Have you ever been with a friend just talking? Maybe it is conversation over a cup of coffee. You discuss all the world’s problems. You and your friend exchange theories. It is lively and entertaining conversation, and in the end you part ways, and maybe one of you says, “We’ve solved all the world’s problems.” Such conversations are long on talk and short on deeds.
Jesus had set his face towards Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). Luke clearly lets us know the journey is “for him to be taken up.” Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension are ahead even if the disciples failed to grasp it. Jesus predicts, but they dimly understand.
In the midst of this journey, someone says to Jesus, “Lord, will those who are saved be few” (Luke 13:23)? I can imagine in a tedious, walking journey that conversation on an interesting topic would be welcome. Who better to engage in conversation or teaching than Jesus? And it is such a wonderful theoretical question. It could have led to lively conversation. It could have been bandied about, and in the end, someone could say, “We’ve solved all the world’s problems.”
Jesus’ answer is direct: “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24, ESV). Jesus immediately brings the question down to the level of personal responsibility and not just abstract speculation.
Jesus uses an uncomfortable word – strive. The word means to do something with great intensity and effort. It was a word used of athletic contests as well as fights with weapons. Someone might ask, “If I can’t merit salvation, what’s all this talk about ‘striving’?” We must strive to understand the message. We must strive to discern truth from error in a world with multiple messages. We must strive to respond to the message. “Striving” in this sense is certainly necessary, but it is not meritorious. It is the response to what God has given and done for us.
Jesus gives us another uncomfortable truth. We must seek a narrow door. Our culture wants many paths all leading to a good place. All spiritual truths are to be regarded as equally valid. Jesus will have none of this. There is an absolute truth, and a necessary way.
Jesus also lets us know that the clock is ticking: “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’” (Luke 13:25, ESV). There is a deadline. The deadline means our opportunity to enter is limited.
I enjoy theoretical conversations. They don’t make much in the way of demands. Jesus reminds us that some issues cannot remain theoretical. We must give a personal answer.