JESUS IS THE NARROW DOOR
Luke Ch 13: 22-35
Key Verse: 13:24
“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you will try to enter and will not be able to.”
In Luke’s gospel, we are learning a lot about the kingdom of God, which is the number one subject Jesus discussed most during his ministry on earth. Jesus taught us many things about the kingdom of God using easy to understand parables. Jesus taught us in Luke’s gospel that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which starts out very small, and grows and becomes the largest of garden plants and birds of the air can perch in it’s branches. He also compared the kingdom of God to yeast, only a small amount is needed and it spreads through all the dough. It has great power to influence and change people. In this passage we learn how to enter the kingdom of God and what the entrance is like, symbolically it is like entering a narrow door, and Jesus said it requires every effort to do so. Many people are willing to make every effort to enter their chosen university by any means, even some families are willing to try to bribe the schools. Or they are willing to make every effort to buy a home, or to get a job. Success in this world seems paramount to most, but it does not equate at all with having Jesus and entering the kingdom of God. We will learn in this passage, entering the kingdom of God is not a matter we can be complacent about at all.
Part I, Make Every Effort to enter Through the Narrow Door
Until now Jesus has been steadily making his way to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is where Jesus knew he would fulfill God’s plan for world salvation through his crucifixion and death on the cross. Jesus did not avoid Jerusalem - an unfriendly place for him, and an unfriendly place for all the prophets that came before him who wrote about him. Every day Jesus pushed closer undeterred, passing through villages and towns teaching about the kingdom of God. While on his way, someone asked him, “Lord are only a few going to be saved.” They probably heard Jesus message earlier, to repent or perish. They wanted a numerical estimate of the number of people that would be saved – “a few?” Sounds like a question I first asked at one of my first Bible studies, wanting some kind of numerical answer. This question reveals a confined and fatalistic view of salvation. That it is almost unattainable and for only a lucky few. Kind of like those few people who win the lottery. Most people, do not have a positive outlook when playing the lottery at all. I’ve only played it a few times, and lost money. Because of the inherently low odds of winning, and the huge potential upside, we wish we could manipulate the outcome in some way - don’t we? We wish we had a backchannel or a good connection to someone who could fudge the results and make it all work out in our favor. Maybe we pray before we pick the numbers. Thinking if we win the lottery, we will be really thankful and give a lot of the money to God. If God is a good business person he will accept our good idea! But this is not how the kingdom of God works. Fortunately. Fortunately, we are not resigned to mere luck, fatalistic thinking, and offering God strange proposals that he surely will reject. Ones that leave us back at square one, with even less than we had when we started.
The question that was asked about how many will be saved, caught the attention of the Messiah. How did he respond? Look at verse 24, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Why did he answer this way? So they would not give up. Jesus helped this person with a compassionate heart and tried change their fatalistic mindset with encouraging words. So he said, “Make every effort.” In other words, do not quit, do what you can with all your strength, persevere, and fight the good fight to enter the kingdom of God, and you will have a great reward.
In the book “Pilgrim’s Progress” by Pastor Paul Bunyan, written in the 1600’s the Christian life is symbolically illustrated through the main character who’s name is Christian. The entire book is an allegory. In the book Christian is visited by a man named Evangelist. The man Evangelist tells Christian to leave the City of Destruction and that he will be saved if he goes to the Celestial City. Christian agrees it is a good idea to escape destruction and embarks on his journey. Along the way, Christian encounters many obstacles and barriers like the Slough of Despond which is a murky swamp that is very difficult to go through. He is helped by positive influences such as the character Hopeful. They meet a menacing giant named Giant Despair and escape his grasp. There are many other harrowing adventures. Eventually Christian sees Christ’s tomb and cross and is strengthened on his journey. I won’t disclose the whole plot. The message of this Biblical book is very clear - it is to persevere and with Christ’s help we can reach the eternal destination we long for – the kingdom of God.
Each of us are like pilgrims and we all have a similar journey. Maybe we could even add some additional characters to our own story. Giant Temptation. Giant Past Failure. Quicksand Pit of Spiritual Laziness. And many other menacing characters and obstacles. At the same time God sends us helpful people who help us out like Hopeful and Evangelist. Most importantly, Jesus gives us his grace and forgiveness through his blood poured out for us on the cross, and gives us his Holy Spirit. He gives us the Word of God to slay our enemies with. Jesus has given us everything we need to enter through the narrow door. Success is promised to us in Romans 2:7 which says, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” Seeking this kind of glory with persistence is good.
Through a spiritual lense we see the words “make every effort” push us more to the realm of possibility, than impossibility. His words admonish our complacency and fatalism. At first when I read this passage, which does have some heavy parts in it, I had a fatalistic mindset. I thought of all my sins, and I thought maybe I won’t go to heaven, and I thought of some lucky people who will. At the moment of fatalism, there was a strong gravitational pull to the TV, as opposed to writing a message for the Sunday service. It was like being stuck in a bog or the Slough of Despond. But this is exactly what kind of thinking God does not want us to fall into. The Word of God, “make every effort to enter through the narrow door” encouraged me that God is with me to persevere. With new hope and new energy I stayed up late and wrote the message. The real meaning of Jesus’ words were revealed to me, and it was much better than the meaning I had originally thought of before my heart was renewed. And I deleted my gloomy first draft and started over.
