The Narrow Door

Jesus  is making his way to Jerusalem. As he makes his way through the towns and  villages, he pauses from time to time to teach those who have come out to see  him and to listen to him. In the middle of this journey someone poses a question   His question is an interesting one,  though. “Lord,” he asks, “Are only a few people going to be saved?”

We  don’t know anything about this person, but I would be willing to wager that he  thought he would be one of the few who did make it in. He thought he had it all  worked out. What he wanted to know was whether there would be any others who  would make it beside him and Jesus? It probably never occurred to the man who  asked the question of Jesus, that he could be one of those on the outside  looking in. Nevertheless, he should have known better than to ask Jesus such a  question. For one thing, Jesus loved turning exclamation points into question  marks

Hhe  should have known better because Jesus rarely answered questions directly.  Rather, he used such occasions as an opportunity to relate a parable or to pose  a question of his own. So, when this person asked Jesus, “Lord, are only a few  people going to be saved?” Jesus turned the question back on him. He said, “Make  every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will  try to enter and will not be able to. 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.’  “Then you  will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our  streets.’  “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.  Away from me, all you evil doers!’

“There  will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth,” Jesus continues, “when you see  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you  yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south,  and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed, there are  those who are last who will be first, and first who will be  last.”

Those  are hard words, but notice what he is saying. It really is  life-changing.

He  says, first of all, that there is a narrow door. That’s  a concept to which we can all relate. We can see it in our mind’s eye. You can’t  bring a lot of baggage through a narrow door. Neither can you squeeze many  people through at a time. In fact, you can probably only make it through one at  a time. It’s an intimate kind of experience. That’s what a narrow door implies  to me.

But  Jesus takes it one step further. He says, “Make every effort to  enter through the narrow door.” The phrase “make every effort” in Greek  is agonizomai, which originally meant “engage in an athletic  contest” or “to fight, to struggle.” One commentator translates the phrase like  this, “Strain every nerve to enter.” In other words you need to strive mightily  to squeeze through the door. It is, then, extremely  narrow.

Have  you ever heard the expression, “No pain, no gain”? Of course you have. It is an  accepted truism in our society.

Want  to have an athletic body? You can’t do it by being a couch potato. It takes  work, constant work. You have to pay the price in order to win the  prize.

I  was reading recently a story about a great golfer of the mid-twentieth century,  the South African golfer Gary Player.

Player  was leaving the course one day, dog‑tired, when an overeager amateur golfer told  him, “I would give anything to be able to hit a ball as well as you can!”  Player’s usual politeness temporarily let him down as he replied, “No, sir, I  don’t think you would. You would give anything to be able to hit a golf ball  like me if it were easy. But do you know what it takes? You  have to get up before five every day, go out on the golf course, and hit little  white balls thousands of times. Eventually your hands start  bleeding. Then you just walk to the clubhouse, rinse off the blood, apply  [bandages], and you get back on the course, hitting those balls another thousand  times with sore hands. That is what you must be prepared to give. The price of  success is hard, hard work and even greater mental endurance.”

Here  is the hard truth of life: You have to squeeze through a narrow door if you want  to succeed in any great enterprise.

The  concept of the narrow door is present in every worthwhile task in life. The only  place in our society where we expect to have gain with no pain is the life of  faith! We have turned God into a doting Grandparent who is eager to bestow all  kinds of blessings on us and demand very little from us in return. “Make every  effort,” says Jesus, “to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell  you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”

Those  are strong words. Jesus tells us the door is narrow. Then, just when you think  he will give us a way out, it gets worse. He changes his analogy. Not  only is the door narrow, it’s only opened for a limited time. This is  getting a little unnerving. Listen as he continues:

“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.’  ”

Who’s  the owner of the house talking to? You’re probably thinking to yourself, I’m not  sure I like where this is headed. And we have reason for concern. Jesus wants to  make us uncomfortable. Not only is the door narrow, it’s only opened for a  limited time. If you don’t squeeze through it while it’s open, you may not get  through it at all.

He  further states that just because you are associated in some way with him doesn’t  necessarily mean you will be one of the select. This  is really getting worrisome.

The  people in his audience that day assumed that they would be in because they were  descendants of Abraham. Surprise! Being a descendant of Abraham was no longer  enough to guarantee you entry into God’s kingdom. But here’s what’s totally  unnerving: It is possible that there are even many who fancy themselves  Christians who might be in for a rude awakening as well. Listen as Christ  continues:

“Then  you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our  streets.’

“But  he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you  evildoers!’ ”

This  is scary. Could it be that not everyone who wears a cross around his or her neck  is a member of Christ’s kingdom? Could it be that not everyone who has his or  her name on a church roll is part of the family of Christ?

Most  of the people in this land call themselves Christian. If you ask them, they will  tell you that they expect to enter heaven someday. It makes no difference how  long it has been since they darkened the door of a church. It makes no  difference how loving they have been to their neighbor. It makes no difference  how many of the Ten Commandments they have shattered they expect to be in. Is it  really that easy? It’s something to think about, and Jesus likes us to think.  But wait, he isn’t finished yet. He continues with his answer to the man’s  question: “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.”

Wow.  That sounds a little harsh, a little judgmental. In fact, this text lends itself  to a bounty of legalism and pride. After all, we assume that we are on the  inside. So, we can sit around and list all the people that we don’t think  measure up to Jesus’ standards. And when we do that, we become the very people  Jesus despises. For you see, the very people that Jesus pictures who will make  it into the kingdom are at the very bottom of the list you and I would draw up.  Read the record for yourself and you will begin to think that perhaps the  homeless druggie on the street has a better chance than you and I of getting  into the kingdom. The drunkard has more hope than the college  dean.

That  is the way Jesus taught. He deliberately used images that startled his  listeners. That is why the man from long ago should never have asked him the  question, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He didn’t realize  what he was in for.

But  here is what is really interesting. Just as we begin to squirm in our seats  about the door that is at first narrow and then shut altogether, Jesus twists  his teaching in an entirely different direction. And he ends on a note of  grace. Suddenly we begin to see that the door about which he has been  speaking is big enough so that any who will can enter. He says, “People  will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at  the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be  first, and first who will be last.” In other words, Jesus says: there is a door  and it is narrow, but relax, the door is big enough for any who would to enter  even the likes of you and me.

Here’s  the point of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus doesn’t want us to take our salvation all  for granted. Neither does he want us trying to decide who will be in and who  will be out. He wanted the man who asked this question to understand that none  of us deserves to get through the door. Nevertheless, some day we will enter  into his presence and all will be well with our souls.

How  do I know that? Because Christ himself is the door. In John 10:9, the Lord says,  “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in . .  .”

We  are saved by faith in Christ. We are saved by his grace, his power, his love.  Nevertheless, the narrow door is a powerful concept in life. Most of the  worthwhile endeavors in life require struggle, they require commitment. And  there comes a time in most of the endeavors in life when the door will finally  be shut.

What  about the narrow door of the grave and our baptism?

But  as far as becoming part of Christ’s family, the door is open to any who would  make him their Lord and Master. He is the door. You are invited to step through  the door and enjoy the grand feast in the kingdom of God, for it is open to all  who will enter.

A Message from Rev  King Duncan brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street,  Mountain View, Arkansas.  For prayer  or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected].  A Pass it On Project

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