When Jesus speaks to the people, he uses metaphors he is sure they will understand. In today’s gospel he uses the image of a door that is partially opened and about to be closed. He urges his audience to strive to enter this “narrow door” while they have the opportunity, because there will come a time when the door is closed to them and they will no longer have access through it.
To whom is he speaking and what is he trying to say to them by using this metaphor?
It helps to remember, I think, that at this point in Luke’s gospel narrative, Jesus and his disciples are on their way from Galilee to Jerusalem. Jerusalem, of course, is the place where he will suffer and be put to death, so he already has a sense that his life is coming to a close. Perhaps the image of the door that was about to close was on his mind as he pondered the direction of his own life.
But here he offers the image to the crowds. “Strive to enter through the narrow door;” he tells them, “for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’”
Those who have missed their opportunity in this way may well protest, saying, “’We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me.’” The reference here is probably to Jesus’ opponents, those who refused his message. In spite of their claims, he does not know them. It will not be enough then that they have eaten in his presence, if they did not enter into communion with him through the meal. Nor will it be enough that they have heard him teach in their streets, if they did not heed his word and follow his instructions.
He imagines those who have not listened or responded as would-be guests who are shut out of the kingdom of God, and can only witness their faithful forebears – Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets – as well as outsiders from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south; enjoying fellowship in the kingdom of God.
Jesus is urging his listeners to repent, to change their ways, while there is still time. He realizes that his time to be among them is drawing to a close and he warns them that their time is likewise limited. It is not enough to be a mere observer; one must be willing to enter in wholeheartedly. They should not miss this opportunity.
In our prayer today, we might ask God to reveal to us the opportunities that are before us at this moment. Perhaps there is a window of opportunity in which we can forgive someone and be reconciled, or in which we can express our love and gratitude to someone who has made a profound difference in our lives. Perhaps there is time to break an unhealthy habit or to develop a new and life-giving pattern of living. Perhaps there is now an openness and vulnerability in our hearts that is open to receiving God’s call. Perhaps the soil is just right for planting some new seeds. Do not delay. Do not lose this opportunity. Take full advantage of this moment in your life’s history. Respond while you have the time.
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