15th Sunday of Pentecost August 21, 2016
24, 413, 605, 48
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
AN OPENING PRAYER: Lord God, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who believe in Jesus as their Savior. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as You have promised, your Word may achieve the purpose for which You send it; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen
He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. (23) And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, (24) “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. (25) 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.’ (26) Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ (27) But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ (28) In that place 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 but you yourselves cast out. (29) And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. (30) And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (ESV)
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,
“Lord, will those who are saved be few?” What a curious question Jesus is asked! But it also sounds like an interesting question—one we are anxious to hear the answer to. Maybe it’s a question that you’ve wondered about or asked at one time. “Are a lot of people going to go to heaven? What about those native tribes in South America who haven’t heard about Jesus? What about babies who die before they are born?” A curious question, indeed! Well, Jesus probably doesn’t give the answer that this inquirer was looking for, but He does give the perfect answer. Notice that this person’s question was about OTHER people’s salvation—“will THOSE who are saved be few.” Rather than answering about THOSE other people, the Master Teacher would instead have this man, the crowd, and each one of us consider our own personal salvation. So let us hear the Words of Jesus and apply them to our lives as we hear about the “Narrow Door to Heaven.” We will see how Jesus is the only way, that just being familiar with Him is not enough, as we do, we will want to strive to enter through that narrow door. May God the Holy Spirit help us fight the good fight of faith!
Everyone wants to go to heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone say that they don’t want to go to heaven when they die. Certainly, there are many who doubters out there that say there is no heaven or hell, but if there is, they most definitely want to be in heaven. But how does one get there? When some speak of getting into heaven, they speak of the entrance to heaven as being wide open to just about anyone. We are told that as long as you have faith in SOMETHING and TRY to live a good life, you’ll be in heaven when you die. Even among some churches that bear the name of Christ, we are told that the various religions of the world are but “different paths to the same God,” and that Jesus was just one of those avenues.
But what does Jesus say? As we hear Jesus talking about salvation, the door to heaven, and feasting in the kingdom of God with the saints and prophets of old, what does He say about the entrance? Take a look at verse 24. Jesus says,“Strive to enter through the NARROW DOOR. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” The door to heaven is not some wide path of many faiths, or a giant gateway of good intentions. No, Jesus refers to it as a NARROW DOOR of salvation.
The door to kingdom of God is narrow, because entrance is found only through faith in Jesus Christ. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” Jesus says (John 14:6). Jesus says He is the only way to the Father and eternal life. That is a pretty narrow door to heaven. In fact, Jesus says that He Himself IS the door. “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). Jesus is the door to salvation and the way to eternal life.
The door to heaven is so narrow, because only Jesus has cleared the way for sinful man. No man, be he ever so good intentioned, can undo sin. Isaiah writes,“Your iniquities have separated you from your God” (Isaiah 59:2). Whether it was the sin of dishonoring your parents by talking back to them, or the sin of telling false rumors about someone else, or the sin of using God’s name in vain, or what we view as much more heinous sins of murder or rape, all sin—ANY sin—separated us from God. We could not get to heaven on our own, because we had fallen short of God’s glory.
Since we could not reach heaven, Jesus reached down from heaven to us. He came to take our iniquities, our rebellion, our lovelessness, our selfishness, our lust—He took ALL of our sins on Himself and suffered the consequences for all of our sin. On the cross of Calvary Jesus “was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Because Jesus took our sin on Himself and removed it forever, we have peace with God. By Jesus’ wounds, our relationship with the most holy God is healed.
Jesus is the only answer to the problem of our sin which separated us from God. None of the other religions of the world have an answer for our sins. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Only the blood of God’s one and only Son, was valuable enough to God to purchase our salvation. Jesus is the narrow door to heaven. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved!
“Will those who are saved be many?” In answering this curious question, Jesus gives an answer that is not popular in our “politically correct” society. “For many, I tell you will seek to enter and will not be able.” Many are trying to get to heaven, but they are trying to do it their way, not Jesus’ way. The worst part is that many of them know ABOUT Jesus, but don’t believe IN Him as their Savior from sin. We read in verse 26, “We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.” There were many who with their own ears, had heard Jesus teach. Some had even dined with Jesus. Though they were familiar WITH Jesus, they didn’t necessarily believe IN Jesus as their Savior from sin. Many thought they had already passed through the door to heaven, simply because they were born as the physical descendants of Abraham. To those who many have know about Him but refused to believe in Him, Jesus will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.”
Simply being familiar with the name Jesus, or the facts of His life (that He was born of Mary and that He died on the cross) is not saving faith. That may be simple head knowledge of what someone was told or read. One cannot say, “We heard about you in Sunday School or Confirmation Class, or the church I grew up in taught about you,” and think they have passed through the narrow door of heaven. For, the writer to the Hebrews tells us, that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb 11:6)
Faith is different than just being familiar with the facts about Jesus. It is a living trust in a living Savior, given to us by a gracious God. By faith we believe that what Jesus did, He did for me, personally. Because I was unrighteous, He lived a holy life to be my righteousness. He died a wretched death because my sins deserved it. He rose from the dead to assure me that my sins are forgiven and all is now right between me and God. Such faith may be weak at times, but that God-given faith looks to Jesus alone for salvation. It is much more than being familiar with the facts about Jesus, it is a living trust in Him as my Savior.
But we aren’t there yet, are we. We are not yet enjoying that heavenly feast with the Lamb. Now we are living in times of temptation. Now we struggle against the deception of the world and the laziness of our sinful flesh. Now there are voices and individuals who are trying to lead us away from the narrow door that is Jesus, and join them on the broad road to destruction.
Because of that Jesus exhorts each one of us, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” The word for striving is the word used by the Greeks in athletic competitions. It can mean to “contend for a prize.” Think of the Olympic athlete. His goal and focus is one thing—winning the prize. Every waking moment and every decision made, is based on how it will affect his ability to win the prize. May it be so with us as we strive to enter through the narrow door of Jesus into heaven! Listen to the Apostle Paul’s focus, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14). That great missionary of Christ, the great writer of New Testament epistles, was striving to enter through the narrow door of heaven through faith in Jesus Christ.
So how does one “strive to enter through the narrow door?” Well, what you are doing right now is so very important. When you hear and learn God’s Word, the Holy Spirit is at work through the message. Through the Word the Holy Spirit strengthens our new man of faith as we hear about God’s promises and will for us His children. As we regularly receive the body and blood of our Savior in Lord’s Supper, our faith is nourished and strengthened by our Savior. Striving to enter through the narrow door, we examine our lives and our choices in light of God’s Word to see if they are in agreement with God’s will for us. If it is not, then we repent, confessing our sins, and looking to Jesus for forgiveness. Even so,“let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
In few weeks, many of our congregations will be beginning their Fall Bible Classes and Sunday School. This is yet another opportunity to strive forward in the faith by hearing and learning God’s Word. Make use of these opportunity God gives you to hear and learn His Word. Jesus your Savior promises you, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Do not take your faith and your trust in Jesus for granted, dear brothers and sister in Christ. Instead, constantly strive to enter through the narrow door!
So, back to the question that began this discussion: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” Jesus does say in our text that many will come from the east and west, and from the north and the south at the heavenly feast. But rather than focusing on “them,” Jesus would instead have you focus on your own salvation. Jesus is the narrow door, the only door to heaven. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God has brought you to faith in Jesus as your Savior from sin and only hope for eternal life. Therefore, heed the voice of your Savior Jesus and strive to enter heaven through faith in Him alone! Thanks be to Jesus who Himself is our door to eternal life. Hallelujah! Amen!
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.