Sermon on the Mount: The Narrow Gate
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Matthew 7:13-14 NASB1995
When I read this passage, I always think of a TV show, strangely. Recently, we streamed the original Twilight Zone television series again. It was great to see the imaginative episodes without editing or commercials. One of the more memorable episodes is the “The Hunt”, written by Earl Hamner, Jr. (creator of the The Waltons).
This episode aired in 1962 and featured two veteran character actors as a long-married “backwoods” couple (Arthur Hunnicut as Hyder and Jeanette Nolan as Rachel). Hyder has a favorite hound named Rip who has saved his life more than once, whom the wife barely tolerates. However, Hyder and Rachel have an unexpected and rare kiss together before Hyder and Rip head out for a typical nighttime raccoon hunt. During the hunt, both Rip and Hyder drown, but they still think they are alive. They head back to the cabin and Rachel doesn’t hear them, but she seems really upset. Hyder follows her to a funeral that is taking place and he begins to realize that he and Rip have passed away. I seem to recall that Hyder believed just a little bit because Rachel believed and he trusted her to help him on things of God.
The dog and his human journey on to the “Eternity Road” and Hyder sees a beautiful and big entrance into what appears to be a tree-filled paradise. A man standing at the entrance doesn’t deny it when Hyder asks if he is St. Peter and he prepares to go into the afterlife with Rip. The dog is abruptly denied entrance and Hyder stomps away on the path, glad that he has not entered a place too “high-falutin” for his beloved dog. Shortly thereafter, they encounter a pleasant young man in a flannel shirt and jeans who identifies himself as an angel sent out to find them. Hyder says that he doesn’t want to go back into the place that denied Rip; the angel assures him that he is from the real Heaven. The beautiful and big entrance they passed was the doorway to Hell. Rip was not allowed to enter because he would smell the sulfur and brimstone and know that something was not right (humans are deceived, but dogs are not). Hyder is pleased to follow the angel with his dog and they enter a narrow gate through a hedge. His last thoughts are for Rachel and the angel assures him that she would know from her faith to pass the broad entry to Hell on her way to the right narrow path and gate.
I know this is really poor theology, but I really like the sentiment and it fits with this admonition from Jesus (Hamner was a Christian and incorporated those themes in many things he wrote and produced). I don’t know if our beloved animals will be reunited with us after we die, but God loves His sheep and may have those dear created companions there to greet us (I had an interesting dream at one time about this very subject).
At this point in the Sermon, which is nearly over, Jesus is again warning us that we have a narrow path to follow, even if we are justified. The road to Hell is pleasant and enjoyable and broad and we are on one path or the other, sometimes both! But we must follow the narrow path to God’s Kingdom in Heaven!
My next Sermon on the Mount devotional will examine Matthew 7:18-20, A Tree and its Fruit.
Story synopsis for the “The Hunt” was taken from Twilight Zone Fandom