Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”
He replied, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil.’
“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for you will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you will be thrown out. And people will come from all over the world—from east and west, north and south—to take their places in the Kingdom of God. And note this: Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then, and some who are the greatest now will be least important then. ”
Many say we cannot work to enter the kingdom of God and yet here Jesus says work hard to enter. Can that be unpacked for us to understand what he means for it is also said salvation is not of works, but the gift of God? Also, he does not answer directly the question will few be saved leading to the implication not many. That would indicate some do not. There are those who want to say all will make it to the kingdom of God and yet here Jesus states many will try to enter but will fail.
Many will try to enter…work hard to enter; does this ‘work’ begin with simple acceptance of the offered salvation that is then followed by the joy of working the assignment received from God? Jesus repeatedly tells us to share the Gospel, the message we find in the Word of God. Are we obedient? God from the beginning of creation tells us he wants a people who love Him and obey Him. Do we love Him and then obey Him? Is it genuine, seen in our actions , thoughts and words toward others? Is this the ‘work’ he mentions in this passage?
The question that begins this passage is: “Are only a few going to be saved?” The answer given first is “work hard to enter through the narrow door, or as another version puts it, make every effort to enter through the narrow door.” The implication is it will take effort and that will cut down on the number who enter. Jesus says once the door is closed we are not getting in. And he follows with a statement he makes over and over again, the first will be last and the last will be first; put another way the greatest here will be least there and the least here will be great there. Adding insult to injury those who do not get to enter will see those who did and those who did will be from all over.
After all that is said, we are left with the statement to make every effort to enter. Take nothing for granted and rather than worry about it; make sure we are doing what we have been given to do for the Lord, making sure He knows us, not just as someone who sat at a table with him, walked a street with him, but someone who really, genuinely knows him. When we want to get to know someone, we spend time with them, do things with them, talk with them, intimately. It takes an effort. This relationship is more than a passing acquaintance, someone we occasionally eat lunch with or see on the streets or even stand and listen to as they talk. This relationship is intimate with focused attention and desire. Do we know him? Are we faithful and obedient? Do others see the love that comes from Him? Do we know him? Does He know us?