The Narrow Door

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Luke 13:22-30

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just ask Jesus to explain clearly to us who’s saved? But wait a minute! Someone did ask him that. But what answer did He give?

I’m reading from Luke, chapter 13:

He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. And some one said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ 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 iniquity!’ There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And many will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit 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, RSV

So Jesus is passing through town and somebody takes the opportunity to toss a theological question to him. “Lord, will there be many saved or only a few?” In other words, “Who’s in and who’s out? Who’s going to be saved?”

A question that is very much current today. It has a contemporary ring to it. There’s debate all across the church over this question and you find a spectrum of responses to it. On one end are the universalists who say, “Well, everybody’s going to be saved” – many of them because they don’t really believe anyone needs saving all the way to the opposite end, the opposite extreme of these little cozy groups that think it’s just them and nobody else. Their kind of people. Their worship. Their confession. Their formulation that has to be subscribed to in order to be saved. People about whom this little poem was written,

We are the chosen few.
All others will be damned.
There is no place in heaven for you.
We can’t have heaven crammed.

So what’s the answer? Where do you fit on that spectrum? Are you more toward one end or the other? Or in the middle? Wouldn’t it be great if we could know, if we could have solid, clear, substantial evidence about just who qualifies?

What do you have to believe? What do you have to say? What do you have to do? In fact, wouldn’t it be great if we could just ask Jesus to explain clearly to us who’s saved? But wait a minute! Someone did ask him that. That’s really the thrust of this question thrown to him.

And this is his response: “You,” he said in the plural to the whole crowd. “You,” he said to each individual in the crowd. “You strive to enter through the narrow door.”

In other words, it’s a response that doesn’t answer the question. Jesus has no interest in speculating theoretically about who’s going to be saved or who qualifies for the kingdom because that’s not a theoretical question to him. It never is. It’s always an existential question. It’s a personal question. It goes to the heart of each human being.

Have you ever engaged in that old Sunday school debate, you know: “What about all those people in China who never have heard of Christ?” Or “What about all those Muslims in the Middle East? Are they going to be damned forever? Could God do that?”

And Jesus’ reply to that is, “What about you? Are you going to be saved or damned?” What you need to do, he says, is take care of yourself and settle that question for you, the only person for whom it is eternally significant, and then maybe you’ll know how to help those people in China or the Middle East who have not yet heard of me.

And it’s a terribly urgent question to answer because, as Jesus says, the door is narrow. The way is particular. There are not many doors opening into the Kingdom, he says, but one, and it is a narrow one.

And then he goes on with language that is very reminiscent of other things he’s said, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount: “Strait is the gate,” to use Old King James’ English. “Strait is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life.” He’s speaking, of course, about himself. He is the narrow door. “I am the door of the sheep,” he says in John. “Whoever enters through me will find salvation.”

I noticed a bumper sticker a while ago. I tend to read bumper stickers, not because I’m so interested in people’s philosophy but because they sometimes make good sermon illustrations. It’s pragmatism. And this one said, “God is too big to fit into just one religion.” Oh, yeah, that’s a very popular thought today, but the Christian witness is: Never mind one religion God fit into just one person, and he is the door, the narrow door. Moreover, the urgency is redoubled because the door will not always be open. “Many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” There’s a theme you don’t hear very often today in American Christianity.

When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock . . . saying, “Lord, open to us.”

Luke 13:25

And he will say, “I don’t know you” because, you see, proximity to Christ is not the same thing as being in Christ. And knowing about him, having him teach in your streets or eat at your table, is not the same thing as knowing him.

And then, just when we’ve managed to let that sink in, and we’re beginning to suspect, “maybe nobody’s going to make it,” he goes on to say this astonishing thing how this narrow door opens up into an incredible universal kingdom that, even as those who would most be expected to have come into the kingdom are turning their backs on it, rejecting it, at the same moment others from the east and the west and the north and the south are streaming into the banqueting hall to feast at table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God. And that is happening right now throughout the world.

Do you know that last Sunday more Anglicans worshiped in the country of Uganda than in England and the United States combined? More Presbyterians went to Christian congregations in Ghana in West Africa than in Scotland, the birthplace of Presbyterianism. And there were more believers at worship in one congregation in Seoul, South Korea, the Yoidel Full Gospel Church, than in the whole denomination of the Reformed Church in America last Sunday.

They’re coming from east and west and north and south even as our society becomes more and more blas? and disinterested in God, or the things of God, or as we like to call it, “organized religion,” by which we mean basically Christianity.

I want to close by telling you one story about one person who has come through that narrow door from the unlikeliest place. She’s come from the East, and this is her testimony:

I praise God for the privilege I have to write this letter to fellow believers. It is hard to write to people I have never met, but because of the true light of the world, our Savior Jesus Christ, even though we are thousands of miles apart, our hearts are close.

I was born in a nonChristian family. My sister had a desire to know Jesus since she was a child, and eventually she became a Christian after hearing the gospel on the radio and then going to church. She insisted that I also listen to the radio programs and hear the gospel and become a Christian.

I could not become a Christian, however, until Jesus Christ revealed himself to me. It was night. My room was dark and I was lying in bed. Suddenly I felt as if my spirit was separated from my body. I fell on my knees and it was as if I was in the presence of a man I had never met before. He opened a book for me and said, “Some people call me Elijah and some people call me John the Baptist and some people call me a prophet. Who do you think I am?” I answered, “You are the Messiah, the Christ.”

Right away I shared my vision with my sister. She immediately showed me in her New Testament the exact words I had heard, so I realized that it was Jesus Christ who had chosen me. I accepted Jesus Christ with my whole heart. I was able to go with my sister to church a few times. Because our family put limitations on us, I was only able to go five or six times.

However, every day I secretly listened to your gospel radio programs and my faith is strengthened and I receive hope. You may not believe this but since I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I have felt his presence with me every day. When I see his majesty and power I cry. How could such a holy man and a great God care for me? I have never loved anyone as much as I have loved Jesus. I do not know anyone who could sit on the throne of my heart except for Jesus. For me Christ is life. I worship him. Thank you for bringing the message of salvation to me.

Please give my greetings to all brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray for all of you. Christ has planted us in different places like seeds of wheat. Pray that I would grow in this land and nothing would hinder me.

Your sister

Don’t let her come while you turn away. Go in peace.