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The Narrow Door

October 30, 2022

The Narrow Door

Passage: Luke 13:22-35
Service Type:


LUKE 13:22-35


[22] He went through one town and village after another, teaching and making his way to Jerusalem. 


Important context - to remember as we’re reading. Jesus mentioned - 2 weeks ago - has a baptism to undergo - hasn’t outrightly predicted his death in a while. Ever since 9:51, we know - slowly making his way toward Jerusalem - betrayed and killed. 


Jerusalem references are starting to pick up - interactions with Jewish leaders and Pharisees are also picking up - indicates he’s getting closer and closer to the religious hub of the nation, until chapter 19 when he finally enters Jerusalem. 


But here in verse 22, you can see why it’s taking him a while. It’s not that he is killing time or procrastinating – he is going through one town and village after another, teaching, as as we’ve seen in previous stories and the ones to come, he is also driving out demons, and healing. 


His ministry is full of doctrine (like we studied this past summer) and it is full of power – power over Satan and demons, like we saw last week, and power over sickness, death, and disability as we’ve also seen recently. 


That’s already such a powerful picture of the heart of God – Here is Jesus, on the way to an unimaginably brutal torture and death, and yet instead of worrying about it, fearing it, dreading it, he is working his way through towns and villages among the no-name, common, ordinary people, taking time to teach them and to touch them, and in those simple interactions, Satan’s kingdom is defeated and the Kingdom of God comes on earth as it is in heaven. Incredible. 


[23] "Lord," someone asked him, "are only a few people going to be saved?" 


This person is hearing Jesus' criticisms of the Pharisees, whom everyone thought are at the front of the line to get into heaven, and they are wondering – okay, if the Pharisees aren’t getting in, how in the world do any of us stand a chance?! I mean how many people are actually going to be saved at the rate you’re going? 


Typical Jesus, he doesn’t answer the question with a “yes” or a “no.” He teaches. He said to them, [24] "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, 


When I was a kid, my parents took my 2 brothers and I to Canada fishing. We fished some of the bigger public lakes in the area, and it was great, but we found this lake on the map that was set about a mile or two back off of a gravel road, and with all the washouts and trees down and undergrowth, it was pretty clear that no one had been to this lake in a very long time, and a car or even a truck would have a hard time getting back the road. 


So while most normal fishermen and women drove to the public lakes with Highway access and boat ramps and public restrooms, we hacked and chainsawed our way down this road for two miles, with a four wheeler to pull the boat trailer, and we had a blast for 2-3 days fishing a lake that no human had been on for a long, long time. 


Matthew 7:13-14 adds detail to verse 24 by saying: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”


Like that road to the lake in Canada, there is one narrow door at the end of a difficult road that leads to eternal life. Everything else leads to destruction. The world at large does not want to hear this teaching. There are even people who would call themselves Christians who try to avoid this teaching. Satan himself wants to keep you from hearing and acting on this teaching. But you can’t pin this teaching on me or River City Church and say, well, those people are so narrow-minded over there…These are the words of Jesus. And here is the teaching:


There is one salvation, not several. There is one Savior, not several. There is one faith that saves, not several. There is one road to heaven, not several. There is one way to become a Son or Daughter of Christ, not several. 


  • Universalism, the idea that in the end eventually everyone goes to heaven is a deception from Satan. It is only those who choose the narrow road who have eternal life.
  • The idea that all religions are headed to the same place, it’s just a matter of semantics – different names for God, different ways of achieving salvation… that is a deception from Satan, and you cannot draw that conclusion from Jesus’ teaching. It is only those who are on the narrow road who find eternal life. 
  • As you’ll see in the coming verses, you can slap whatever label on yourself you want to – I’m spiritual, conservative, American, Believer, Disciple of Jesus, I’m religious, or whatever. But no matter what you call yourself, look at what Jesus says – There is one narrow door that leads to life, and it requires seeking and effort and endurance. 


