Once upon a time, a woman named Bertha found the entrance to the Strait and Narrow Way. It appeared to be much less crowded than the Broad Way she had been traveling, and she thought she'd like to try it. But the Narrow Way also looked rather steep, and her knees had been giving her some trouble lately. So she settled there at the crossroads, and enjoyed watching the people go by as she waited to become stronger.
As Bertha returned home one day, she noticed that a large sinkhole had appeared between the two roads. Alarmed, she stepped carefully around it, and safely reached her house. Later, though, she glanced out the front window, and saw a young woman fall into the pit. Bertha hurried outside.
“Help!” called the young woman. “Can you help me?”
Bertha peered down. “How did you fall in?”
“I didn't see the hole. Can you pull me out?”
Bertha reached in, but the pit was too deep. She could not reach the young woman's hand.
“Do you have a ladder, or a rope?” the young woman asked.
“No, I have nothing like that. I'm sorry, but I cannot help you.” Bertha left the disappointed young woman in the pit, and returned to her comfortable home.
Over the next few days, more people fell into the pit. A couple of teenaged boys dared each other to jump in, but could not jump back out. A girl was pushed in by a false friend who ran off, giggling. A scholarly-looking older man convinced his pupil that the only way to understand and solve the problem of the pit was to explore it fully, and they climbed in. Some rushed along the road without paying attention, and fell in. Others looked down, curiously, until the side seemed to give way, and they fell, too.
At first, Bertha worried about the fallen travelers. She advised them to climb the sides or boost each other out, but the pit was too deep, the sides too slick. Eventually she decided they must deserve to be down there, if they weren't going to pay attention or stay away from obvious danger. She began to smirk when she saw someone fall. Occasionally, she'd toss a casserole down to the victims. There really wasn't anything else she could do, was there?
One morning, Bertha heard the fallen ones calling for help, and looked outside. A new traveler approached the pit. He looked like one of those hippy types, with long hair and a beard. He leaned down and smiled at the people in the pit. Then he climbed right in. “That figures,” Bertha thought, but she went outside to see what else he would do.
The people in the pit were clamoring around the newcomer.
“We've been here so long. We've tried everything, but we can't get out. Can you help us? Please?”
“Yes,” he said. “I can.”
Bertha thought that was unlikely. He looked no taller or stronger than any of the others. But most of the people in the pit seemed to believe the stranger.
“I will lift you out,” he said, “but you'll need to do something for me.” He spoke to each victim quietly. The old scholar scoffed, but his pupil agreed wholeheartedly to whatever the stranger had asked. So did most of the others.
The young woman who had fallen first sat staring at the wall. She had given up asking for help some time before. The man took her hands. “Even you,” he said. “I can even save you.” Tears streamed from her eyes as he helped her stand. Then he crouched down next to her, offered his hands for her to step on, and lifted her out of the pit.
Bertha was amazed. Had the stranger stretched that far? Or had the hole shrunk? Both looked the same as before, but there was the young woman, backing away from the edge, smiling up into the sunlight. And soon others joined her. When the man had lifted out all who were willing, he climbed out, too.
Bertha thought they were a sorry-looking lot, all smudged and stained from their time in that muddy hole. But they all smiled, and called the man their Savior, and he smiled and put his arms around them.
Then he said, “Come,” and led the group to the entrance to the Strait and Narrow Way. As each went through the gate, the dirt on their clothes disappeared.
“Wait,” Bertha called as the gate began to close. “May I come, too?”
The bearded man turned and extended a hand toward her. “Come, follow me.”
Bertha tried to walk that way, but her feet would not move.
The man walked back toward her. “Would you like me to help you out of the pit?”
“I'm not in any hole,” she replied indignantly. “I knew better than to fall in there.”
“But did you warn your neighbors of its danger? Did you minister to those who had fallen?”
Bertha suddenly knew that her casseroles hadn't counted for very much. “Well, no.”
“Then you, too, have fallen into a trap.” Bertha saw that she was, indeed, surrounded by the tall, slick walls. “I will return, should you desire my help.” The man walked away.
When another woman fell into the hole, Bertha rushed to comfort her. When a young man peered cautiously over the edge, Bertha begged him to set up a sign, or a fence, to warn other travelers of the danger. She found her knees strengthened as she spent more time on them. And she waited patiently for the return of the only one who could rescue her from the pit.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5