He had the crowd leaning in on every word. His insights had captivated their hearts, minds and souls. His message was uncluttered with political baggage, and His lifestyle defied anything they had witnessed before. This guy was amazing.
So about the time that He landed on “The Golden Rule” in His most famous of all sermons, the crowd was agreeing, smiling and ready to join the bandwagon of this new religious teacher. “So whatever youwish that others would do to you, do also to them…” (Matthew 7:12) Yes, words to live by.
But you’ll notice that Jesus didn’t close in prayer at that point. He didn’t dust off His best, most-inclusive, camera-ready smile and wave a politician’s wave… no, Jesus hit the crowd with one of His most difficult realities before the oxygen of The Golden Rule had fully expanded their chest.
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. ~ Matthew 7:13, 14
While heads were still nodding in agreement, Jesus reeled off a string of non-tolerant, non-inclusive, non-marketing friendly words that had to feel like an ice cold bucket of water right after a warm and comforting bath.
Narrow, destruction, hard, few.
Jesus resisted the urge of growing political momentum to sway Him off course from the reason for His existence. There was no tidal wave of popular opinion that was strong enough to pull Him off His anchor. Jesus’ words were a hot dagger through an ice cold religion.
In the end, Jesus knew that a more “marketing friendly” gospel was not good news at all. That the power of sacrificial action (The Golden Rule) came when it was birthed out of the womb of heartfelt repentance. It’s the narrow gate that leads to life. A turnstile with a ticket taker.
Jesus’ offer of hope included authentic and demanding realities. But isn’t that what makes it good news? Isn’t that what compelled Him to come? Isn’t He the only one that understands what’s required at the turnstile?
Perhaps these were some of His most compassionate words, for they underscore the cost of authentic hope. Yes indeed, this is the Golden Rule.