Luke 13:24 (ESV) … “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
Jesus’ regard for the question can be seen in his response, because he really did not answer it but responded with a command: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (v. 24).
Jesus’ words assaulted their complacency. “Many [of you Jews] … will try to enter and will not be able to.” “Many,” not “some”—implying that a majority of his hearers would not make it! The Jews’ complacency had drawn a stinging slap, and an uneasiness spread through their hearts.
Jews in Jesus’ day felt privileged to be part of the covenant community. They had the Law, the prophets, the temple. So they assumed salvation was a given. This was fatal thinking.
Paul later attacked such presumption in his letter to the Romans:
Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? (2:17–21)
Jesus’ point was, your Jewish privilege had better make a difference or it is all for nothing. Sadly, many did not have personal faith in Christ and so were lost.
Jesus sustained this warning in his kingdom parables—for example, in the Parable of the Soils when the seed fell on three of the four soils in vain. Only the fourth soil yielded believers. The Parable of the Soils taught that many professing “believers” would be lost (cf. Luke 8:1–15). Likewise, in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, the great flock will be divided, and a large contingent of goats will be sent off to eternal punishment (Matthew 25:31–46). Privileged presumption characterizes many of the lost in this parable.
Presumption of salvation through privilege continues to delude multitudes in the professing church today. And Jesus’ “many … will try to enter and will not be able to” applies with the same urgency. Jesus does not want to inject false fears into our minds, but he does want us to examine our lives so we will be sure to take the narrow way.