“A Narrow but Open Door” Sermon / Luke 13:22-30 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday August 25th 2019 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday August 25th 2019: Season of Pentecost / Luke 13:22-30 "A Narrow but Open Door"
[Jesus] went on His way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to Him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 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.’ 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 where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 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. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. One of the basic features of a door is that it opens and it closes.
Notice in our Gospel reading this morning that the person does not ask Jesus, ‘Lord, will I be saved?’ no they ask, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” It is interesting that the question asked of Jesus doesn’t tell you if the one asking thinks they are already saved and it doesn’t tell you if they think they are unworthy of being saved. The important thing, in the end, is whether Jesus knows you, whether Jesus knows where you are from. There is no discrimination on the part of Jesus based on where a person is from they may be from east and west, and from north and south, they simply need to have passed through the narrow door, passage through the narrow door is the criterion and as Jesus puts it there is but one door. Elsewhere in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus puts it like this, when He says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” I guess if the one asking the question in our Gospel reading today let on whether they thought they were saved or not then we would be distracted by why they thought that; but instead St. Luke provides us no such distraction neither does St. Matthew in his Gospel, and as a result you are left to wonder about yourself: Am I part of the few or the many? Is the narrow door open or closed to me? Am I one who believes in a wide and easy gate into eternal life or am I one who believes in a narrow and hard gate that leads into eternal life? Is entry through that narrow door hard, does one need to strive to enter it as Jesus says? What exactly does Jesus mean by all of this?
The best way to read Scripture, especially when it becomes difficult, is to let the clear passages illuminate the difficult ones. So let us look at another spot where Jesus speaks of the narrow gate, the narrow door that leads to eternal life, in the Gospel of John Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I Am the door of the sheep … I Am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”
Our readying today starts by saying that Jesus, “went on His way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem,” He knew what awaited Him there. Jerusalem would be the place of His cross and passion, His death and burial, He would be lead through the narrow streets from court to court, falsely tried and beaten, bloodied and bruised, He would struggle to carry His cross and He would receive the mercy of a stranger to help Him carry it the final leg of the way to Golgotha outside the city walls. Jesus knew that it was the place of His final striving, where He would have to put one foot in front of the other there until they would be nailed with His hands to the wood of the cross. He knew that those beams of wood and Him nailed there dead for the sins and trespasses of the World, nailed there for your sins and trespasses, would become the very door that He was speaking of: The narrow door. But why would that door be narrow? A multitude will pass through it into eternal life? To understand this we need to move even closer to Jesus’ cross and passion to the night in which He was betrayed when after the institution of the Supper Jesus said to His disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” [That’s when] Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” [And] Jesus said to him, “I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”
So the door is narrow because in all the billions of people who have ever lived there is only one person in whom you can find eternal life, just in Jesus, there are no other ways into heaven. You cannot enter by being good, by being loved, by dying a tragic death that cut life short. You cannot enter eternal life through a computer or algorithm or some clever manipulation of biology. Allah will not let you in, neither will the Buddha or Confucius or Shiva for they are either not real beyond the thoughts of man or they like the Buddha or Confucius where only men with no eternal power or divinity, Jesus and Jesus alone is the first and the last, and the living one, He alone died, and behold lives forevermore, and He alone has the keys of Death and Hades. Yes all roads do not lead to Mount Fuji and the broad and wide path that most people imagine leads to eternal life, the kind of path that has little to nothing to do with Jesus rather leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many because it is easy to enter there. Hell may as well have a thousand big wide doors and gates but Eternal life with God has but one narrow door and that door is Jesus the Christ.
This then brings us back around to the question: Am I part of the few or the many? Is the narrow door open or closed to me? Am I one who falsely believes in a wide and easy gate into eternal life or am I one who truly believes in a narrow and hard gate that leads into eternal life? Is entry through that narrow door hard, doe’s one need to strive to enter it?
The Good News is that Jesus opens the door. At the cross He opened it to you and all people. You are numbered among the few because you also have the gift of faith and you believe in Jesus, you are baptised into Him and in this way He knows you and you know Him. Strive always to cherish this precious gift and do not discard it. Entry through that narrow door is hard, hard for Jesus painful and brutal for Jesus, Jesus suffered it all, shedding His blood against your sin to make the Way, to be the Way for you; this truth brings you life, eternal life. And as difficult and challenging as your life is, or has been or will become Jesus has won for you this eternal life in Him and He is the one who says to you, “Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Learn from Him, for He is gentle and you will find rest for your souls. Labour in His kingdom is easy, and His burden is not heavy for you, it was heavy for Him as He carried the weight of all sin at the cross.
Everyone who attempts to enter eternal life based on their own works are in fact thieves and workers of evil because they try to steal for themselves what belongs to Jesus, they try to take by their efforts what Christ Jesus has already won for them, what He already gives by grace freely to them. Imagine going to jail for stealing free samples, something that is being given away out of generosity yet you try to earn it, steal it or take it in a way that only appears right to the World. Imagine going to jail for tiring to steal something that is free. There’s an open truck full of boxes. You don’t know what’s in the boxes. You have a little truck you go and take as many of the boxes as you can fit in your truck, and you drive away … slowly keeping the speed limit as not to draw attention to yourself … only to find out they were free samples and you are caught and you have stolen and you are sent away to jail for theft; it was already free, do not try to take from Jesus what He is already giving away to you for free.
One of the basic features of a door is that it opens and it closes. Today the door is open, Jesus has opened it to you, for you, Jesus is the door. On The Last Day all those who believe and are baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Those who stand condemned in their unrepentant sins may know who Jesus is but that doesn’t mean that they trust Him or that He knows them in the way He knows you in your baptism into Him. Because We do not know the day or the hour in which the door will be shut we need now to act with all urgency to show others The Way through The Door lest they be left knocking on The Last Day calling out ‘Lord, open to us.’ You also do not know when your time will come and in that way the Christian who knows that Jesus is the door and that they enter into eternal life by grace through faith not by their own doing; that it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast, to such people death has lost its sting, for they now trust that Jesus will see them through the door, because they are already His.
The Last Day and the narrow door are no mystery to the Christian who knows the grace of God, and they with the Hymnist can sing, “Lord, let at last Thine angels come, To Abram's bosom bear me home, That I may die unfearing; And in its narrow chamber keep My body safe in peaceful sleep Until Thy reappearing. And then from death awaken me, That these mine eyes with joy may see, O Son of God, Thy glorious face, My Savior and my fount of grace. Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend, And I will praise Thee without end.” Dear ones the door may be narrow but today it is open, share this good news. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Matthew 7:13–14
 John 10:7, 9
 John 14:1–7
 Revelation 1:17–18
 Hebrews 12:4
 Matthew 11:28–29
 John 10:1
 Mark 16:16
 Ephesians 2:8–9
 "Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart" Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, # 708.