Fascinating text. Jesus is teaching, as always. He is the MASTER teacher, without peer. He’s still making his way to Jerusalem, where 9.51 says he had set his face toward Jerusalem with resolute determination.
But he gets stopped, as usual, and asked a very interesting question: “Are only a few people going to be saved?” Bet you didn’t know this question was in the Bible, did ya? Are only Jews going to be saved? Are only the elect of God going to be saved? Are only theologically conservative reformed going to be saved? Are only those from one religion going to be save? Are only some within one religion going to be saved? This really counts, doesn’t it?
You’re on the edge of your seat waiting for an answer from the Master. He says, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Jesus’ answer is no surprise (and quite consistent with Mt. 7.13-14), but it’s shocking to our American culture of 2014: “Yes. Only a few people are going to be saved. The door is narrow, and few will find it. But know this: anyone who wants to may come. Many will try to come by other religions, or by their own good works, but they will not be admitted.”
But he doesn’t leave it there: “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.’ ” Not only is there a limited number, but a limited time. There are no second chances, no do-overs, and no reincarnation. But why not? Why not let them in once they have seen the truth? If he loves everyone and doesn’t want anyone to perish, you’d think any and every opportunity to let them in would be gladly granted, and it will. But here, after the fact, one can see that their motive is not love or even faith. They are acting out of self-interest and for self-preservation only, and self is the enemy of God. It would be like the groom at the altar, when the preacher says, “Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife,” answers: “I couldn’t find anybody else, so I guess so.” You know, that isn’t it, and he’s going to find himself standing alone at the altar.
“Then you will say, ‘But…but…’ ” “Hey, we DRANK with you, and you taught in our streets. Hey, you OWE US!!!!” This is an indicator, by their own admission and testimony, that they had a fair chance to respond in the proper way by the proper evidence by the proper motives. They were there. They saw. They heard. Yet they didn’t respond.
So Jesus will reject those who had first rejected him. “He will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers.’ ” Ouch. One thing can be said of Jesus: he doesn’t let anyone pull one over on him, and he doesn’t pull any punches. Always fair, this guy.
V. 28: Extreme images of grief and suffering (fire not included this time). The people who reject Christ will be excluded from life with Christ. You don’t need fire to convey the image of the agony of life-depriving separation.
V. 29: “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” The widespread and universal nature of those included is a marker that there is no one without excuse. The invitation was wide and open to each one. Privilege and position have no place. All that matters is finding the narrow way and staying on it.