Summary: Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus: Those who Strive and those who Seek
Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus:
Those who Strive and those who Seek
Jesus has been teaching about the Jews need to respond to his message. He has now left the large crowd and continues on his way to Jerusalem (9:51). Someone asks him if just a few will be saved and as we have seen in the past few weeks, Jesus points the man to more significant issues.
1. The Question and the Assumption
Will only a few be saved? That is the question of an unknown man listening to Jesus. As usual, Jesus does not give him a direct answer. Jesus wants the man to think deeper about his question. The inquirer must be thinking, “I am among those being saved; are there many others like me or just a few others?” Jesus in turn challenges the assumption behind the question. He is not interested in having an abstract theological discussion unrelated to life. So Jesus moves from abstract question to personal command. Note that verse 24 begins with Jesus turning to “them.” He turns and speaks not only to the questioner but to all those following him. In fact, Jesus’ command in verse 24 can be translated, “all of you strive to enter.” Jesus clearly thinks this teaching is something that all his followers must hear, including us today.
2. The Answer: There are those who strive and those who seek
There are those who strive to enter and those who seek. Let’s look at the first group. That word, strive, means to exert great effort and is used in contexts of fighting, and contending for a prize. If you are to follow Jesus, you must be serious, diligent, and even labor hard. Is this contrary to the gospel of grace, God wooing and drawing people to himself? No. Pursuing Christ and his kingdom requires a seriousness and diligence, not floating or coasting along.
Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
He is calling people to respond to his message, the gospel of the kingdom. That requires listening with spiritual ears. Spiritual listening is a discipline that requires effort and work. It does not matter if it is Sunday mornings, reading the word, listening to the radio, or just listening to God throughout your day. Spiritual listening requires attentiveness of our hearts. The Jewish leaders blame Jesus for their rejecting him as their Messiah but Jesus says their rejection points to the condition of their hearts. That goes for each one of us. Our desire to listen and respond to the message – whether here or the radio or as you open up your bible at home – points to the condition of our hearts.
A narrow door and a closing door
Strive to enter the narrow door, a reference to Jesus. John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The door is narrow because Jesus is the only way to the Father. It is also narrow in the sense that it is open only for a short time. Verse 25 tells us that there is a time when the door will be shut. “When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.'” Those who seek to enter then will not be able to because Jesus does not know them (note NIV translation). Jesus, the master of the house, will soon get up and close the door. There is a day of grace and mercy, Jesus inviting sinners to repent, and then there is a day of justice.
Physical Israel and spiritual Israel
Jesus is speaking in the vein of an OT prophet and telling them that now he is their Savior but one day he will be their Judge (John 3:16-17). Jesus is telling them not to presume upon the mercy of God because when the door is shut there will be no more opportunity to repent.
Hebrews 12:17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
But they were Jews, God’s chosen people. They were children of Abraham by right of birth and ethnicity. But as I have shared in the past, it is the spiritual children of Abraham that are true Jews not physical children of Abraham.