“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Luke 13:24, 35)
The Jewish cemetery on the slopes of the Mount of Olives is a good place to start today’s reflection on Jerusalem and The Narrow Door. The cemetery is located close to the Old City, its chief merit being that it lies just across the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount. According to Jewish tradition, it is here that the Resurrection of the Dead will begin once the Messiah appears on the Mount of Olives and head toward the Temple Mount. That is why the cemetery has a large number of tombs – estimated to be over 100,000 tombs or even more than double that number. So, Jerusalem may be considered to be the door into Heaven, since the Messiah will proceed from here with the resurrected folk to reign forever.
This Jerusalem is the beautiful city that received Jesus Christ, coming as king yet riding on a young donkey, in the dramatic Triumphal Entry event that we commemorate every Palm Sunday. Shortly after this, Jesus lamented over the city in words similar to those in today’s key text: ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing’ (Luke 13:24). What a paradox: The city that is supposed to be the gate of heaven instead rejects, tortures and kills God’s messengers!
The gate to heaven cannot be just a physical city – not even Jerusalem. The Lord sees differently: talk about the identity of those who will fail to enter heaven; they describe themselves as qualified – ‘we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets’; yet Jesus will ignore those descriptions (which may actually be true) and use His description to disqualify them – ‘you evildoers’ (Luke 13:25-27). What does it mean then, to ‘enter through the narrow door’? It is not about hanging out in fellowship and hearing Christian talk in your town; it is not about walking to the gate and knocking and pleading at the last hour. It is a daily ‘make every effort’ business; it is turning away from evil and doing good, and walking in righteousness every day until the Lord comes. And the principal good is to believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God and the Redeemer of mankind. He said, ‘I am the gate for the sheep’ (John 10:7).
The paradox of the city of Jerusalem should teach us something: She received ‘the king’ Jesus on such a Sunday and crucified him five days later – another prophet rejected, tortured and killed! The heaven-gate city is guilty of closing out the Saviour and his people. The good things that seem to lead us home may be such a disappointment. Remember the principal good thing – to embrace Jesus Christ the real gate.