The Narrow Door (Luke 13:22-30)

Did you ever go to a party or a wedding reception and be surprised by who was there, while also being struck by not seeing others you would have surely expected to be present?

As Jesus was going through the country of Israel and preaching the message of the Kingdom, presenting himself as the Messiah, it was impossible to not notice that the bulk of the population were not responding positively. Quite the opposite, especially from the ranks of the religious leadership. One would have expected a groundswell of affirmation.

This is probably what is behind the question that someone asks, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

The answer of Jesus comes with a story of a man giving a feast. When the door is open is the time for people to enter. A time would come when the door would be closed and it would be too late to be a part of the event, no matter how much pleading or arguing would ensue from those locked out.

This, of course, is a picture of the Kingdom and its constituents.

Throughout the history of Israel, the people thought that they were in good standing with God simply because they were God’s chosen people. Being born as such was enough. And throughout that history were repetitive times of failing to truly trust in God and obey his commands.

At the time of Christ, most of the people thought they were ipso facto members of the Kingdom by being members of the nation. But Jesus says that many of them will be on the outside, merely looking in at Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets. The people had no mental category for this thinking.

And beyond that, Jesus says people from the four directions of the compass will be included in the Kingdom. Read this as saying, “In the end, some of you who think you’re frontline, mainline Kingdom residents will find yourselves on the outside, with Gentiles taking your places at the feast table.”

What!!??

You may recall from back in Luke 4 when Jesus was in Nazareth, he suggested that Gentiles would receive the message of truth; and in response they took him out to a hill to throw him off a cliff. That’s how open the Jews were to any idea of those beyond the nation being a part of THEIR kingdom.

But the gospel message was to include all peoples, as would be seen in the expanse of the church… reaching all the way to our Gentile church in Hagerstown!

Yet at the same time, the door is narrow. Most folks do not believe the message or sense the urgency of faith and repentance. Assumptions of an OK status abound as a false notion of security.

Paul picks up this theme in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, quoting from Isaiah 49:8, As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

The door remains open, for now … though we know not for how long. Let us be sure we have entered in, while exhorting others to come and follow.

Luke 13:22 – Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

One thought on “The Narrow Door (Luke 13:22-30)

  1. I think it is important to see what Jesus is saying. “Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?'” From there Jesus gave the answer as pertained to the concerns of that person. While it is possible that perhaps the person had a concern about the far off people who did not “hear the gospel” Jesus gave an answer for those who were listening to him … not for those who weren’t listening.

    The context of the answer Jesus gave laid out the coming judgment on those who were able to hear and understand his message. And I never caught this before, and I’ll have to eventually look this up in other translations … maybe even check the Greek out as far as I am able. Jesus directed his commented very specifically to the hearers and maybe to the one who asked the question. He used the word “you” in a way that I never caught before.

    The ones shut out from the kingdom will say, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” Jesus replied to them, “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’” This is the first time I caught how specific Jesus was to the one who asked the question and (now that I investigated the Greek a little bit and found out that it is plural second person) it implies that the listeners to him will be saying that. “Then you will say.” But in another sense it could be argued that those having little knowledge of him … those far away … some of them will be in the Kingdom. Well this scripture doesn’t make that point too clearly. However there is another scripture that is a bit similar.

    In Luke 12 Jesus gave a parable saying to be ready for the master will come back at an hour at which you do not expect him. Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” (Lk. 12:41 NIV)

    Jesus responsed that to you who have been given much and much will be required. For those that knew little and did not get ready … they will not be held as responsible.

    So my answer doesn’t have anything to do with what you are saying Randy in as much as you are talking to the church. However if we are looking at how God will judge those who haven’t known much truth … scripture says God will judge them based on what they know. And only God knows what that is.

    We though should not take pride in being better than the world, for we have been given more knowledge. We are then according to Jesus rather in the camp of what Jesus said in the following scripture. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Lk. 12:48 NIV)

    Paul wrote, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.'”
    (1 Cor. 5:12-6:1 NIV)

    For those who God is opening their understanding, “Today is the day of salvation.”

    And as far as your exhortation to exhort others … the reasoning that Paul gave for his own zeal to do this was “Woe to me if I don’t preach the gospel.” Paul was given great ability to preach as well as a great command to do that. We need to really seek God out as to how to do this. I mean God appointed some people as evangelists, yet some of us need to realize and properly desire and pray that “Our Father who is heaven, may your name be honored.” We really need to know in what way we can honor God. There is a tendency among some Christians to belittle those outside the church … that makes for a horrible witness.

    Jesus said what makes for a good witness is if we are able to love one another. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35 NIV)
    Can we even do that? If we invite people to come to church and yet we have no concern for the body of Christ, … what is the point of that? And on a scale of 1 to 10, I might be at about 2 in that regard. That isn’t so good. I need to take the plank out of my eyes.

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