Jesus “went through the cities and villages” of Perea and was “teaching,” while He was “journeying toward Jerusalem” for the last time (Luke 13:22). There were many things He needed to share with the people in these closing weeks of His life.
One message that resonated with “one” of His hearers was when Jesus spoke of “few” who would be “saved” (13:23). Perhaps this follower heard Jesus say, “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:14). Perhaps He heard Jesus say, “For many are called, but few chosen” (Matt. 20:16). The response of Jesus is striking when the man asked, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” Jesus did not say, “No! What are you talking about?” In fact, Jesus emphasized the point even more.
The words of Jesus in Luke 13:24 are sobering! He answered the querist intensely, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Jesus emphasized that the way to salvation is “narrow” (i.e., difficult to navigate), and that one must “strive” (Greek word is agonizomai) or “agonize” in every way to enter that narrow door. So, the first part of Jesus’ response to the man is affirmative: “Few will be saved!”
The second part of Jesus’ response in this verse is just as affirmative. Jesus plays off of the word “few” who will be saved and focuses on the “many” who will not. Consider carefully what Jesus says: “Many (not a few!), I say to you (not someone else!) will seek to enter (a true desire and endeavor) and will not be able.” How sad! How tragic! How sobering! Many will seek to enter into heaven but will not. Why not?
Some seekers will not enter heaven because they have been deceived by human doctrines and are following manmade religion (Mark 7:6-13). Some seekers will not enter heaven because they do not have a love for the truth and have instead believed a lie (2 Thess. 2:10-12). Some seekers will not enter heaven because they think that their own goodness or the goodness of their family will secure their entrance (John 8:31-59). Some seekers will not enter heaven because they are led astray by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches (Matt. 13:22). Some seekers will not enter heaven because they are gradually hardened by the deceitfulness of sin in their lives and don’t even realize it (Heb. 3:7-18).
This is no joking matter! This is no “the preacher is too strict” matter! This is an eternal matter that caught a man’s attention to ask, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” Jesus said, “Many will seek to enter and will not be able!”