Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 13:22-30 – The Narrow Way

Grace For The Journey

We are continuing our series through the book of Luke called, “Certainty in Uncertain Times.”  Today we are looking together in God’s Word at a very important passage of Scripture.  In this passage, Jesus deals with a question that many of us may have asked at some time.  This section is clearly centered around salvation, more specifically, entrance into the kingdom of God.  We see this first of all by the people asking, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”  We see this also in the metaphor of a banquet or party at the Master’s house.  Throughout the Bible, the banquet dinner is a frequent symbol of the kingdom of God.

The people have heard Jesus speak of the Kingdom of God.  They are wondering how many will be there.  How many will be saved?  Of course, when we speak of “the Kingdom of God,” we are referring to those who are a part of God’s family, those who will share in eternity with Jesus, those who are saved. 

This question asked of Jesus is a likely one for His followers to ask.  Many thought that Jesus’ kingdom was to be an earthly kingdom, with Jesus conquering the enemies of the Jewish people and reigning on the earth.  Up to this point, Jesus had not made any sweeping movements toward establishing His earthly kingdom.  The people may have wondered, “What’s going on here?”  This question may also have come to the forefront of their minds because of the many other references Jesus made on this subject.  Jesus often spoke of the difficulty of following Him throughout the New Testament.  The people were hearing things from His teachings that they normally did not hear from their rabbis.  These teachings may have prompted His listeners to ask this question.

Indeed, the question is one that many of us ponder today.  How many people will really be in Heaven?  Jesus speaks of three different doors in reference to salvation.  We will examine those this morning . . .

 I. The Narrow Door. (Luke 13:22-24)

Verses 22 to 24 tells us, “And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.  Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.’”  The first kind of door that Jesus speaks of is the narrow door, or narrow gate.  The idea here is that most people will not try to go through this door because it is more difficult. 

The gate that Jesus speaks of here is one in which many want what is on the other side, but few are willing to make the commitment to enter the gate.  Although this is indeed the gate that is harder to go through, it is also the one that leads to the kingdom of God.  This gate is the difficult gate, but it offers the greatest reward.

Jesus does not answer the question of how many will be saved, but He does tell everyone to strive to enter through the gate that leads to salvation.  Jesus’ answer is not the answer found in contemporary American culture.  When asked today, “What must someone do to enter heaven?”  You would get a variety of answers:

  • Some would say, “You must be a good person?”
  • Some would say, “Believe whatever you believe with all of your heart?”
  • Some would say, “All religions lead to heaven.”
  • Some would say, “There is no heaven.”

Jesus tells the individual to strive to enter through this gate.  We should not think of “strive” here as working for entrance into the kingdom, but more so of a commitment to enter the gate that leads into the kingdom.

This is for instance not what we speak of when we make a commitment to train for a marathon.  You must work hours upon hours for weeks and months.  This is not the kind of commitment needed to join the United States Marine Corp.  You must undergo strict discipline and grueling work.  This is not that kind of commitment. 

This commitment does not require you

To work to get into the kingdom, but

To give your very self and life to Jesus. 

You commit everything you are to Him,

Because He has already accomplished

The required work to get in.

This is a lesson for us not to focus on hypotheticals, or to try to figure out the mind of God, but to focus on what God has revealed to us.  He has revealed the means of salvation, He has revealed the method of salvation, He has revealed the rewards of salvation, and He has revealed the judgement to those that reject salvation.

 Jesus did not candy-coat His message throughout the Gospels.  He made it very clear what it took to enter the kingdom of God . . .

TOTAL COMMITMENT TO HIM.

Jesus constantly warned His followers about the cost of following Him.  It seems at  times that He is trying to talk them out of following Him.

  • We must be willing to give up everything. 
  • We must be willing to turn away from our families if necessary. 
  • We must be willing to lose all material possessions. 
  • We must be willing to even lay down our lives if necessary.

Some of you may say, “Bro. Terry it is really not that hard for me to follow Jesus.  My life has not really changed that much since I have been a Christian.  My life looks about the same as my friends or coworkers.  I have not really given up much to follow Him.”

My encouragement to you is to make sure you know Who you are following. Has your “want to’ been changed?  Is your desire to live for Him or live for yourself.  Have you ever walked through the narrow door?

This leads us to the next door that Jesus discusses . . .

II. The Closed Door.

Verses 25-28 says, “When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’  But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.”  Jesus next speaks of a different type of door.  This door is closed.  It is closed to those who are “workers of iniquity.”  The workers of iniquity are those who have rejected the gospel, the salvation that God provided to His people, and the entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  One thing we must remember is that we were all once workers of iniquity.  It is not until we enter through the door that we are friends of God.

It is very clear that the Master who is spoken of here is Jesus Himself.  We see this because the Master was in the presence of the people when they ate and drank, and most obvious is the statement that He taught in their streets.  Jesus makes it very clear that once this door is shut, it will not be opened.  There is a sure indication here that many people who expect to enter through the gate will not be able to.  This is a reference to people to whom Jesus is speaking, the Jewish people.

Jesus is the difference maker

Into whether or not you can

Gain access to the kingdom. 

