Verse of the Day Devotion Luke 13:23
“And someone said to Him, Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” – Luke 13:23
The question asked is sad because the answer is yes. This question was a subject of debate in Jesus’ day and could have been asked of any rabbi. Opinions on the question ranged from inclusive to exclusive. Some rabbis taught that all Israelites have a share in the world to come, whereas others believed that the Most High made the world to come for the sake of a few. Throughout the central section of Luke, Jesus emphasizes the difficulty of entering the kingdom. His questioner is not identified, but the honorary title Lord coupled with the question itself, suggests, if not a disciple, someone familiar with Jesus’ teaching. Jesus does not reply directly to the questioner but takes the question as an opportunity to instruct the gathering around him.
His answer is intriguing. “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Luke 13:24. What He is saying is that they will seek to enter in, but they will not strive to enter in. This Greek word for strive is taken from the Grecian games. In their races, and wrestling, and various athletic exercises, they strove or agonized or put forth all their powers to gain the victory. Thousands witnessed them. They were long trained for the conflict, and the honor of victory was one of the highest honors among the people. So Jesus says that we should strive to enter in; and he means by it that we should be diligent, be active, be earnest; that we should make it our first and chief business to overcome our sinful propensities, and to endeavor to enter into heaven. This same figure or allusion to the Grecian games is often used in the New Testament. In Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth, he writes “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
We must give our all to enter in, just as the Greek athletes did in their striving to win. And in like manner, we must strive to enter by the narrow gate. And there is a distinct difference between the narrow and the wide gate. Matthews gospel puts it this way. “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14. And it is important to remember that once the narrow gate is closed, at His return, it is closed for good. “Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.” Luke 13:25. Matthew uses a different phrase regarding those who did not stive to enter in. “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Matthew 7:23. Hard words, but necessary for us to understand.
Therefore, I want to encourage us all to not just seek or hope for, but to strive to enter by way of the narrow gate. To give everything we have to God and work as hard as possible to devote our entire life to Him. This can be difficult at times, but in the long run it will be worth everything we did to make it through. God loves us, and He wants us to be with Him for eternity, but it is up to us to choose which path we will take. And there is no doubt regarding which path is better: the narrow path.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.