The Narrow Door

Doors come in all shapes and sizes. Most of the doors I have encountered are very regular, easy to enter for someone of average build. But there are soem doors that are simply too small. You have to duck to enter in or turn sideways just to squeeze your way in. Here at West Olive, we have a closet in the back of the auditorium that has just such a door: it is very thin and narrow. Fortunately, it is just a supply closet where we store batteries, flashlights, etc. No one could fit in there. In Luke 13.22-30, Jesus speaks of a door that very few will enter. Why? For it is “narrow” (v.24). Picture the door: perhaps tall enough for a person to enter without having to duck their head. But so narrow that should a person seek to enter, they would have to turn sideways. But even then, the door frame snags your clothes and presses in. You suck in your gut and hold your breath when you try to enter this door. Get the picture.

Question and Answer

What prompts this startling revelation from Jesus? A simple question. Jesus is travelling about to towns and villages. many people are hearing his words. Jerusalem is ever before him. He is deliberately heading there (see 9.51) but is making the trip rather leisurely, in no particular hurry to arrive. But he is on schedule for he is operating on God’s time table. Someone somewhere along the way asks the question in v.23: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” A good question. Some have pointed out, though, that this may a question have come about because of the teaching of the rabbis of the day. They had theological arguments about the salvation of men’s souls and just who would get into glory. So the people hear their rabbis and then hear Jesus…I suppose it is natural that this question came out.

Jesus does not give a direct answer per se; but he does give a very plain answer. He urges all those present to “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” That is, fight with all your might to make sure you enter that narrow door. Don’t allow anything to hinder you for there is a prize to be gained. A similar word is used when our Lord is pictured agonizing in prayer in the garden. Indeed, our English word for “agony” is derived from this word. Though it may cause you pain or loss, though you may have to agonize over it, enter that narrow door.

The reason we should make such a great effort is because “many” will seek that door but will fail to enter it. Why? While the desire to enter the door may have been there, the agony was too great. The price was too high and they would not pay it.  How do we strive? I believe it comes in the form of striving in prayer. We also strive or wrestle with God sometimes. We strive against the evil forces, against sin, and Satan. We strive to fulfill our religious duties and we strive even with our own hearts. Get this: Anyone who would enter the narrow door must stirve to enter it and only those who enter the narrow door will be rewarded. But there is coming a time when the door will close. It is open for only so long and then “the master” will close the door into the house.

Parable and Warning

And so Jesus relates the sad picture for those who will not strive to enter the narrow door. When the master shuts the door, that’s it. There is no opening the door again. And notice, there are some people still outside asking that the door be opened. But Jesus says, ‘no.’ He does not knwo where they have come from. Some will try to bank on their supposed fellowship with Jesus. “We ate and drank in your presence…” But the answer is the same: Jesus does not know where they have come from. And these people who supposed they were “right with God” are identified by the Lord: “workers of evil.” These people were confident in their rightness with God but they were horribly mistaken. They were not in the house, in fact they have not even tried to enter the door. These people sought, but they did not strive.

All that awaits them is weeping and gnashing of teeth. They do this because they see the fathers of faith, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom, but they themselves are “cast out.” This is the same word that is used for those who are demon-possessed and Jesus would “cast out” the demon. So also the person who fails to strive to enter the narrow door will be “cast out” like a demon into the place of torment with the demons. Notice, though, that even Gentiles lay hold of the kingdom and enter the narrow door in front of the Jews. From “east and west, and from north and south” these people are seated at the great banquet in the kingdom of God. Here is the surprise in the final membership of that house. Someone has said there will be three surprises in heaven: seeing those you thought would not be there are there; not seeing those you thought would be there but are not; and finding yourself there. What a thing of wonder and astonishment when the Jews heard that the Messianic banquet seats Gentiles but so many Jews would not be there. Truly the reversal is comlete in that the first and nearest to the kingdom fail to enter but the last and lowest enter in. In the words of Matthew Henry: “why should not I strive?”