repentance.

So, how's your eyesight? Although it certainly isn't 20/20, for no one is perfect, are you cognizant of your own sins and shortcomings, asking God to forgive and purify you so that you can be of service to others? Don't live with your spiritual eyesight stifled by sin. After all, your brother needs your clear vision so that you can help him. I hope you will.

Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.

2020-07-10 17:54:12