Sermon: “The Gate”
Based upon: Luke 19: 28-40
Prepared by Carl Schaefer
For Rural Chapel United Methodist Church
Today’s Scripture finds Jesus returning to Jerusalem for the last tine, a triumphant entry via the Mount of Olives likely near the Golden Gate near the Temple. In order to enter Jerusalem, a walled City, you had to enter by way of one of the Gates.
Gate of Mercy (Sha'ar Harachamim - Heb.), which was erected in the 5th century is considered the most beautiful. The Muslims who were determined to prevent the advent of the Jewish Messiah that will enter Jerusalem through this gate blocked it several centuries ago.
'Golden Gate' is a Crusader misnomer; the Greek 'orea" (meaning beautiful) was mistaken for the Latin word 'aurea', meaning golden. In the days of the Latin Kingdom, it was customary to open this gate on Palm Sunday to commemorate Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem.)
It was a return by Jesus filled with great joy and expectation. The event would see Jesus returning triumphantly; returning to Jerusalem riding a colt reminiscent of prior Kings like Solomon. It was a time of turmoil due to the heavy bondage of Roman occupation and appointed religious rule of Jewish leaders who cared more for their own positions that the faith they were ordained to lead.
It would be ironic that the very “King” they came to celebrate with their loud “Hosanna, Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven.” would turn to ugly cries of “Crucify Him.” The expectations of relief from oppression would turn to disappointment and frustration, and become a reflection of the jealous religious leaders who sought to have him eliminated.
The crowd that ironically would yell to crucify the King of Kings, would consist of:
1. Religious leaders who jealously guarded their position of authority given to them by the Romans, and they saw Jesus as a threat.
2. Disappointed Jews who expected Jesus to take control and return Israel to the glorious days of Solomon.
3. Zealots who wanted to bring about an insurrection, and preferred Barrabus over Jesus.
4. And the silent minority of supporters of Jesus who would not even be heard over the cries to “crucify Him.”
Not only would they crucify the King of Kings, but ironically they would also miss the meaning of Jesus as the gate to heaven.
Matthew 7: 13, “Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
How could so many confuse their expectations and yell, “crucify him,” at the very one that God had given as a sacrifice to save them – us? They missed the gate, they misunderstood that their salvation would come through a gate of humility and forgiveness, not by power and might, or of one’s own doing or timing. They and the religious leaders would misinterpret Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness. They missed the prophesies that God would come in human form to reconcile a broken world to Himself. They would miss that they would reborn if they would only pick up their cross and follow Him.
The crowd who shouted to “Crucify Him!” would not see Jesus as the gate, much less be spiritually easier to enter than through the wide gate, and seek and earthly King would deliver them from Rome.
There is another story recorded in Matthew 19:21 about a rich young ruler who would ask how it was that he could be saved? Jesus told him that he would have to sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven. The young ruler refused to do this for scriptures says he had much. Jesus went on to say that it would be easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle, then for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jack Hartman stated, “it is interesting to note exactly where the words of “eye of a needle” came from. Many of the ancient cities, like Jerusalem, were surrounded by high walls. These walls had large gates. When darkness came, these gates were closed and locked so that enemies could not attack the city. However, provision was made for late arriving travelers to enter through a small door in the gate. (Remembering the scriptural reference about Jesus being a narrow gate vs. a wide door.) That door was called a “needle’s eye.” It could be opened so one man at a time could get in, but it was impossible for a large number of soldiers to rush through as late-arriving travelers usually on camels. The only way that a camel could get through the door was by being completely unloaded of all of its goods and getting down on its knees. The camel could just barely squeeze through the “needle’s eye.”
The crowd was not only seeking an easy answer to solve the problem of bondage through the broad gate, but those who lead them would not see the analogy to unloading the baggage of their lives, the hatred, the jealousy, the resentment to enter through the narrow door or the “needle’s eye.”
In the Gospel of John, Jesus made it clear that he, the Good Shepherd is that specials gate. Vs 7, “Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. (8) All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved.
It is the irony of Jesus’ triumphant entry that led to the cross, the salvation of millions who would chose the narrow gate, however, the destruction of all those who choose what seemed to be the easy gate, the wide gate, the broad gate and the ultimate path to destruction.
It is for us now, who know the story well to choose Jesus – the gate – the narrow door – “the needle’s eye” - we need only to unload our baggage, get down on our knees, accept him as our Savior, and on the other side of the gate, pick-up our own cross and follow Him, and with time come to Him, shout “Hosanna, Blessed be the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven.”