I’ve talked about this before, but our son Jackson ran track during his senior year, and his Sprint Medley team qualified for State. So we drove to Des Moines, paid $20 to park, $20 to get in, just to watch him run for 11 seconds. Not bitter about that… hardly ever think about it. It’s one of the reasons Track and Field is my favorite sport. 


During that race, three of the four runners on his team gave it their all and ran their hearts out. One did not. It was very disappointing for our son, and it still grinds me to this day.


Verse 24: “[Make every effort, or your translation might say] ‘Strive’… is a technical term for competing in the Games like track and field, and from it we get our word ‘agonize’. It points to [a whole]-hearted effort.” (Morris, 243). “[This doesn't mean] that human effort would ever get anybody into the kingdom of God, but that the person who has been [brought to life] by the Holy Spirit, who has caught a glimpse of the reality of Jesus, must make the seeking of the kingdom of God the main business of his life” (Sproul, 283).


This kind of effort isn’t about earning your way into heaven – It’s about not holding anything back. It’s what we say to athletes when we say, “Leave it all out there on the floor.” What we mean is that you don’t want to look back and say “coulda, shoulda, woulda.” You want to say I gave it my all in seeking Jesus, because once you cross the finish line, you can’t go back and run the race like you should have the first time…  (11:21)


…because I tell you, many will try to enter and won't be able [25] once the homeowner gets up and shuts the door. Then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, open up for us!' He will answer you, 'I don't know you or where you're from.' [26] Then you will say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' But we had season tickets to hear you preach! We were really good givers at church; we served every Sunday. We followed you from town to town, we bought your books and subscribed to your newsletter, we donated to your campaign, we all have matching sweatshirts that say “this body runs on coffee and Jesus”. 


According to John 5:39, there will even be people who say, “but I read the Bible every morning and night; went to Bible studies and memorized books of scripture – I just love to study God’s word – and yet they can be unwilling to come to Jesus. According to Matthew 7, there will people who will look like they are filled with the Holy Spirit – prophesying, casting out demons, and even doing miracles… and yet Jesus says to them the same thing he’s saying here in verse [27] But he will say, 'I tell you, I don't know you or where you're from. Get away from me, all you evildoers!' 


I know this isn’t actually the case, but today I’m preaching like we’re all lost. I’m preaching as if we’re all faking it. Again, I know that’s not true, but the reality is, I don’t know your heart. You can fool me all day long. All you have to do is show up, act like things are fine, sing the songs, raise your hands, say “thanks for the sermon”, write me a pastor appreciation card, and you can fool me. 


But according to Jesus, there are a lot of church-going people who like the idea of Jesus, but they don’t know him. They like the idea of being in heaven when they die, they like the idea of grace and forgiveness of sins, they like the idea of planting churches and risking it all for the gospel. They love to hobnob with Jesus people at church, at conferences, online chats and social media circles and talk doctrine with others; they cry when the missionary comes and talks about someone getting saved; they throw money in the offering box in the back, some of them apparently are even able to mimic the gifts of the Holy Spirit!!!–– but when it comes to actually knowing Christ, when it comes to making the kingdom of heaven the top priority in their lives, reading God’s word not to know doctrine but to know JESUS, he would say, yeah, I’m not sure whose sheep those are but they aren’t mine. My sheep know my voice and they follow me – these people might be my number one fans, but I have no idea who they are or where they came from. 


The Pharisees Jesus is talking about have banked their eternity on the fact that they can trace their roots back to Abraham. They brag about being from certain tribes of Israel, thinking that their family line will be what guarantees their place in heaven. So when he says “I don’t know where you’re from” he’s referring to their genealogy…


[28] There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that place, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves thrown out. 


