As we go through Luke’s Gospel, we see Jesus teaching the crowds. As they listen to Him, questions arise in their minds. Sometimes they’re the same questions we wrestle with.
You may want to read Luke 13:22-30 before continuing.
Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
Luke 13:22-23a NIV
This is an interesting question. Especially so, since we’re talking about ancient Israel.
Right now, we have many words in our religious vocabulary that have changed over the years. The word “saved” is one of them. That word has picked up a lot of spiritual baggage since this verse was written.
When we hear the word “saved”, it has a special meaning to us. We think of someone who’s prayed the sinner’s prayer. They’ve accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They have become a Christian.
When that question was first asked, this word had no such connotation. It was not a religious word in those days. It meant to be rescued from danger or destruction. It also meant to be kept safe and sound. As well as to save someone from suffering, as with a disease.
When this person questioned Jesus, he was speaking about the natural world. Israel was under slavery to the oppressive Roman Empire. There was a lot of fear over how that would turn out.
There were groups known as Zealots. These were anti-Roman terrorists who were making bold attacks against Roman holdings.
The Roman emperors were well know for making rash decisions to wipe out nations that rebelled against their rule. This was one of the very things that caused the religious leaders to put Jesus to death (John 11:47-50).
Throughout the Old Testament, there were prophecies about times of persecution where only a remnant of Israel survived. I believe that this was the thinking behind that question. This man wanted to plan ahead for his survival.
Jesus seems to ignore the question and begins to tell the crowd a more important remnant to be a part of. He starts to talk about the final judgment.
He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 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.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’”
Luke 13:23b-25 NIV
Jesus tells the crowd that the way to the abundant life is through a narrow, tight gate. He puts it in a way that our English translations don’t do justice to.
The phrase, make every effort, means to contend. It’s what athletes put themselves through in order to win an Olympic gold medal. It means that there’s a struggle that has to take place.
You might think that in the Olympics, the struggle is against the other athletes. That’s simply not the case. The greatest struggle is having to contend with your own body. It needs to be disciplined in order to win the event.
That’s why Jesus said that many will try to enter. This phrase means to seek or desire. The narrow entrance looks too hard to manage. They’re looking for an easier way in.
There are other places in the Scripture where the word, contend, is used.
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6:12 NIV
Faith is a battle. It requires us to overcome the desires of our flesh. It means yielding to the Holy Spirit. There’s no easy way. Spend the time necessary to see God’s will accomplished in your life.
Question: What are some of the struggles you contend with in your faith walk?
© 2022 Nick Zaccardi