Luke 13:22-30: Are YOU Saved?

Anxious PersonConvinced of being correct, with themselves as judge of right and wrong, Jewish men readied themselves for the fight.  Against whom were they fighting?  Other Jews.  Those from the School of Hillel, such as Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul, argued that every Jew would receive salvation.  Not so taught Shammai, the other leading school of the Pharisees.  For them, only some Jews would receive salvation.  Both believed they were right.

Jesus now comes near, within earshot of this endless debate among the Pharisees.  Will Jesus side with Hillel or Shammai?  What is His grasp of the truth?  So, they snagged Him into the debate: “Sir, will only a few be saved?”

Jesus doesn’t always answer a question.  Sometimes, He responds to a question with another question.  Sometimes, He starts talking about something else, which He does here.  His diversionary tactic slices into the crux of the matter.

Will only some be saved?  Jesus hooks the question, yanking it away from something abstract to something personal.  For in all their arguing about the truth, they missed the main point.  The real issue isn’t how many will receive salvation, but if you will!  Will you be saved?

Jesus’ question to them—and to you—is the same.  Will you be saved?  Will I be saved?  Will we fit through the narrow door?  Most of us assume we will: we’ll be on the inside when Jesus locks the door.  Of course, we’ll be in the God’s house with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus.  We won’t be locked out.

The outside is for unbelievers, who will weep and grind their teeth.  Those listening to Jesus 2,000 years ago also thought the same.  I’m inside God’s Kingdom.  Jesus tells them: Look again, you might be mistaken.

Jesus describes God’s Kingdom as a big house with many rooms.  The darkness of night descends, and the owner locks the door.  Everyone inside is safe and secure.  He bolts the door, but people are still standing outside, claiming they should be on the inside!  They pound on the door: “Let us in!”  Jesus yells back: “No!  I don’t fling wide the door for strangers such as you.  I don’t even know you.”

“You do!” they cry.  “We ate and drank with You.  We crossed paths when You preached in our village.”  Still, Jesus responds: “I don’t know you, but of this I am sure: you are evildoers.  I don’t let the likes of evil come through this door!”   When Jesus yells back, “I don’t know you,” He doesn’t mean he can’t identify them.  He can.  He means He is not one with them, connected to them.

Consider someone pounding on your door at midnight, who wants to come in.  That doesn’t mean you will let him in.  Would you let him in if he only caused you trouble and grief?  No!  But if you knew him, were connected to him, he could come in.  If no doubt existed that he was good, he could enter, even during the darkest shadows of the night!

Jesus asks, “Why should I let you through the door?”  How do you answer?  “You know me, Lord.  I got baptized.  The certificate is somewhere—in the family Bible, which I never bother to read.”

Does Jesus know you?  “You do, Lord.  I’m a member of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church—at least I think I am.  I realize I don’t go to worship as often as I should.  You understand I don’t always like the sermon.  I never bother to go to Bible class, even though you command pastors to teach.  I want You and Your Church on my terms, but I’m sure You know me!”

Does Jesus know you?  “You know me, Lord.  I try to live an upright life.  I’m active in the church, serve on committees, and even give a lot to the church.”  Does Jesus know you?  He misses nothing, catching what you are like—both inside and out.

No matter how many marvelous deeds you do on the outside, the fallen creature lurking within does not escape His all-seeing eye.  You’re still someone who thinks and does what you shouldn’t think and do.  “Get away from me you evildoer.”

“You must let me in, God.  I believe in you.”  Scripture tells us: “The demons also believe—and they tremble in fear” (James 2:19).  They believe, and they will never fit through the narrow door and delight in God’s eternal presence.

Going through life on autopilot doesn’t mean you are one with Jesus, connected and united to Him.  An intellectual agreement with the facts of the faith, checking the right box, doesn’t mean you are in a real communion with Jesus.

