When Jesus began His public ministry great crowds began to follow Him and hear the words that He spoke. As time went on the large throngs of people that had followed Him started to dwindle. He still had crowds, but committed followers were becoming more scarce. We also notice in the Gospels that Jesus’ messages often seemed to discourage half-hearted followers. Jesus stated that His way was narrow which was a contradiction of the Jewish belief. Judaism taught that all but tax collectors and the very wickedest of sinners would be saved. After the resurrection we notice that only 120 gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem, and only about 500 true believers were in Galilee.
This teaches us of a huge struggle against conflict. Christ was not here suggesting that a person could earn or merit their salvation by striving and working for it. No matter how strenuously they labored, sinners could never save themselves. Salvation is solely by grace, not by works (Eph. 2:8-9). But, entering through the narrow gate is still difficult because of its cost of human pride, because of the sinner’s natural love for living his own natural life, and because of the world’s and Satan’s opposition to the truth.
Jesus’ teaching about the “narrow gate” is a familiar passage for many Christians. His message is that entering the kingdom of heaven is not easy. Unlike the comfort of “walking on the broad road”, “entering the narrow gate” requires discipline, strength and bravery. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says simply “enter through the narrow gate” (Mt. 7:13). But in the Gospel of Luke there is a lot more urgency: “strive to enter through the narrow door” (Lk. 13:24).
The English word “strive” is not nearly as interesting as the original Greek word which Luke uses: ἀγωνίζομαι (agōnizomai). This is a verb built on the root ἀγών (agōn), which means an athletic competition, such as a running race or a wrestling match.
He chooses this word because he wants to convey the sense of pain and struggle which is required of those who follow Christ. Paul also used this athletic image of running the race and fighting the fight (1 Cor. 9:24-27; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7). Luke and Paul use this athletic term because they want to show us that the suffering endured by Christians today will be followed by great triumph that is reserved for them in the future.
Let’s endure the battle as a good soldier of Jesus Christ! Our Strength to fight is The Lord God Himself!