The narrow door (Lk 13:23-13:24)

“Jesus said to them.

‘Strive to enter

Through the narrow door!

I tell you!

Many will try

To enter

And will not be able.’”

 

ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς

Ἀγωνίζεσθε εἰσελθεῖν διὰ τῆς στενῆς θύρας, ὅτι πολλοί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ζητήσουσιν εἰσελθεῖν καὶ οὐκ ἰσχύσουσιν.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said to them (ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς) that they were to strive (Ἀγωνίζεσθε) to enter (εἰσελθεῖν) through the narrow door (διὰ τῆς στενῆς θύρας).  With a solemn pronouncement (λέγω ὑμῖν), Jesus said that many people (ὅτι πολλοί) would try to enter (ζητήσουσιν εἰσελθεῖν), but not be able to do so (καὶ οὐκ ἰσχύσουσιν).  This saying of Jesus is somewhat similar to Matthew, chapter 7:13-14, where it was part of the Sermon on the Mount, not a response to a question.  Matthew had Jesus go into great detail about the narrow gate and not a door.  Jesus wanted them to enter the narrow gate (ἰσέλθατε διὰ τῆς στενῆς πύλης).  Matthew in his description of the wide or spacious gate (ὅτι πλατεῖα ἡ πύλη καὶ εὐρύχωρος) used two words for wide and spacious, “πλατεῖα” and “εὐρύχωρος,” that never appear elsewhere in the New Testament.  The easy way of the wide gate led to destruction (ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ἀπώλειαν).  Many people were entering through this wide destructive easy gate (καὶ πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι δι’ αὐτῆς).  On the other hand, the narrow gate (ὅτι στενὴ ἡ πύλη) had a difficult way, leading to life (καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωήν).  Only a few people were able to find their way through this difficult hard narrow life filled gate (καὶ ὀλίγοι εἰσὶν οἱ εὑρίσκοντες αὐτήν).  This idea of two ways can be found also in Deuteronomy, chapter 30:15-20, and among other religions with the way of death and the way of life.  The early Christian teachings of the Didache used this concept, as did many other dualistic religions that pointed to the choice of life or death, good or bad.  As you had basic choices in life, God was giving you this choice, life and prosperity with the narrow gate or death and adversity with the wide gate.  You had a choice between two gates.  The choice of path was yours.  Do you prefer the wide or the narrow door?

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The narrow gate (Mt 7:13-7:14)

“Enter through

The narrow gate!

The other gate is

Wide and spacious.

The way that is easy

Leads to destruction.

There are many

Who take the wide gate.

The narrow gate

Has a difficult way

That leads to life.

There are few

Who find it.”

 

ἰσέλθατε διὰ τῆς στενῆς πύλης· ὅτι πλατεῖα ἡ πύλη καὶ εὐρύχωρος ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ἀπώλειαν, καὶ πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι δι’ αὐτῆς·

ὅτι στενὴ ἡ πύλη καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωήν, καὶ ὀλίγοι εἰσὶν οἱ εὑρίσκοντες αὐτήν.

 

This saying of Jesus is somewhat similar to Luke, chapter 13:23-24.  You had a choice between two gates.  Jesus, via Matthew, wanted you to enter the narrow gate (ἰσέλθατε διὰ τῆς στενῆς πύλης).  Matthew in his description of the wide or spacious gate (ὅτι πλατεῖα ἡ πύλη καὶ εὐρύχωρος) used two words for wide and spacious, “πλατεῖα” and “εὐρύχωρος,” that never appear elsewhere in the New Testament.  The easy way of the wide gate led to destruction (ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ἀπώλειαν).   Many people were entering through this wide destructive easy gate (καὶ πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι δι’ αὐτῆς).  On the other hand, the narrow gate (ὅτι στενὴ ἡ πύλη) had a difficult way, leading to life (καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωήν).  Only a few people were able to find their way through this difficult hard narrow life filled gate (καὶ ὀλίγοι εἰσὶν οἱ εὑρίσκοντες αὐτήν).  This idea of two ways can be found also in Deuteronomy, chapter 30:15-20, and among other religions with the way of death and the way of life.  The early Christian teachings of the Didache used this concept, as did many other dualistic religions that pointed to the choice of life or death, good or bad.  As you had basic choices in life, God was giving you the choice, life and prosperity with the narrow gate or death and adversity through the wide gate.  You could choose your path.