Jesus must “know” you before He’ll let you in the house.  What does that mean?  You live in Jesus, and He lives in you.  He, not you, not your feelings or thoughts, animates you and gives you life.  Faith trusts this, who Jesus is and what He does.  Faith relying on itself doesn’t save you—Jesus does.  So, even looking to your faith can become idolatry, for you are focusing on that instead of Jesus.  The door is that narrow!

Each time you sin, each time you trust in something other than Jesus—even your faith—you become more bloated.  Here’s the problem: You’re born too fat to fit through the narrow door, “dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  Even worse, each time you sin, you swell even more.  Even if you did billions of good deeds, your sins would still be stuck on you, making you too fat to go through the narrow door.

It gets even crazier.  Jesus says some on the inside—who never expected to be there—will be with Him in the house!  Earlier in their lives, maybe they murdered, abused their spouses, or delighted in sexual perversions.  They are the scum who are unworthy to go through the door.  How dare Jesus let them in!  What you forget, O Pharisee, is you are also unworthy go through the door!

All right, so how did those losers and sinners squeeze through the door?  I mean, if we’re too bloated with evil to squish through, how come they’re not too bloated?   Why?  They are sinless.  They are pure because they gave all their sins to Jesus.

Jesus knows them well!  That happens when you take and carry someone’s sins, making them righteous!  Jesus connects and bonds with those murderers and sexual perverts who trust in Him.  How so?  He took away all the sin keeping them from squeezing through the narrow door.

So also with us.  We can only fit through the door when our egos deflate and our pride is punctured.  We’ll only fit through the door when we admit we’re too sinful to fit through the door on our own.  It doesn’t matter how many good deeds you think you did; they don’t erase away the bad ones!  God’s kingdom doesn’t run on our mathematical pluses and minuses.

We can only pass through the door when we believe we need Jesus as much as serial killers, wife abusers, and homosexuals do.  We’ll only fit through the door when we hand over to Jesus all the sins, which bloat and swell us beyond our belief.

So, if Jesus asks you, “Why should I let you through this narrow door,” don’t answer with the word “I.”  If you tell Jesus, “because I,” you fail the test.  Why?  You can do nothing good enough.  You can’t even take credit for your faith—if you could, even your trust in God would become something you achieve and not a gift God gives you.

“For by grace, you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it [faith] is God’s gift” (Ephesians 2:8).  We sang as much a few minutes ago: “Not what these hands have done can save this guilty soul.”  Not “all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear [this] awful load” (LSB 567).

If Jesus asks, “Why should I let you through the narrow door?” tell Him, “You lived and died for me.”  Tell Him, “You rose from death and gave me your forgiveness.”  Don’t talk about what you did or even your faith.  Talk about the object of your faith: Jesus.  Salvation, going through the narrow door, is not about you but Jesus.

Lay down all your good works, because they aren’t good enough.  Hand over to your Savior all your sins for which He died.  Come to the door empty-handed.  When you’re doing nothing more than trusting Jesus, who went to the cross for you, you’ll fit through the narrow door!  For the Narrow Door IS Jesus—so He’ll bring you through.

So, why does Jesus teach, “Struggle to enter through the narrow door”?  For if I can’t do anything to squeeze through—if Jesus does everything—why am I to struggle?  The battle isn’t making yourself good enough; it’s the fight to admit you aren’t!  The struggle is to give up on yourself and depend on Jesus for life.

You and I are in a lifelong war against our sinful tendencies.  We’re in a constant quarrel against the temptation to think faith is agreeing to something in our mind.  We even battle against trusting in our faith.  No, faith focuses on, and trusts in, Jesus.  Faith moves and breathes within us, even leading us to the object of our faith, Jesus, who comes to us every Sunday in His forgiving Word and Supper.

Why do we need Jesus so much?  So we keep trusting Him.  For if we quit struggling against our temptations, we’ll find ourselves right back where we began.  We’ll find ourselves too fat to fit through the narrow door.  Only Jesus, who is the Narrow Door, brings us through to the other side.  Only He who can pull you through.  Amen.

 

Comments

  1. Rev. Peter Maganda says:

    Thanks be to God. I also preached from the same text in the church I pasture here in Uganda. Be blessed.