One of the cultural differences I am trying to get used to here is how the homes in Guadalajara use high security walls and heavy-duty locks and bolts on all of the doors and gates. There is only one house on my street that does not have a security wall and only a few others that even have visible yards, visible only through grated fences. Doors here do not have latches; they only have locks. Every time I leave my house, I have to unbolt the door with a key and then bolt it again from the other side. The bolt is four inches long so this can be annoying if I am running late, but I guess taking those kinds of safety measures is important here.
Recently, at a Bible study, we were studying the concept of the narrow gate in Luke 14. In response to the disciples’ question about if only a few people will be saved, Jesus tells them to strive to enter the narrow gate. Many will seek to enter it and not be able to. Matthew 7 says that few even find it because the path and gate leading to destruction are broad while the way to the narrow gate is hard. In the study, we were asked what could be so hard about entering through a gate or a door and what insight this could give us about why it is difficult to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Some of the reasons we discussed were that other paths or gates might be more attractive, that people are not really seeking the door, that people give up because the way is hard and there are so many other people trying to get in, etc. Luke 13: 25 gives another option I had not really considered before; the master of the house gets up and shuts the gate. This seems kind of harsh. After all, doesn’t God desire that all be saved and live with Him forever? Part of the problem for me in understanding this aspect of Jesus’ word picture is that, in my cultural understanding, I realized I had been thinking of the gate as being more like a toll booth on a road to enter a city (heaven). I know that heaven is free, so maybe not a toll booth, but I still picture the gates of a city being opened to anyone who wants to travel that way. However, when we read further and find out about the master and the feast he has prepared, the gate is actually the entrance into the master’s home. In Mexico, when someone hosts a party, they have to keep going out to the gate to let each new arrival in (and sometimes out). It takes up a lot more time this way, especially because guests sometimes arrive so late, but it is the only way to keep the house secure. Another benefit is that this way the host gets to personally greet each guest.
Further on in the passage, people knock on the door, asking to be let into the feast. The master has already shut the door and replies that he does not know them. Of course he will not open the door to strangers! He is the master of his house and responsible for its care and the care of the guests who have come. They quickly answer that they do know him, they have been with him eating and drinking and they had heard his teaching. He replies firmly that he does not know them and sends them away. Many people are seeking after heaven and may even realize that Jesus is the way to enter heaven, but they do not know the Master. It is not about having what is necessary to pay a toll. It is not good enough to have heard Jesus’ teaching and know that He is the gate by which we enter heaven. We must be known by the Master and have a relationship with Him. We do not need to have the right key because we are not the ones opening the door, but we must know the Master of the house to be His guest.