In our passage this morning we are told that Jesus is going “on His way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem” (22). Jerusalem is significant because that is where He will “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). Jerusalem is His destination because that is where His cross is to be found. As He is journeying towards the cross, He is asked a question: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (23).
If you are familiar with Jesus’ teaching thus far, this question is understandable. Many Jews at this time believed that simply being Jewish was enough to be saved and enter the kingdom of God. They would boast that “Abraham is our Father” (John 8:39). Jesus, however, taught differently. He stressed that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Being Jewish was not enough to enter the kingdom of God.
Being born again sounded difficult (John 3:4), so therefore the question came: “will those who are saved be few?”. Once again we note that Jesus’ teaching indicates that salvation—entrance into the kingdom of God—is difficult. Consider the following: repentance (change) is necessary (13:3), Jesus said His message causes division (12:51), a follower of Christ must “deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (9:23), and he must be willing to “lose his life for my sake” (9:4). Sounds difficult.
As you can see the question put to Jesus is understandable because Jesus’ teaching indicates difficulty and that it is costly. The question can be re-framed in this way: “Considering how difficult and demanding you say it will be to enter the kingdom of God, how many will actually enter?”
The Door: Salvation
Jesus replies by using the imagery of a door/gate. This door leads to salvation and only those who enter through it shall be saved. Therefore, He stresses that we must “strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (24). Jesus’ answer is “Yes, there are few who are saved because many will seek to enter and not be able.”
Two main points to consider with verse 24: first, there is only one way to be saved (the door is narrow) and second, many seek to enter incorrectly (will not be able). Concerning the first point, there are not many paths to God, but One: Jesus Christ. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Peter preached that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The door is narrow, but it is open.
Concerning the second point, the door is narrow, it is open, and it must be entered correctly. You enter the door by striving according to God’s Word. This does not mean that salvation is given to those who work the hardest and strive the best because the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace not works (Eph 2:8-9). No, this striving is an intentional struggle to resist the wrong ways of “salvation” and to trust completely in Jesus Christ for your salvation. The many who fail to enter are striving in vain because they are seeking to enter through their own goodness. They have “zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Rom 10:2-3). Therefore, they are not able to enter the narrow door.
Jesus says “strive to enter through the narrow door” because the door will not always be open. Jesus says, “when once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from’” (25). We are currently living in the age of grace in which “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13) therefore we must “seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6). We live in a favorable time for salvation. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “For He says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
But this age of grace will one day come to an end when the Master of the house (Jesus) shall shut the door of salvation and “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor 5:10). Strive to enter the narrow door while it is open, commit your life to Jesus Christ today.
The Table: Fellowship
The people who find themselves outside will protest. They will appeal to the table of fellowship. They say “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets” (26). Jesus’ reply is: “I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil” (27). It is worth noting that the people outside the door are appealing to knowing Jesus and hearing His teaching. Jesus responds to them by saying, “You may work in my name, you may hear my message, but if you do not repent of your sin and turn from your wicked ways, I have no relationship with you. I do not know you and you do not know Me.
Jesus says, “in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (28) because of the anger and sorrow of being excluded from the kingdom of God. Why were they excluded? Because they could not enter. Why couldn’t they enter? Because they refused to enter according to the King’s rules. He does not know where they came from because their path is not repentance and faith: it is not legitimate.
Men and women, strive to enter the narrow door. Repent of your sins and believe the gospel. Do not try to earn your way into heaven because it is futile to do so. Humble yourself before God because “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (30).