One of the songs on Bob Dylan’s upcoming album, Tempest, is called “Narrow Way.” I haven’t heard it yet, so I don’t now where Dylan takes it—quite possibly somewhere unexpected.
Yet the phrase is one of those immediately familiar ones that a different wordsmith came up with a little less than 2000 years ago. From Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV):
“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.”
Or, via the King James translation:
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
It’s one of the tougher statements of Jesus with regard to salvation, in that he seems to be saying quite bluntly that few will will be saved. It ain’t for me to argue with the Man, but there is a duality that believers wrestle with in Scripture, as in Mark 10:25-27:
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
And from John 11:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
Merely believing doesn’t seem a terribly high threshold, does it? Maybe especially in this world where we clothe ourselves in beliefs so offhandedly. But the theology will not be settled here.
“Narrow is the way.” It’s no doubt that phrasing in the King James version which was in Ralph Stanley’s head when he wrote “The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn,” many decades ago, with its chorus: Continue reading Narrow Way (and The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn)