13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
How horrifying to contemplate showing up on Judgement Day only to have Jesus say, “I never knew you” (vs. 23). In this passage He is talking to people who thought they knew Jesus well enough to use His Name to prophesy, drive out demons and perform miracles. Their expectation was that they had done enough to admit them into the kingdom of God. So, Jesus is addressing His followers: Christians who were religious; but, never strove to form an intimate walk with God.
The contrast He is making is between those believers who do what He says and those who do not. This passage, also, is primarily referring to all Jesus has said to this point in the Sermon on the Mount. This is not to exclude what He said in the rest of Matthew’s Gospel or in any other gospel, for example. While it is tempting to draw on Paul’s letters to expand on Jesus’ teachings the risk is making these teachings bend to our own agendas.
Matthew 5-7 is a great place to start our walk with God. Coming back to this Sermon again and again helps us keep the edge of Jesus’ words sharp for the ‘heart surgery’ that we so desperately need.
WIDE OR NARROW GATES
There will be believers who will not take Jesus seriously and will not do what He says in the Sermon on the Mount. They did all of the right things and they outwardly gave every impression of walking with the Lord. Nonetheless, broadly speaking, their walk involved justifying ungodly attitudes (Matthew 5), a superficial relationship with the Lord rather than an intimate walk (Matthew 6) and a habit of asking God for the wrong things (Matthew 7).
GOOD AND BAD PROPHETS
There will be believers who just do not submit to the self-examination that is required in the kingdom of heaven. Rather, they do the right things in the right way but harbor attitudes that do not belong to citizens of the kingdom (Matthew 5). They are not interested in examining their beliefs and traditions so they can walk more closely with the Lord (Matthew 6). They are judgmental towards others but eschew the self-examined lifestyle that is required (Matthew 7). Their fruit betrays their relationship–or lack thereof–with the Lord.
LISTENERS WHO CHOOSE
Jesus is talking to people who have been attracted to Him, appreciated His teachings, and chosen to follow Him. At this point, however, Jesus makes it clear that these teachings about the kingdom are critical life or death decisions for our eternal destinies. The contrast is between those who take Jesus seriously and those who do not. Choose to listen and do! This is what kingdom people do because their deepest desire is to be like their Father. For Jesus to not know someone simply means there was no relationship.
THE GREATEST TRAGEDY
It seems to me that the greatest tragedy of tragedies will be for a person to have followed Jesus; but, from a relational distance that led them to totally miss the most important things. Being religious will not suffice. Doing great things for the Lord will not be enough. Doing all of the right things in the correct ways will fail to save us. The real question, in the end, will be whether or not Jesus knows me as I have striven to know Him by listening to Him and doing what He says.