Sermon for Pentecost 11 – 8.21.22

+ 11th Sunday after Pentecost – August 21st, 2022 +

Series C: Isaiah 66:18-23; Hebrews 12:4-24; Luke 13:22-30

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 

“The Narrow Door”

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

A good teacher will tell you that the key to getting the right answer is to ask the right question.

 

Here in Luke 13, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem – remember that important detail for later – when someone asks him a question: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”

 

A lot of theological ink has been spilled on that question. No doubt, we’ve all wrestled with that question from time to time as well. How many people will be saved, a lot? A little?

 

Now, we don’t know why this person asked Jesus this question. It could’ve been a purely intellectual exercise. You know, a stump the rabbi kind of question. It could’ve been asked out of concern or despair: “Am I in? Am I one of the few?” It also could’ve been asked out of pride: “Will only a few be saved…cause you know, Lord, I think it should be me and not those tax collectors and sinners over there.”

 

“Lord, are only a few people going to saved?” How would you answer this question?

 

How does Jesus answer the question? In typical Jesus fashion, he answers the question by redirecting the conversation. Jesus shifts the focus of the question and the answer back upon his hearers, and ultimately back to himself. Jesus directs his answer not only to the guy asking the question, but to the crowds, to his disciples, and to you. Throughout this section Jesus uses the plural form of you.

 

Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 

 

Jesus’ words reveal the truth of the Scriptures – which is outrageous and scandalous to many in our age of tolerance – that Christianity is exclusive. The way into the kingdom of God is incredibly narrow; everything else is a brick wall. Every other road is a dead end. There is only one, narrow door.

 

Reminds me of a scene from C.S. Lewis’s book, The Silver Chair. One of the main characters, Jill Pole, finds herself in the magical world of Narnia. She’s terribly thirsty. And standing between her and a fresh stream of water, stands the Lion Aslan. “Aren’t you thirsty,” he asks. “I’m dying of thirst,” she replies. Yet she cannot approach the stream for fear of the Lion. “Isn’t there some other stream?” She asks. Aslan simply replies, “There is no other stream.”

 

This is the way of Christ. The door to God’s kingdom is a narrow, exclusive way. “No one comes to the Father, except through me,” Jesus said. “There is no other name given under heaven by which men are to be saved.” Jesus’ death and resurrection are the only way that leads to life. There is no other way. All other paths, no matter how pious, how religious, how rigorous, how full of works and rituals and disciplines, run head long into the brick wall of the Law and come to nothing but destruction.

 

From our point of view, here in this fallen world, in our fallen sinful flesh, it sure looks like the answer to the question, will those who are saved be few? Is yes.

 

The right question, though, isn’t “how many?”. But how do you get in? What’s the price of admission through the narrow door?

 

And the answer to that question isn’t found within ourselves. Remember, Jesus spoke these words in the presence of the religious leaders of his day. Those who were working hard to please God. Keep the Law. Follow the feasts and festivals, the tithes and traditions. Not bad things to strive after, until you place your trust in those things rather than the mercy of God towards sinners.

 

To strive to enter the narrow door is confess and believe and live in daily repentance and forgiveness of sins. To strive to enter the narrow door is not to say, “Look at all I’ve done. I’ve wrestled and struggled. I deserve this,” but rather to realize that the price of admission through the narrow door isn’t our virtue, devotion, works, goodness, feelings, or anything else, and you’re brought through the narrow door by Him who is the Door. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

 

Remember where Jesus is headed. Jerusalem. To his own striving and struggle for you on the cross. Interestingly, the Greek word for ‘strive’ here is αγωνιζω. Where we get our word ‘agony’ from. And Jesus suffered agony. Jesus bled. Jesus was crucified. All to pass through that door for you. Every Law that needed done, Jesus did. Every sacrifice that needed to be made, Jesus made. Every Word that needed to be proclaimed, Jesus proclaimed. Jesus outdid our best efforts. And by His death, He has opened up the door to the feast. Where sinners saved by grace dine with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the prophets, and a countless number of people from east and west, and from north and south.

 

Jesus’ words reveal that the kingdom of God inclusive as well as exclusive. Yes, Jesus is the only way. But will only a few be saved? No, not a few, but many. Many who had no inherent “right” to be there.

 

Not just a few, or even a lot, but “the many,” all who believe. “For He bore the sins of the many, and made intercession for transgressor.” “This is my blood of covenant poured out for the many for the forgiveness of sins.” “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

 

The narrow door of Jesus crucified and risen is also a wide door, embracing all of humanity in one perfect life, squeezing the world through one perfect death, one resurrection from the dead. Just as one man, Adam, dragged all of humanity into sin and death, so one man, Jesus, pulls all humanity into His forgiveness and life by His own cross and tomb. The question is: Will we trust it? That’s the question Jesus asks: When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?

And that brings us back to the original question this morning. Will only a few be saved? It depends on how you look at it. From our perspective, from our inability to find the narrow door and squeeze our way through it on our own, the answer is yes, only a few. Fewer than a few in fact. There’s only one who has made it through the narrow door on his own merits; and Jesus did that for you.

But when you look at it from God’s perspective, through the narrow door of Jesus’ death, the answer is no. Not a few, but many, a great multitude no one can count from every nation, tribe, people, and language. The narrow door of Jesus’ death is wide enough to include the worst of sinners, the chief of sinners, even you.

Will only a few be saved? The key to getting the question right is by looking to God’s answer in Christ crucified for you. Jesus is that narrow door that leads to life for the world and for you.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

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Milton, WA 98354
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