If we let Jesus do so he will walk with us on our journey, and at the end of our journey he will pull us through the narrow door. Jesus’ words “make every effort” are short and simple, but they seem to be coupled with other words of encouragement echoing in the background. We can hear them. Why are you just sitting there doing nothing? Why are you complaining? Get to work. The clock is ticking. Chop chop. As my soccer coach would say, “get the lead out of your pants.” The importance of effort is emphasized here. What challenges have you faced and what effort have you put forth to enter the kingdom of God?
Part II, The Narrow Door
What is the narrow door being referred to in verse 24? The narrow door is Jesus himself. A narrow door is not easily found and it is not a conventional doorway at all, since doors are usually designed to allow unrestricted passage. A narrow doorway would violate the Village of Wheaton’s building code. Our new doors on the first floor have to be wide, 32” inches wide, they cannot be narrow. So then, why is Jesus the narrow door? Because he is the only way to the kingdom of God. He said in John Chapter 14 verse 6 “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”
There are many paths we can take in the world, but only one path leads to eternal life. Satan’s lies are circulating everywhere. Many are seeking truth but doing so in the wrong way, they are especially getting led astray by misinformation on social media. One meme was going around which denied Jesus was even a historical person and that he ever lived at all. The way it was cleverly written I could see how it would deceive many, and therefore I had to challenge all the lies with facts. Likewise, there are many religions, many lifestyles and a lot of freedom to do whatever we want. There are also poor decisions we can make leaving no one to blame but ourselves when the outcome is catastrophic. By living at the base level with our natural instincts it is automatic that we go down this road. This is described as the “broad road” in Matthew chapter 7. It is the easy road that leads to destruction which many people chose to follow. This way may be perceived as more fun, enjoyable, affluent, and even successful. Even enviable. One person recently died this week at the age of 35. He made bad choices related to drugs that lead to an overdose. He was the neighbor of one of my friends. I met him one time, I secretly envied his big muscles. I found out after he passed that he had a criminal record for killing his girlfriend’s dog in an act of revenge. I know some people who will attend the funeral. I am not too sure what a person could say at such a funeral. I have my own regrets for not praying for lost people like him enough. Actually there is nothing redemptive to say at all - just words of regret. Perhaps that is one of the worst forms of eternal condemnation, to experience the bad feelings of regret for eternity for making poor choices.
Jesus warns us sternly to be mindful of our eternal destiny which after a certain point cannot be changed. He tells a parable in verses 25-30. In the parable the owner of a house, gets up to close the door to outsiders wanting to get in whom he does not know. Once the owner of the house closes the door, it is too late. The people outside will be knocking and pleading to enter. The man, who represents Jesus will say to them, “I don’t know you or where you come from.” Once a person passes on from this world their destination is final, whether it is good or bad. Those with a bad destination cannot change it even if they want to. They may ply the owner and beg, but the door will not open. Verse 26 reads, “Then you will say, ‘we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’” Here, we learn just being around Jesus or those who follow Jesus is not enough to enter the kingdom of God. Just going to church alone is not enough either. There were many who listened to Jesus when he taught in the streets and ironically later they were the ones shouting to crucify him at his trial. The importance of a personal relationship with Jesus is emphasized here. We can have a personal relationship with Jesus through his Word and through repentance and prayer. Just as Jesus knew his disciples very well, we want Jesus to know us the same way. The disciples are good examples of people who followed Jesus, and spent much time with him. Jesus knows us and welcomes us when we follow him as his disciples.
Part III Jesus Weeps for Jerusalem
As Jesus continued on his journey to Jerusalem the devil tried to hinder his plans. Some Pharisees, pretending to be his friends showed up and told him not to go any further because Herod wanted to kill him. They were always oppositional to Jesus and just wanted him to leave where they were. Maybe his popularity was taking away some of their own following. Jesus was not hindered. He was determined to fulfill God’s world salvation plan and die on the cross for our sins. At that time Jesus was not thinking of himself, he thought of Jerusalem, the apple of God’s eye, that would ultimately reject God. Jesus said in verse 34, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” Jesus wept for Jerusalem because of the coming judgment when it would be destroyed by the Roman army, and it would be scattered. While Jesus cared for each person individually, he also saw the big picture. He cared about the community, the city, and the entire world. He saw the plan that God had for his people and they did not accept it. From Jesus we can learn to have concern for our surrounding community and for our country. We should pray for our friends, and pray for Wheaton College, as well as Lewis University, and College of DuPage. We should pray for our nation especially to turn to God, and for this nation to send missionaries to the whole world.