Summary: In the Pharisees' hammering out of the truth, they missed Jesus' point. The real question wasn’t, “How many are going to be saved?” The real question was, “Are you going to be saved?”
Swollen and bloated with pride, convinced their conclusions were correct, the Jewish rabbis hunkered down to refute the other side. So who was the other side? They were other Jewish rabbis. Some of them were saying that everyone who was Jewish would be saved. Others were saying that only some would be saved. Both knew they were right.
So there is Jesus, within earshot of this debate. The rabbis wanted to understand His grasp of the truth, and so they brought Jesus into the debate. One rabbi asks, “Sir, will only a few be saved?”
Jesus answers, but He doesn’t speak in abstract theories or ideas. He makes it personal. For in all their hammering out of the truth, they miss the main point. The real question isn’t, “How many are going to be saved?” The real question is, “Are you going to be saved?” That was Jesus’ question to them, and it’s also Jesus’ question to you. Are you going to be saved? Am I going to be saved? Will we fit through the narrow door?
Most of us assume that we’ll be on the inside when Jesus closes that narrow door. He tells us about in our Gospel reading. Of course, we’ll be there with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. We don’t see ourselves locked out. No, the outside is where unbelievers will weep and will grind their teeth. Of course, most of those listening to Jesus 2,000 years ago were sure they’d also be inside God’s Kingdom. But Jesus says they could easily be mistaken.
Jesus describes God’s Kingdom as a big house with many rooms. When it gets dark, the owner locks the door of the house, so everyone inside is safe and secure. Yet after He bolts the door, people are still standing outside, thinking they should be on the inside! They beat on the door, trying to get inside.
Jesus tells them, “I won’t open the door for you. It’s not safe to open the door for strangers. I don’t even know you.”
“You know us,” they respond. “You saw us eating and drinking. You saw us going to our jobs and going to the market. You saw us every day when you preached in our village.”
Yet, Jesus says, “I don’t know you. I only know that you are evildoers. And evildoers don’t come through this door.”
When Jesus says, “I don’t know you,” He doesn’t mean that he can’t identify them. He means that He doesn’t have any real connection to them. That’s why he says, “I don’t know you.” If someone pounded on your door at 2:00 o’clock in the morning, would that automatically entitle him to enter your house? Would you let him in if you knew just enough to know that he was a troublemaker? I don’t think so.
But if you knew the person, and had a real connection to him, you’d let him in. If you were convinced he was a good person, even at two in the morning, you’d let him in.
If Jesus asks you, “Why should I let you through the door?” What would you say? “You know me, Lord. I got baptized. I have the certificate somewhere. I think it’s in that big Bible at home that I never get around to reading.”
Does Jesus know you? Does He really know you? “Yes, you know me, Lord. I’m a member of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church--at least I think I am. I know I don’t go to worship as often as I should. You know I don’t like some of what pastor teaches and preaches. I know I never bother to go to Bible class. Frankly, I just want to do the bare minimum that will get me into heaven. I’m sure You know me!”
Does Jesus know you? “You know me, Lord; you know I’ve tried to live a good life. I’ve been active in the church. I served on committees, helped with the community picnic, and even gave a bunch of money to the church.”
Does Jesus know you? He’s seen enough of you to know what you’re like, even the hidden and secret parts you. He knows that no matter how many marvelous acts you’ve done on the outside, He knows that--on the inside--you still are a fallen creature. You’re still someone who thinks and does what you shouldn’t think and do. Maybe that’s why he says in today’s Gospel: “Get away from me you evildoer.”
“But, you have to let me in, God. I believe in you.” Satan believes in God, too, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to get through the narrow door and delight in God’s eternal presence.
Without faith, simply going through the motions of churchly life doesn’t automatically mean Jesus knows you. Working in the church doesn’t mean you are in true communion with Him. Believing that there’s a God doesn’t mean that Jesus will let you pass through the narrow door.