These people will rage about God’s fairness, about his inconsistency, they will show their papers, show their religious resumes, and like frustrated travelers at the airport, they will fume on and on about how something isn’t right here – there’s been a mistake. They will have banked their lives on their family tree. They’ll peek through the windows and see Abraham and the prophets inside, and say “Hey! We’re with them! Why aren’t we in there!” 


And though it’s not recorded here, we know that after his death Jesus will explain to his disciples how Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets pointed to him. 


Meanwhile, verse [29] They will come from east and west, from north and south, to share the banquet in the kingdom of God. [30] Note this: Some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last." 


This is Jesus’ way of telling the Jews that there are Gentiles in line ahead of them. For the Jew, the idea of having Gentiles sitting at the table in the kingdom of God is heresy. It’s like your dog with his front paws on the table licking your plate while you eat. Despicable. 


But there is a day coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord – on that day, the Gentiles and the Pharisees will all see that the Narrow Door was not a piece of wood or steel; the narrow door was not religious activity; the narrow door was not a certain kind of lifestyle; the narrow door was not being married or homeschooling or Christian music or going on missions trips, and for the love of everything sacred, the narrow door is most certainly not a political party – On that day, from the most atheistic person on earth to the most religious person who ever lived will drop to their knees and say, “Oh, it was him! The Narrow Door is a person!” And then it will be too late. 


Jesus said in John 10:9 – I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved…The Narrow door is not Jesus plus religion. The narrow door is not “you can come in, as long as you get yourself together soon.” The Narrow Door is nothing more than Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, and he is like a treasure hidden in a field, where a man sold everything he had to buy the field and get the treasure. He is worth making every effort to find. That’s why he tells us to seek first his kingdom and he’ll take care of the rest. 


And because the Narrow Door is a person, not a way of living, some people who thought they were first in line might not be in at all. And others who thought they would never have had a chance to get into heaven will find themselves standing at the front of the line (Morris, 245), while the others have their jaw on the ground. 


[31] At that time some Pharisees came and told him, "Go, get out of here. Herod wants to kill you." 


It’s hard to determine if the Pharisees actually care about Jesus and are warning him legitimately, or not. Again, Luke doesn’t give details about the situation, only details about Jesus’ reply:


[32] He said to them, "Go tell that fox, 'Look, I'm driving out demons and performing healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will complete my work.' [33] Yet it is necessary that I travel today, tomorrow, and the next day, because it is not possible for a prophet to perish outside of Jerusalem. 


See Jerusalem was the capital city of Jewishness. The temple was there. God’s presence, sacrifices, the center of art and religion and culture – Jerusalem represented the nation. So by saying Jerusalem kills the prophets, Jesus means the nation of Israel led by the religious elite, have a track record for rejecting warnings, and not Herod but the Jews, the very people God chose and led out of Egypt and gave this Promised Land to are going to kill him.


And it grieves him.  


[34] "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 


Those of you who are teachers, whether it’s in school or anywhere else, have probably at one point or another thought, “ERGH… I just wish I could take a hammer and pound this into their heads so they get it!” Jesus is much more compassionate than we are – he doesn’t want to pound anything into our heads, but he does wish he could just force us all together and make us trust him… but he doesn’t. 


He has given humans the freedom to reject him, and Jerusalem, the city he loves, the people he loves, the nation he loves, and some of the people YOU love, quite simply do not want to be gathered up by Jesus. They want nothing to do with him, and it’s by their choice. And Jesus grieves with us. 


[35] See, your house is abandoned to you. I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say,' Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'!"


Commentators think Jesus’ last words here are incredibly sad. “Your house is abandoned to you” means God’s presence is about to leave Jerusalem for good, and once Jesus is resurrected and ascended to heaven, Jerusalem won’t see him again until he returns in his glory. And when he returns, people will pretend they were ready for it. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Yeah, Jesus, you are the Messiah, yeah, ha, uh, we uh, were ready for you!” And that’s when it’s too late. The door is shut. 


So what does this mean for us today? 


