In the epilogue to the New Covenant Jesus utters three warnings. These are bookends to the blessings at the start of the section, and probably function the way the curses of the Old (Sinai) Covenant functioned: as warnings against disobedience to their Covenant-God.
The first warning is about choosing the small gate and the narrow road to life. Jesus later tells His disciples that He is the way, the truth and the life, so this is probably a warning about exclusive loyalty to Him. It would not surprise me if the crowd understood the narrow road as a reference to the “way to the tree of life” mentioned in Genesis 3:24.
The second warning concerns false prophets. The first part is a warning against following such a false prophet, again because our exclusive loyalty should be to Jesus Christ and His Father. If a prophet is not following the Holy Spirit’s lead, there will be discernable fruit.
Jesus does not specify what that fruit is, but the Apostle Paul gives an outline of the difference in Galatians 5:19-26 . In most cases, it likely suffices to follow the money to find the bad fruit. Another indicator might be the trail of broken lives left in the wake of a purported “prophet” or pastor. Jesus presumes that it is possible to identify such an impostor. This suggests that checking our brains at the door of the church is not an option.
The second part of the warning is addressed to would-be false prophets. Anyone who is doing “God’s work,” without following The Father’s will, is in for a rude surprise on Judgment Day. Their claim of divine sanction will be met with a divine disclaimer: “I don’t know you.”
How can He possibly have authorized someone He doesn’t even know? Jesus doesn’t even want them near Him, so He says, “Depart from me, you who do lawlessnesss.” I like how the NLT brings out the idea that these works of “lawlessness” are iniquitous because they use God’s name without His authority by using the phrase “the things you did were unauthorized.”
The third warning involves what you do about Jesus’ words of the covenant. It is not sufficient to simply listen to Jesus’ teaching. Obedience to Jesus is absolutely necessary.
It’s not rocket science. There is only one route, a One Way street, as it were. You can’t get to the destination if you don’t follow the directions. If you try to build the house with substandard materials or in the wrong soil conditions, don’t be surprised if you lose everything when it comes crashing down on your head. Why would you even bother trying to use shortcuts?
This is the thing that shocked His contemporaries. Jesus spoke as the One who must be obeyed. He spoke as though His word was literally God’s very own word.
As though He Himself was God, in the flesh.