Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
— Matthew 7:13-14
On the east side of the Sea of Galilee is a huge, well excavated ancient Greek city named Beth Shean, founded by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE. It was one of the ten cities known as the Decapolis, which in Greek means ten cities (deca-polis). These ten cities were placed in this region by the Greeks when they conquered the known world to spread the Greek lifestyle, known as Hellenism. Beth Shean is one of the oldest cities in the region. Several Old Testament stories occurred in this area. In 1 Samuel 31, Jonathan and Saul were killed on Mt. Gilboa near here in a battle with the Philistines. Their bodies were taken to Beth Shean and hung on the city walls there. The city is located on the main road from Nazareth down to Jericho and up to Jerusalem. Jesus would have walked right by here and would have been very familiar with the town and its inhabitants.
Beth Shean is a splendid example of Greek and Roman Architecture. It has a huge arena, theater, gymnasium, baths and temples. One of the main features of these ancient cities was their huge collonaded streets. Each city in the Decapolis had the same two major streets, one going east and west, the other north and south. The main north south route through the town was called “Cardo Maximus” and the east-west street was called “Decumanus Maximus”. Located on these huge wide, collonaded and marble paved streets were the main attractions of the city. Here you could find the theater, where Greek morals and values were portrayed and stories were told of the Greek Gods history. Also, you could go to the gymnasium (which comes from the Greek word,”gumnos” for in the nude) and work your various muscle groups and study and learn from the Greek philosophers. After working out, you could go to the hot and cold public baths, where men and women lounged in the nude. Then there was the arena, where the various sporting events were held
.The Greek culture glorified the human body and the human mind. Hellenism taught that man was the ultimate in the universe, and what his mind could conceive, he would achieve. The goal in life was for the human body to be satisfied, your accomplishments, pleasures and successes. All these major venues were located on these two wide roads.
Can you see how opposite the teachings of the Torah were to this Hellenistic life style? This way of life permeated the lives of all the cities in Israel and was a constant attraction to the inhabitants. It was a completely opposite world view to what the Torah taught. Now, can you envision more clearly what Jesus was saying when he said,” wide is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it”? Was he talking about Cardo and Decumanus? Jesus called us to walk the narrow road of obedience to God. It’s not hard to understand why that road is less traveled. The trappings of Hellenism are just as attractive today and many people are going down that wide road. As 21st century Christians, we are to live a straight and narrow lifestyle and to be a witness to a lost, Hellenistic society, just as Jesus called his disciples to live that way so long ago.