If you want to keep trying to earn your way to heaven, have at it. That road is wide and a lot of people are on it. There’s a massive door at the end of that road. You can’t miss it. Just follow the crowd. It’s a wide road filled with people trying to live by their own truth, their own standards, their own righteousness, their own spiritual resume of things they’ve done. It requires no effort at all to find this road, in fact, it’s more or less what sin has programmed us to do. It’s the road we’re all on by default.


But the Narrow Door requires searching. Seeking. Enduring. Faithfulness. You’ll need other people to help you find it. And grace says literally anyone can enter through the narrow door. Anyone! The only requirement for getting through the narrow door is that you drop your spiritual credentials, and bring your sins instead.


Some of us are afraid to bring our sins to Jesus because we’re afraid it’s going to disqualify us from heaven. Like, if Jesus knew who we really were, even he wouldn’t be able to wash that clean. But you cannot be a Christian until you realize it is your sin that qualifies you for heaven, not your being good! Healthy people don’t visit the doctor. Being sick qualifies you to see a doctor. 


Basically, grace is Jesus holding out his hand saying, “bring me that laundry list of things you can’t get right, those things you can’t get figured out in your life, those addictions or habits you can’t kick, bring that sin you’re trying to hide from your family, that lie you’ve been living, and he says – yeah, bring it here. And then, as Colossians 2:14 says, he takes a stamp of his own blood and stamps CANCELLED across the list and says “this one’s on me.” Justified. From now on, your record shows you never sinned one time. 


And the religious people who “never sinned” stand around and go, “hold on, Jesus! Have you even read the list? Do you know what he did? Do you know what she said? Don’t they have to do something now to prove they were worth the grace??” 


Meanwhile, Jesus hands you off to the Holy Spirit who gets some new shoes on your feet, puts the ring on your hand, turns up the music and says let’s get you ready for the party!


Let me close with this as the band comes up to play. 


As many of you know, I like playing music. Our worship leader Nevin and I used to be in a band together. We still get a check about every three years from Spotify, paying us for all of the downloads and streaming that people have done with our album. It’s usually about $11, just to tell you how big time we were. 


But while I was in a band, my dad who knows a few chords on a guitar but would not call himself a musician, had the opportunity to drive the equipment truck for a popular Christian music band that is now known as For King and Country. 


I went to a few shows with my dad that year when he was on tour with them, and had the opportunity to meet the guys when my dad took me on board their tour bus. There was only one way I got close to those guys, and it was not because I was in a band. It was not because my band raked in $11 every three years from streaming services. It was not because I could play multiple instruments, or because I grew up around music, or even because they were generous and kind and I was their biggest fan. 


There was only one way I was getting on that bus with those guys, and my ticket on board was a person. Church, there is only one way to the Father, one narrow door, and it is a person. The Narrow Door is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Nothing else. 


Again, I know there are many of you, maybe even most of you, who are making every effort to enter through the Narrow Door. If that’s you – Galatians 6:9 encourages you, Don’t get tired of doing good. Don’t give up. Hang in there. Help each other out on this road to knowing Jesus. That’s what Sunday Gatherings and Flourish and Grace Marriage and Community Groups and KidCity are all about; it’s what missions and revitalizing our city are all about… we’re trying to help one another on this road to knowing Jesus. 


But there might be many of you who look the part and act the part and sound the part, but you’re more a fan of Jesus than a follower. You like the idea of going to heaven when you die, you like the idea of Jesus dying for our sins, but you don’t like the thought of dying to yourself or dropping your spiritual resume to get there. 


I encourage you today: Repent now of your sins and follow Jesus. Do not postpone your repentance until tomorrow, since the time is short. Drop the resume. Run hard after Jesus, resting in the fact that it is your sin that qualifies you for heaven. Bring it to Jesus. Let him wash you clean. Make every effort to enter through that Narrow Door. 




Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988).

R.C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1999).

Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000).