22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from. ’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets. ’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil! ’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:22–30 ESV)
I can’t read this passage without thinking about Rahab the prostitute in Joshua 2 and 6, who betrayed her people and sided with Israel and God as the conquest of Canaan began.
Rahab hid the Israelite spies, and misled the king of Jericho as to where they were, and told the spies as she hid them
“I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign 13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” (Joshua 2:9–13 ESV)
The spies tell her to shut up her house tight and and tie a scarlet cord in the window. So that all Israel will know who aided them in their conquest of Jericho.
And Rabah’s family is delivered. The entire city of Jericho, and all that was in it, was “devoted to destruction” — young, old, even the animals, put to death “with the edge of the sword.”
But not Rahab and family. She has a future. With the people of God.
… Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. (Joshua 6:25 ESV)
Jesus sounds like he speaks of a castle, or a fort, or a walled city. A firm stronghold which, when the enemy arrives, will be shut up tight, dooming all who failed to find shelter inside quickly enough. Of course, Jerusalem was just such a city, and the Romans battered it down, laying to waste the city’s walls and wrecking its gates. Even tearing down the temple, the mighty but now abandoned House of God.
It’s Jesus himself who is this keep. Who is this narrow door that will protect us from the coming war, who will shelter us when the siege begins. When all around him is wailing and gnashing of teeth, when those who paid no attention to the coming crisis are caught unawares outside the walls, it will be too late. In their place will be those who listened, from every corner of the earth, who heard the call and paid attention to what was coming.
Who sought the shelter of the Good Shepherd.
But none of this answers the question — “Will those who are saved be few?” Because Jesus doesn’t answer it. Instead, he tells his listeners, he tells us, how to be saved, and what that means in the fierce urgency of the looming now. It sounds like it could be many, what with people coming from north and south and east and west to “recline at table in the kingdom of God,” but he wants to tell those listening to not be complacent. It may be many, it may be few, but will it be you? Will you have a future?
Think twice before answering, because you need to consider what Rahab did to gain that future. She betrayed her people. They perished while she and her family survived. But she was saved, and Matthew counts her as an ancestor of David. An ancestor of Jesus.