Scripture: He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 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.’ Then you will begin to say, We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 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. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Luke 13:22-30 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, Jesus enters a synagogue and spots a woman with severe kyphosis. So he compassionately calls her over to him and pronounces she is freed from her disability (v.12) and lays his hands on her. Instantly, she stands upright and glorifies God (v.13). Then, like the story of the man with the shriveled hand, the jealous synagogue ruler admonishes Jesus for “working” on the Sabbath. This time, though, Jesus calls out the ruler and his elders for their hypocrisy and contends that the crippled woman is far more valuable to God than the donkeys that receive their attention on the Sabbath. Unsurprisingly, the religious leaders feel shame, but the people rejoice.
Today’s reading follows yesterday’s story and Luke’s account of the parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven (covered in our survey of Matthew). Luke tells us that Jesus continued his itinerate ministry as he journeyed toward Jerusalem for the last time. Along the way, an unnamed person asks Jesus whether those saved will be few (v.23). Christ candidly responds that while many seek entrance into his kingdom, few will enter. He adds through metaphor that, beyond this life, there are no further opportunities to change one’s mind and heart and seek eternal communion with the Father and Son. And he further warns that those who reject him in this life will suffer eternal anguish. But Jesus ends on a high note, depicting people from across the globe and span of generations, perceived as last in line by worldly standards, who will enter his kingdom and celebrate with him.
Takeaway: Jesus does not address the question, “How many?” Instead, he answers: “Who.” More specifically, those overlooked by societal standards who seize the moment to receive the gift of faith in Christ’s substitutionary atonement will find salvation. And that list spans all generations until the consummation at the Son of God’s return. But while it is never too late to repent and receive God’s grace in Christ, the longer we wait, the less likely we humble our hearts and welcome Christ into our lives.
There is an implied secondary point to Jesus’ definitive answer: he is the door. In John’s Gospel, in chapter 10, Jesus self-identifies as the great “I Am” for the fourth time: “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep” (10:7 ESV). He adds that those who enter by him will be saved (v.9) and will live the abundant life (v.10) because he will lay down his life as their Good Shepherd (v.11) and bring them salvation. And his sheep know him (v.14) and thus listen to his voice (v.16). In other words, those who respond to Christ’s invitation and surrender their lives to him (cooperating with the Holy Spirit to obey his commands) will grow in their knowledge of the Son of God and confidence in their secure place in his kingdom as they listen with understanding and follow him. And they can rest assured that nothing can snatch them from his and his Father’s firm grip (vv28-29). Click here to read the entire passage.
So while the Christian faith may seem exclusive, the invitation is inclusive to all who humbly turn their hearts to Christ and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, grow in their knowledge of and obedience to him founded in gratitude and love. But those who are proud and self-reliant, who think they have it all assessed, will be shocked when the Lord says, “I do not know you. Depart from me.” Indeed, the doorway is narrow and unpassable for the inflated ego but navigable for the big at heart who love Christ.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, our “Way” and “Door” to his and your eternal kingdom. And we thank you that our journey is secure, that no one nor anything can prevent us from entering. So would you please help us cooperate with your Holy Spirit in growing in our knowledge of, love for, and obedience to your Son so that we might rise above fears and doubts and live the abundant life as we journey onward and upward? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling