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The Narrow Gate

Updated: Oct 10, 2019

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

Jesus tells the parable in today's Gospel reading while he is making his way to Jerusalem, the most holy city for the Jewish people. In Jerusalem was the Temple, where people came from all over (east and west, north and south) to worship God. Along the way people would walk with Jesus, listening to what he had to say as they travelled, learning about God, and coming to know God.

The Narrow Door

He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.

Many people will try to enter through the narrow door but will not be able? Why?? They don't fit? Too fat? Come on.

In some translations, this reads instead, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough." This isn't much better. It makes it seem like there is a fitness test to enter the Kingdom of God. Personally, I don't like the sound of that. I've never been thin or particularly strong. My guess is, though, Jesus means something other than a test for gym class.

The Eye of a Needle

The city of Jerusalem in ancient times was protected by a large stone wall. To enter the city, people had to pass through gates built into the wall. One of the gates, I've been told, was called the "Eye of a Needle" because it was so narrow that someone riding a camel could not pass through it, but would have to go round to another gate. Entering this gate on foot, after travelling all the way from Galilee, would not have been a problem. After the long journey on foot, everyone would be strong, everyone would be fit, and all could pass through the narrow gate into Jerusalem.

Model of the City of Jerusalem in Jesus' Time: the Narrow Gate

What can this mean for us today?

‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from.’

The Master does not say he doesn't know these people, but he says he doesn't know where they have come from. They have just showed up. They say that they ate and drank with Jesus, and know that Jesus "taught in their streets,"--back in their home towns. But have they been walking with Jesus all the way along? It seems that they have just suddenly showed up at the door, wanting to get in, and they are not fit.

Somehow, the journey itself is important. Walking everyday with Jesus, like the people walking with him from the villages in Galilee to the hill country of Judea, is important. It trains us. It makes us strong. It makes us fit.

How do we travel with Jesus?

Obviously we cannot see Jesus. We do not literally walk beside him. Can this mean we must carry a Bible with us everywhere we go (since Jesus is the Word of God


Actually, we might be getting closer to what this means.

"you taught in our streets."

Does it say these people listened to what he taught? I wonder if they know what he taught? We can find out what Jesus taught by reading the Bible. We can find out how to live by reading the Bible. In this way, we travel with Jesus. He helps us know how to build the Kingdom of God.

What is one thing Jesus taught that you know?

(If your parent or guardian allows you, share what you know below.)

One idea: you could copy out a teaching of Jesus and put it in your pocket for a week. Then you would remember it every time you felt it there, and you would literally be travelling with Jesus, the Word of God!

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