Yahweh will answer you (Isa 30:19-30:22)

“Yes!

O people in Zion!

Inhabitants of Jerusalem!

You shall weep no more!

He will surely be gracious to you

At the sound of your cry.

When he hears it,

He will answer you.

Even though Yahweh may give you

The bread of adversity

With the water of affliction,

Yet your teacher

Will not hide himself any more.

But your eyes shall see your teacher.

When you turn to the right

Or when you turn to the left,

Your ears shall hear

A word behind you,

Saying.

‘This is the way!

Walk in it!’

Then you will defile

Your silver-covered idols.

Then you will defile

Your gold-plated images.

You will scatter them

Like filthy rags.

You will say to them.

‘Away with you!’”

This seems to be an oracle from the time of the Exile about the future restoration of Jerusalem. The people of Jerusalem will weep no more, because Yahweh will be gracious to their cry and answer them. There will be adversity and affliction. However, your teacher will no longer hide himself from you as you will be able to see him. This teacher may have been a prophet. Then as you turn to the right or the left, you will hear his words from behind you telling you the correct way to walk on the straight path. That is when you will defile the silver and golden idols and images that you had. You will scatter them like filthy rages as you will throw them away. Apparently idol worship was prevalent in Jerusalem itself.

Paradoxes (Sir 20:9-20:12)

“There may be good fortune

For a man in adversity.

A windfall may result in a loss.

There is the gift

That profits you nothing.

There is the gift

That has to be paid back double.

There are losses

For the sake of glory.

There are some

Who have raised their heads

From humble circumstances.

Some buy much for little.

But they pay for it

Seven times over.”

When you are in adversity, you may find a good fortune. A windfall profit might result in a later loss for you. You may get a gift that does not help you. Sometimes you may have to give back twice as much as the gift you received. For the sake of glory, people will lose things. Some people have raised themselves from humble beginnings. There are times when you get a lot for your money, but then you might have to pay it back seven times as much.

Friendly enemies (Sir 12:8-12:12)

“A friend is not known in prosperity.

An enemy is not hidden in adversity.

One’s enemies are friendly

When one prospers.

But in adversity,

Even one’s friends disappear.

Never trust your enemy.

Like corrosion in copper,

So is his wickedness.

Even if he humbles himself,

Even if he walks bowed down,

Watch yourself!

Take care to be on your guard

Against him.

Be to him

Like one who polishes a mirror.

Make sure that

It does not become completely tarnished.

Do not put him next to you.

He may overthrow you.

He may take your place.

Do not let him sit

At your right hand.

Otherwise he may try

To take your own seat.

At last,

You will realize

The truth of my words.

You will be stung

By what I have said.”

You cannot tell who is a friend or an enemy when you have prosperity or adversity. Do not trust your wicked enemy since he is like corrosive copper. Watch out even when he humbles himself before you. Treat him like a mirror that always needs polishing. Do not put him next to you, because he will overthrow you and take your place. Listen to these words of Sirach. You will realize how true they are when you are stung by your enemies.

The wicked believe that no one will bother them (Ps 10:5-10:6)

“The ways of the wicked prosper at all times.

Your judgments are on high!

They are out of their sight!

As for their foes,

They scoff at them.

They think in their heart.

‘We shall not be moved.

Throughout all generations

We shall not meet adversity.’”

The wicked ones prosper all the time. They think that God’s judgments are on high and out of sight. They scoff at those who oppose them. They think that that no one will touch them from one generation to the next. They believe that they will not meet adversity.

The godless ones (Job 36:13-36:16)

“The godless in heart cherish anger.

They do not cry for help when he binds them.

They die in their youth.                                                          

Their life ends in shame.

He delivers the afflicted by their affliction.

He opens their ear by adversity.

You also he allured out of distress.

Into a broad place,

Where there was no constraint.

What was set on your table was full of fatness.”

The godless ones love anger. They never cry for help. However, they die in their youth as their lives end in shame. God delivers their affliction by adding more afflictions. God opens their ears to more adversity. Job too was allured into a place with no constraints. It seemed like everything was on the table with all the fat food that Job could want. Elihu seems to imply that the godless ones suffer here on earth with an early death.