I remember the first time I thoughtfully read Luke 13:23–27. It almost knocked me out of my chair:
And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’”
What got me so excited that day is verse 24, in which the words “strive” and “seek” are placed side-by-side. There is a striving that obtains the kingdom of God, and there is a seeking that does not! The difference in the meaning of those two words is the difference between heaven and hell, so I want to ask what that difference is and then exhort us all to strive in the way Jesus is calling us to here.
The word strive (ἀγωνίζομαι in the Greek) seems to be closely related to fighting, athletic endeavors, or hard labor. Luke never uses the word elsewhere in his writing, but John quotes Jesus as saying, “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting (ἀγωνίζομαι)” (John 18:36). In 1 Corinthians 9:25, what the ESV translates as “athlete” is simply “one who strives” (ὁ ἀγωνιζόμενος). In fact, the word “strive,” as Jesus uses it in Luke, seems similar to Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 9:24:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”
But what about the word “seek” in Luke 13:24? I will attempt to get at the meaning of this word through the context of the parable Jesus tells immediately afterward. Notice that the door has already been shut when the “seeker” comes (Luke 13:25). It is possible that the “seeker” is a person who realizes the truth too late (i.e. after he has died), but I think we can go one step deeper and ask why this “seeker” is so late. Just four chapters earlier in Luke 9:57–62, Jesus speaks with three men who are “seekers.” These men come to Jesus, desiring (at least on a surface level) to follow Him, but each one has a reason he cannot do it immediately. Something else is more pressing. I believe that this is the kind of seeking Jesus is referring to in Luke 13:24.
So friends, I exhort you to let nothing hinder you from reaching the prize of Jesus Christ. Strive with all that is in you to run as though He is a treasure of the greatest value. My prayer for Bethlehem College & Seminary is that it would produce men and women who are consumed with striving after Jesus because the shocking reminder from this text is that the gate is narrow, which means few will find it (Matthew 7:14).
JD Hettema M.Div Graduate
1. Pray wisdom for our faculty and staff as they participate in planning days today and tomorrow for the upcoming year.
2. Pray for our new students as they prepare for orientation and moving into housing next week. Pray for them and their parents as they adjust to life away from home and an academically rigorous schedule.
3. Pray for all our students and faculty as they prepare for a new school year.
4. Pray a hope-filled beginning of the year for all.