Deuteronomy 34:1‐12; Joshua 1:1‐2:24; Luke 13:22‐14:6; Psalm 79:1‐13; Proverbs 12:26
The Narrow Door Is Really Not Wide!
There seems to be sadness in Jesus’ words in the reading from Luke—sadness that only a few will be saved, sadness that many will not enter the door, that many of His people will be excluded from the feast, and that Jerusalem resists His love and desire to gather them to the Father. But even in sadness, His disciples are learning—both those early disciples and we as current followers of Christ.
He doesn’t go to Jerusalem immediately, but leaves Galilee and begins a traveling ministry in Judea, heading ever closer to the city of His destiny. But on the way to this sad appointment with providence, there is a question:“Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’”
Some people might argue that unless you belong to their denomination you will not be saved, but others are quick to say that Jesus is so kind and “nice” that He surely will save everyone. Actually, none of us really knows the answer to the question, “How many?” We can only speculate. But we can learn the answer if we listen to Jesus’ response. Jesus gives us an authoritative answer, though it’s not a direct one. As is His usual practice, instead of answering yes or no, He tells a story.
The Parable of the Narrow Door seems to involve a homeowner holding a banquet. There is a narrow door through which guests are supposed to enter, but the time comes—maybe when the banquet is ready to begin—that the host gets up and closes the door. Eventually, there is knocking and pleading from outside the door from late arrivals. But the host simply says, “I don’t know you. Get away, you rabble.”
In my mind’s eye, I see the big house where the banquet will take place, but people are only entering through a small door at the side. The grand front doors are closed, and entry is only through the side door. Jesus tells His hearers that they must strain to get through that door. It won’t be easy—maybe from the narrowness of the doorway or from the crowd of people trying to get in through this single door. Whatever the cause, getting in won’t be easy, but we are to make every effort, strain, and struggle to get in.
In our passage, Jesus says, “Many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Why can’t they get in? Is the way barred? No, but we know from Jesus’ other teaching that entry into the Kingdom of God requires repentance and change. And many want the goal—the inheritance of the Kingdom, heaven—so long as it costs them nothing, especially their loyalty and respect. And so they try to enter, but do not succeed when they learn the cost. Finally the host “gets up and closes the door…” Apparently the host is seated or reclining at the banquet table, but it is time to begin, and he deliberately gets up and shuts the door. No more guests can enter. The banquet will begin.
Now those who had tried the first time but failed to enter, come again, see the door closed, and begin pounding on it. “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'”
That seems a bit harsh. But I see these people as name-droppers trying to crash a party. They may have met the host once, or worked in the building next door but they don’t have any real relationship themselves. They try to create a phony relationship: “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets,” but the host denies any relationship that obligates him to open the door, and shoos them away.
This parable reminds us that there will come a time when it is too late to build that relationship with Jesus and that we need to do it now. And so to answer our first question, “Are only a few people going to be saved?” The answer is that all those who put their faith in Christ and trust and obey Him will follow Him inside the narrow door and be saved. What are you waiting for?
The Rev. Phyllis Bartle
Orange City, FL