Summary: when God closes the door on the last day which side will you be left standing on?
The story is told of a little Jimmy who came home from school and asked his parents the following question: “Where did I come from?” Mum looks at Dad, Dad looks at Mum – the ‘birds and the bees’ moment has suddenly arrived. Mum smiles and as she leaves the room she says ‘This is a moment for dad and son bonding, don’t you think?’ So dad takes a deep breath, sets little Jimmy on a chair and begins to explain the facts of life. Little Jimmy’s eyes get wider and wider and his mouth falls further and further open. When dad has finished little Jimmy says “Dad, Mikey says he is from Larne. Where did I come from?” Sometimes you have to know what is behind being asked in order to understand the question in the first place. The same is true this morning for the question asked in verse 23 of Luke 13. Turn with me to Luke 13.22-30, the lesson John read for us this morning.
Verses 22-23. Luke has set this question in the context of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. In is this middle section of Luke’s gospel, Luke has Jesus answering a series of questions posed by differing people and groups of people. On this occasion the question is posed by one of his travelling companions. Luke does not tell us if it is a disciple or just one of his many followers who are travelling with him to Jerusalem. Turn to verse 23 and listen to the question asked: “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” It seems an innocent enough question to ask and yet it is a profoundly deep question. It is a question tied up in national identity, religious identity and it is of eternal significance – not only to the one who asked the question and to the others walking with Christ on the road to Jerusalem but also for us this morning.
At the time of Christ there was a debate going on amongst many of the religious factions of the day about who would and who would not be in heaven. All Jews believed that the nation of Israel would be saved, with a few exceptions for real sinners – but they disagreed vehemently whether or not Gentiles would be saved. The question is addressing this issue – numerically how many will be saved?
Verses 24-25 – I want you to note that Jesus does not directly answer the question. The questioner had asked ‘how many will be saved?’ but in his answer Jesus addresses ‘how to be saved.’ The questioner had asked a vague question about and unknown number but Jesus addresses his answer to him personally – look at verse 24 “I tell you…” Jesus turns a vague theological question into a personal challenge. He tells his questioner, and those listening in, that “every effort” is to be made “to enter through the narrow door.” The verb which Jesus uses for “make every effort” is the verb from which we get ‘to agonise.” In older translations it is translated as ‘ to strive.’ The idea conveyed is one of not giving up of straining every muscle and sinew to complete a task. It denotes one who overcomes whatever obstacles are placed in the way to complete the task. Originally it was used of an athlete in the games ‘striving’ to win the victors crown. Everyone could see the strain on their bodies as they raced for the finishing line. It is this analogy that Jesus uses in answering the question concerning salvation.