Someone asked Jesus a question, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Good question, but before we think about Jesus’ answer, let’s think a little more about this man’s question.
This man isn’t referring to the end of the world and the final judgment as Christians think about it. Jewish tradition has long spoken about the “Day of the Lord,” the day of universal judgment. It’s commemorated in the Yom Kippur liturgy in the prayer, Un’tane Tokef. “The great shofar is sounded, and a still, soft voice is heard; the angels tremble, fear and dread seize them, and they exclaim: ‘the Day of Judgment is here!’ All created beings pass before You, one by one, like a flock of sheep. As a shepherd examines his flock, making his sheep pass under his staff, so do You cause to pass before You every living soul.”
Jewish tradition held that Jews faithful to the covenant would be the first to pass safely under the staff of judgment. They were God’s chosen people. They would be saved from the destruction that would follow the day of judgment. They would have their names written in the Book of Life. Everyone else would perish.
Jesus’ answer would have been quite troubling for this man. “Strive to enter through the narrow gate…for behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Knocking on God’s door and proclaiming, “Here I am,” isn’t enough. We have to shed what belongs to the world as we know it: hatred, greed, injustice, violence, inequality. Jesus is saying, “Sorry, being Jewish isn’t enough. You have to change. You have to see a new world”
We Christians have to hear Jesus’ message, too. Being a Christian isn’t enough. We have to change, too, but it’s difficult, because we’re so used to life as it is. Finding the narrow gate means discovering the way to a new world. We have to fine-tune our vision, see the world for what it is, judge it, and then turn our sights on discovering a new world, the Kingdom of God.
Our Father who art in heaven
hallowed by Thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth
as it is in heaven.