Luke 13:22 Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. 29 Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
This passage starts with a simple question. “Lord, will only a few be saved?” Jesus then describes a “narrow door”, suggesting admission is limited. So I suppose he could simply have said, “yes”. But of course this is not the way the gospels present Jesus. He takes the opportunity to elaborate.
V.25 speaks of the owner of the house closing the narrow door unexpectedly, which supports Jesus’ teaching that the Son of Man will come “at an unexpected hour” (Mt 24:44). Some people who were standing at the narrow door will be left out when it is closed while other entered immediately. “Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some who are first who will be last”.
The “first” indicated here are the sons and daughters of Abraham (Jews) who see Jesus’ teaching and ministry, are intrigued, but are not ready to call him the Son of God. A prophet perhaps, but not the promised Messiah. On the other had there are others, desperate people, lowly people, poor people, sick people, even non-Jews who immediately recognize him as Son of God and are received into the Kingdom of God ahead of the non-believing Jews. Simply being a Jew is not enough. In this way, the first (Jews) end up last (left outside of God’s Kingdom) while the last (lowly people, sinners, non-Jews) are received into it. It’s a great reversal of fortunes.
In truth, the lowly and sick and sinful recognize Jesus because they are desperate. They have nowhere else to turn. They have no hope apart from Jesus. I am not sick or lowly or poor, but I am desperate. I am a sinner who is unable to free myself from the bondage of sin. It’s not that I don’t try, but I fall short every time. I can hold up for a while, but eventually my thoughts or actions or both betray me. I want to reflect the goodness of God, but I cannot. At least not consistently. And so I am left humbling myself again at the foot of the cross of Jesus. Aware of the darkness that lives in me and completely without hope apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
That’s where I find myself in this moment. I am prayerfully confessing my sin and brokenness to God, calling once again on the name of Jesus to take my sin from me and exchange it for his righteousness. And once again I am forgiven, for what seems like the millionth time, and set free to be the man God created me to be.
Won’t you do the same? You can, you know. Close your eyes and prayerfully visualize your sins/mistakes/shortcomings in your mind. Then picture yourself laying your sins at the feet of Jesus. Confess your inability to free yourself and your need of his mercy and grace. And it will be given to you. Your guilt, your shame, the burdens of your brokenness will be taken from you. And you are, once again, made right with the Lord. Every. Single. Time.
Thanks be to God. Amen.