In Luke 13:23 Jesus was questioned by a rabbi concerning who and how many would populate the Kingdom of God. Jesus replied to the question with the parable of the straight gate (Luke 13:24-30). It is not that Jesus tries to avoid answering the question put to him, but, rather the rabbi’s question simply isn’t a valid one. The rabbi assumes the question of entering the Kingdom of God can be addressed as an either /or proposition. It is similar to the question: “Do you still beat your wife?” How does one answer that question, if one never beat or abused his wife? If he says “No!” his answer implies that he at one time beat his wife. If he says “Yes!” he agrees outright that he beat his wife. A person who has never beat or abused his wife cannot answer the question according to its content, because the question isn’t valid. It begins with a presumption that isn’t true.
In Luke 13:24 Jesus tells us that one must strive (G75) to enter the Kingdom of God. The word is used in unbiblical literature of men competing in a contest to achieve a prize. It is a verb and is related to the noun agony (G74) in which Jesus went through in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44). Understanding how this word is used in the New Testament helps us to see what Jesus is telling us about how one enters the Kingdom of God. Entering the Kingdom involves an intense struggle in which the believer is temperate in all things (1Corinthians 9:25) and struggles according to the power of the Spirit within him (Colossians 1:29) and this is often done through agonizing prayer (Colossians 4:12). Paul refers to this struggle as the good fight of faith (1Timothy 6:12; 2Timothy 4:7).
In offering the Kingdom of God to the Jews of his day, Jesus told them it (i.e. the Kingdom of God) could be received only by trusting in him. In other words, Jesus is the straight or narrow gate (Luke 13:24). Jesus equates the gate (G4439 – Luke 13:24) with the door (G2374) the master of the house closes in Luke 13:25. In John 10:7, 9 we are told that Jesus is the door (G2374) of the sheep, and by him men enter and are saved.
Some might conclude that when Jesus says many will desire to enter and not be able (Luke 13:24), he is saying only a few will be saved (cf. Luke 13:23). However, the term many (G4183), used in Luke 13:24, is a relative term. It cannot be forced to mean that only a few will be saved (cf. Luke 13:23), because in Luke 13:29 Jesus says “they shall come from the east and from the west… and sit down in the Kingdom of God.” In Matthew’s version the term many (G4183) is used, “Many shall come from the east and the west and shall sit down… in the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).
Therefore, what Jesus tells us in Luke 13:24-30 is not a direct answer to the question in Luke 13:23. Rather, Jesus expresses the truth about the Kingdom of God, which was totally misunderstood by the rabbi in Luke 13:23, who, no doubt, believed that merely being a Jew constituted the right to being in the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, Jesus claimed that those who simply desire to enter the Kingdom of God, but don’t strive (G75) to enter at the narrow gate (Luke 13:24), will be unable to enter in and be saved (cf. John 10:9).