Some will say that in the Sermon on the Mount we find Jesus at His truest; simply a fine moral teacher, perhaps the best there ever was. People who offer such analysis simply can’t read. Jesus’ claims to supreme authority are the warp and woof of this fine tapestry, unravel this thread and the beauty is lost.
Jesus says those who are persecuted for His sake are blessed (5:11). Jesus does not simply say he came to keep the law, but to fulfill it, that He is everything that it points to (5:17). Repeatedly, at least twelve times, Jesus says something like “I say to you”, or the more emphatic ‘Truly, I say to you,” emphasizing that He stands as the authority behind His own words. He does not quote the Scriptures or appeal to other teachers as the scribes do, He does not even say “thus says the Lord” as the prophets do, His words carry their own authority precisely because they are His words. Great men don’t speak like this. Sane men don’t speak like this. If Jesus is not divine He is not a good man, He is the worst kind of man.
With nuclear force you collide with this reality in this text. Jesus calls for a decision. You cannot simply be amazed at His authority as the crowds were, you must bow to it. The doctrine you must clearly face here is the supremacy and exclusivity of Christ.
Concerning the narrow way some may say that it seems so, well, narrow. By that charge I take it they mean arrogant. Imagine you go to a doctor and he tells you that you have a certain problem, immediately you think of your friend who had a similar malady and only needed minimal surgery with one tiny incision. The doctor explains that your problem is such that it requires intensive and extensive surgery, it is the only way. After further multiple expert collaborations would you deem all such doctors narrow and arrogant?
I think the charge of arrogance is laid before us not because we claim to know the only way, but because people think that like doctors we do it based on our own expert knowledge and authority. But they are laying the charge of arrogance at the wrong feet. I haven’t found the only way by my own intellectual superiority or spiritual fervor, it was graciously revealed to me as good news. I didn’t make the news, I heard it, and now I tell it. Christians don’t claim Jesus is the only way on the basis of my own authority, I claim it on His.
Ultimately the charge of narrowness and arrogance is self-defeating. When others say that it is arrogant to say that your religion is superior, that all others are wrong, and that you shouldn’t try to convert others, they themselves are making a religious statement they think is superior to yours and trying to convert you to it. So who is arrogant? Upon what authority do you make your truth claim? Ultimately it must be yourself. Oh sure you may read others, but you are the one who has ultimately evaluated and decided.
So let us all lay the charge of arrogance where it belongs, at the feet of all humanity. As Christians we don’t deny our hubris, we admit it, repent of it, and bow to kiss the Son (Psalm 2). In such light, the narrow way isn’t arrogant, it is gracious.