The narrow door
22As Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, he taught the people in the towns and villages.23Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
24Do all you can to go in by the narrow door! A lot of people will try to get in, but will not be able to.25Once the owner of the house gets up and locks the door, you will be left standing outside. You will knock on the door and say, “Sir, open the door for us!”
But the owner will answer, “I don't know a thing about you!”
26Then you will start saying, “We dined with you, and you taught in our streets.”
27But he will say, “I really don't know who you are! Get away from me, you evil people!”
28Then when you have been thrown outside, you will weep and grit your teeth because you will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in God's kingdom. 29People will come from all directions and sit down to feast in God's kingdom.30There the ones who are now least important will be the most important, and those who are now most important will be least important.
The question, “Will only a few be saved?” was a live issue among Jews at the time. Some of them thought that of them – the Jews – only a few would be saved in the end. In their minds it all depended on lineage. So they narrowed presence at the banquet to certain Jews and not others. The question probably means, Who among us will be saved? The idea of Gentiles being saved was far from their minds. The answer they got from Jesus was not at all what they expected.
Jesus redefines the issue. Being saved has nothing to do with lineage. It has everything to do with their (our) behaviour, here and now. His reply refers them to their own scripture, where Isaiah emphasizes that the celebration banquet is for all people, from all nations, from all the earth (Isaiah 25:6-8).
It also undercuts any sense of entitlement – for them and for us. Have you ever paused to thank God for extending to us who are Gentiles the promises originally made to Jews? On what basis do we so often think that we are entitled to eternal salvation? Because at one time we made a decision? Because we live in a Christian country? Because our family is Christian? Because we go to church?
We are saved by grace alone. God looks for a response to his grace, a life lived in union with Jesus, obedient to him and bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Otherwise our faith is dead (James 2:14-26).
Then perhaps we have heard too often that we are saved by grace alone, and forget that there is another side to this issue. In verse 24 Jesus speaks to those with a sense of entitlement, “Do all you can . . .” The NIV says “Make every effort . . .” The word Luke uses is a metaphor from training in sport. The paradox is that although grace is free, it calls us to give all we’ve got.
If you truly know Jesus, you will understand.
Lord Jesus, you are my coach. Thank you for all you have done for me. Be with me as I try to put every ounce of effort into pleasing you. Amen.