“Strive to enter through the narrow gate”

When you walk the streets, do you ever wonder who is worthy of entering Heaven? In Luke 13:22-30, Jesus teaches us the gate to Heaven narrow. But what does that mean?

Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.’
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”

Now there is an interesting beginning for this reading, Jesus saying, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”

When Jesus said those words, where do you think He put the emphasis in His voice – on the verb “strive” or on the adjective “narrow”? If it was on strive, it seems like he is saying “try really hard, because you may have great difficulty or, you may not make it at all. If it was on narrow, it seems like He is saying there are other gates but this is the better one.

Jesus continues on saying, “for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” And He is speaking of entering the kingdom of Heaven. So maybe what Jesus is saying here is that there is a narrow opportunity to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, or perhaps there will be a big throng of souls wishing to enter through a narrow gate and few will make it through. Only the strong will enter.

This looks like a metaphor. A metaphor for how difficult it is to get into the kingdom of God compared to how many think they will enter.

As a metaphor, Jesus isn’t being literal. When you get to the gates of Heaven, there may be a throng waiting to enter but there won’t be small gate with a shoving match or a crushing mass fighting for dominance. There will be God deciding to gets in and who doesn’t. And that’s what the rest of the reading is about.

As to the metaphor, then, Jesus wants us to strive to meet His expectations as souls, before we get to the heavenly gate. He wants us to have heard his message of love and compassion, to be humble and act for others. To place others first so that when our time comes before the gates of Heaven, we may rightly come first. Our just reward.

Many there are who see themselves as righteous and just and assume they have a place reserved in Heaven. They lord themselves over others and judge who is a sinner and who is righteous and, thus, who is condemned and who will see the Kingdom of Heaven. But Jesus teaches us not to be self-righteous, not to judge, not to condemn. And these evildoers may be very surprised when they reach the gates of Heaven.

Listen to Jesus and heed his words. His words. Strive to live as he teaches. For narrow is the gate. The decision of who enters isn’t up to us but up to God.


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