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.”
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.”