You are not admitted based

On your status, your goodness,

Your nationality, or even

Your devotion to God. 

It does not matter if

You know the Master,

What matters is if

The Master knows you.

God’s grace is abundant and deep.  However, His period of grace will eventually end.  Remember the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:6-9.  The parable illustrates the Jewish people continually rejecting the Gospel, but Jesus asks for more time with them.  Make no mistake though, the tree will be cut down if it does not bear fruit.  At some point, God’s period of grace will end, and His period of judgement will begin.

When Jesus speaks of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob He is speaking of the patriarchs of the Jewish people, or the representatives of God’s favored people, Israel.  The people that Jesus is speaking of will long to be with these Jewish fathers, but they will be unable.  As a result, the punishment and agony they suffer will lead to weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The time of Jesus’ offer of forgiveness will eventually come to an end.  Remember the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21.  The man tried to store up material possessions for himself, but was not concerned with the things of God.  Little did he know that very night, he would face death.  So it is with all of us.  Just as it was with the rich fool, just as it will be with the Jewish people, so it will be with all of us.  One day the door will be closed, and it can never again be opened.

Jesus was speaking to the people directly.  They must go through the door before it is closed.

Finally, we see the last door . . .

 III. The Open Door.

Verses 29 and 30 tell us, “They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.  And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”  In these final two verses Jesus explains not only that the door is open, but that it is open to all.  The reference to east, west, north, and south is a reference to the Gentiles.  Of course, when I say “Gentile” I mean everyone that is not Jewish.  God’s grace not only extends to the Jewish people, but to all corners of the globe.

This is obviously how we received God’s grace.  Most of us, if not all of us are Gentiles.  This is why we are so passionate about reaching the world, because God is passionate about reaching all stretches of the earth.

Jesus also speaks of the last being first and the first being last.  This is a reference to the free offer of the Gospel to all, no matter the notoriety, societal stature, financial means, or family heritage.  Jesus is pointing out that many people who think they will be the first into the kingdom, will indeed not be there at all.  Likewise, many who others would never expect to be in the kingdom will certainly be among those who are with Jesus.

Both of these statements would not have been received well by the Jewish people.  The last time Jesus spoke of the Gentiles receiving salvation while the Jewish people did not repent was in Luke 4.  That passage ends with the people trying to throw Jesus off of a cliff.  It was understood by the Jewish people that all of them would automatically be ushered into the kingdom of God, simply because they were God’s chosen people.  To hear now that non-Jewish people would be admitted, in addition to lowlifes like slaves, tax collectors, and prostitutes, was simply too much for them to handle.

This gate is not reserved only for special people.  It is open to all who are willing to go through it.  Jesus wanted to shake the self-confidence of His listeners.  He wanted to let them know that . . .

It was not their birthright to get into the kingdom. 

Rather, it required entrance through the narrow gate,

Repentance of sin and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord.

Let me conclude with some practical application of the truths we learned today . . .

1. Enter Through The Open Door, Before It Closes.

All of us will eventually face the moment when the door closes for us to enter into the kingdom.  When it does, we will hope that we already inside the door.

Many of you have probably heard of the death of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple.  Steve Jobs lost his life to a battle with a rare form of pancreatic cancer.  Jobs is responsible for the all of the black, white, or silver devices you see all over America with a little Apple logo on them.  He is responsible for the iPod, the iMac, the iPhone, the iPad, the Mac, the Macbook, the Macbook Pro, the Macbook Air, Apple TV, iTunes, and many other technological breakthroughs.  At his death he was estimated to have left behind a worth of over $8 billion.  I typed this study on a device created by Steve Jobs.  He was a very popular, innovative, wealthy, and extraordinarily gifted man.  However, the gate is now shut for Steve Jobs.  Wherever he stood with God before he died, is where he stands now.

2. Bring Others To The Open Door, Before It Closes.

 It does not take someone who takes the Bible seriously much time to figure out that Jesus’ method of reaching others with the Gospel is His followers.  We are the ones He intends to use to reach our neighbors and to reach the world.  We must have a sense of urgency in bringing people to the door, while it is still open.  Many people are dying everyday with no escape from the punishment of their sin, and we hold the solution.  TAKE THEM TO THE DOOR!  TAKE THEM TO JESUS!

2. Let Your Assurance Rest Only In Whether Or Not You Know Jesus And He  Knows You.

Friends, if your assurance rests in anything other than Jesus, you are utterly mistaken.  

  • It is not about being from a good family. 
  • It is not about being faithful Baptist. 
  • It is not about being baptized, giving money to the church, or teaching Sunday School.

Many will be sadly mistaken on that day.  They will say to Jesus, “I grew up in Sunday School.  I was married in a church.  I never did anything illegal.”  Jesus will say, “Depart from Me.  I do not know you.”  The only way you can get into the Kingdom of God is if Jesus says, “I know him.  I know her.”

He knows us when we admit to ourselves and God that we are sinners and that we cannot save ourselves, we turn from self and sin and turn to God in repentance, accept what Jesus did upon the cross and the empty tomb, and asked Him to be your Lord and Savior.  When we do that it put us on the right road and allows us to know life now and forever!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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