The Narrow Door

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

  Jesus, John 10:9, 10 

Jesus offers himself as a doorway into the life that is truly life.  Confidence in him leads us today, as in other times, to become his apprentices in eternal living.  ‘Those who come through me will be safe,’ he said, ‘They will go in and out and find all they need.  I have come into their world that they may have life, and life to the limit.

 Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

The Encounter

 22Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” 

   He said to them, 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. 25Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
      “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 

 26“Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 

 27“But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ 

 28“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” 

Luke 13:22-29

Some Observations

Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem, where he will complete his ultimate sacrifice in obedience to his Father to redeem the world.  In the midst of his teaching, Jesus is asked if only a few people are going to be saved.  Jesus gives a surprising answer: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” 

At first, the idea of making an “effort” seems inconsistent with Jesus’ teaching thus far – we know the Pharisees strained under tremendous effort to keep the law and thereby make themselves righteous, yet Jesus calls them prideful hypocrites.  Jesus is talking about something else here; it is not about saving ourselves through our own efforts, but rather making an effort to find and enter through the narrow door.  The narrow door implies a very strictly identified, singular entry point through which we must pass to realize salvation. 

Jesus’ coming death and resurrection is what he points to here.  We can only enter into salvation by recognizing our desperate brokenness in sin, repenting and fully embracing the grace of salvation through belief in Jesus, his death and resurrection.  Jesus’ coming judgment on the cross is the justification of righteousness for those who confess him as their Savior. 

Jesus is imploring the listeners to make every effort to enter through this door and states frankly that some will not be able to do this.  Why?  Some will not truly seek; others will not be given eyes to see; still others will seek and find, but the “worries of this life, pleasures and wealth” will provide too alluring a distraction.  Jesus says that our opportunity to enter through this narrow door will not exist forever: ”Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’”  

Future judgment is a reality and we must deal with it now.  Our opportunity to enter through the narrow door will end with our physical death or Christ’s return.  The reality is that this could be far sooner than we think.  Echoing his recent words – “Repent or you too will perish” – Jesus says the time for decision is now. 

Some that do not pass through the narrow door will claim they did: “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.”  Jesus says they will be sent away to a place of suffering – a hell separate from God.  Jesus is clear that knowing his identity, being around him and acknowledging his teaching does not constitute entry into salvation (in James’ words: “Even the demons believe that – and shudder!”).  This is equivalent to someone who faithfully shows up at church for twenty years, knows the words to every hymn, yet has never put their full faith in Christ.  Only true repentance and the decision to depend completely on Christ for our salvation makes entry possible.

Once we enter through the narrow door, our lives are to be spent in discipleship to Jesus, becoming more and more like him – an instrument of love, grace and healing – and leading others to the narrow door that we have walked through ourselves by God’s grace.  Jesus also introduces the idea that those seated at the feast in the kingdom of God may be very different than what many might expect: “those who are last will be first, and the first will be last.” 

This is a warning against self-righteousness, which is the probable root of the man’s question.  We have seen over and over again in Jesus’ life that it is more typically the losers, the unclean, the poor, the “sinners,” prostitutes, tax collectors, etc. who repent and enter the kingdom of God, while the religious – with all their striving, rule-following and self-salvation – are left outside the kingdom desperately pleading with bloodied knuckles hammering the door.  

Thank you, Lord for your radiant grace towards us.  Fill us with your joy and confidence today as those who have entered through the narrow door to life that is truly life in this time and for all eternity.  Have mercy on those around us as you have towards us and use us to humbly lead others to entry into the life you promise now and for all eternity.  Let our words and actions today reflect your love and grace to all we encounter.


“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.  Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.  A lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”

  Proverbs 16:31-33

A Prayer

“May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.  Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds – his name is the Lord – and rejoice before him.  A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”

  Psalm 68:1-6