Many Paths or One: The Narrow Door / Luke 13:22–30 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday August 21st 2022 / Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday August 21st 2022: Season of Pentecost / Luke 13:22–30 "Many Paths or One: The Narrow 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. When thinking about our Gospel Reading today some quotes come to mind. The poet Ogden Nash wrote, “A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of,” that’s humorous, kind of funny, but maybe on its own it’s not too profound. Here’s one with a little more weight: The founder of the martial art of aikido said, “There are many paths leading to the top of Mount Fuji, but there is only one summit — love.” Here’s another one, “all roads lead to Rome,” which is to mean different paths can take someone to the same goal. Or, ‘there's more than one way to skin a cat,’ which is to mean you aren’t expected to do a thing just like everyone else does it … yet in our Gospel Reading today Jesus says, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” The narrow door is not ‘a narrow door” among many, The Narrow Door is singular, meaning there is but one and you must enter through it. Also Jesus says many seeking to pass through it will not be able … so perhaps when it comes to The Narrow Door there isn’t more than one way to skin a cat.
So then a person might begin to ask: Do many roads lead to That Door; are their many paths that lead to it’s summit; are their many ways to get through it? The World says yes, the World which is full of bad advice says, ‘you do you,’ ‘have it your way,’ ‘damn the regrets, I regret nothing,’ ‘I did it my way!,’ ‘variety is the spice of life!’ or as Oprah Winfrey says, ‘there are many paths to what you call god’ and yet in the Gospel of Saint Matthew Jesus 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.” The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson gives this bad advice, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” The preacher says that’s me by the way, “when it comes to salvation make sure you aren’t blazing a trail to hell along the broad way for fools to follow after you: do not forge a new path that leads to your shared damnation.”
So hang on, let’s get all this straight, we have paths and roads and ways and gates and door and dogs and cats and Mount Fuji? Let’s forget about the cats and maybe Mount Fuji for a few minutes and boil this down a little further. You’re familiar with the passage from John chapter 14, “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.” [Now Jesus is saying this to His disciples the night before His crucifixion and that night they are still all unsure of what Jesus means by these words so] Thomas [says to Jesus], “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus [answers Thomas saying], “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Ok so Jesus says He is The Way. How many Jesus’ are there? One: There is but one Jesus which means there is but one way to God the Father and that is through Jesus Himself. So if your path is not Jesus, if you are not following Him, if you are leaving your own trail behind you, or you are follow a trail hacked out along the broad way that leads to destruction by someone who is not Jesus than you are in trouble because you are lost. And you are doubly lost if you think you are more clever than Jesus.
Quickly then a question, ‘do all the World religions lead to God?’ Yes and no, let me explain: The writer of Hebrews warns us that, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” which is to mean that all men will meet God face to face but all men will not be saved, all men and women and children can follow whatever path they like in life, they can believe in whatever religion they like, they can even blaze their own trail but in the end they will die and face judgment and the one who judges is God, and then we ask, ‘how will they be judged?’ The writer of the book of Hebrews continues to say, “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time [That is on The Last Day], not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him,” interesting. The Christian who eagerly await Jesus’ second coming will be saved, the one who faithfully awaited the fulfilment of the promised messiah in days of old before Jesus’ birth will be saved, all others will not. Well that seems awfully narrow. Jesus says, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Now Jesus continues in our Gospel to paint a rather bleak picture, “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.
Let’s think about the nature and meaning of The Narrow Door. I think we are more familiar with the idea of thinking of Jesus as The Good Shepherd: We think of Psalm 23 and we think of our life seeing How God shepherds us through the troubles of life, providing for our needs even in the valley of the shadow of death. Less familiar is the idea of Jesus as The Door. Some atheists even mock and joke at Christians concerning Holy Communion and Jesus’ words about Him being present in the bread and the wine saying, ‘is Jesus also a door then?’ I’m here to say to you today: “Yes, yes Jesus is, and He is not simply a door He is The Door, in fact He is The Narrow Door,” but don’t take my word for it look at what Jesus says in the Gospel of John chapter 10, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all His own, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what He was saying to them.
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I Am The Door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I Am the Door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Ah, so here we are: Jesus is The Way to the Father and Jesus is The Door, The Narrow Gate, The Narrow Door that we must both follow and pass through in order to have eternal life. All other ways, all other paths, all other doors are false and lead to weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Do you remember how the Gospel Reading started today, it started like this, “[Jesus] went on His way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem.” Jesus, being your substitute, was sent to fulfil the Law, to live a perfect life, to follow the straight and narrow path without fault to fulfill all righteousness, to combat and defeat all temptations to sin: Jesus is The Way, He is The Narrow Door because He Himself followed the narrow way laid out by His heavenly Father and as Saint Paul explains, “And being found in human form, [Jesus] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” So our Gospel reading today starts with Jesus on the path, on the road, on the way to Jerusalem which is to mean on the path to His crucifixion to His death nailed there at the wooden beams of that cross of Good Friday; And there Jesus is beaten, mocked, humiliated with a thousand opportunities along the way and more to leave the straight and narrow path, but He does not, He would not. There was but one road that leads to The Father and Jesus took that path without fault, where we stumble and fall in our sin He did not and by the shedding of His innocent blood on our behalf He and His Cross and passion and crucifixion unto death have become the salvation for our sins, and in Him we have our forgiveness. Jesus then is definitively The Narrow Door by which one must be saved. No Jesus, no salvation. If someone presumes entry into the Kingdome of God saying ‘Lord, open to us’ by some means apart from Jesus, if someone presumes a path of their own making will bring them salvation, or enlightenment, or eternal life or immortality they will be disappointed, if someone presumes simple outward association with Jesus without faith in Him saying, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets,’ they will be disappointed because at the hour of judgment they will hear, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from Me, all you workers of evil!’
These are sobering words: these are sobering words for a World that values independence over and against discipleship; where people glibly say they are ‘spiritual but not religious’ meaning they prefer to not be involved in a confession of faith with other believers, where they think conformity to Christ and His Bride the Church is a poison to ‘free thinking,’ where self discipline in body and spirit and soul is so lacking that evil runs amok at every turn: Sobering words. And so we sang at the beginning of our time together today, "Wake, awake, for night is flying," The watchmen on the heights are crying. How disappointed those who thought they knew the way apart from Christ Jesus will be on That Day. When those who presumed entry through The Narrow Gate, through The Narrow Door realize that they failed to recognize the Jesus Himself was The Door, that He was in fact The Gate. How it will burn those who thought they were wise apart for Jesus when they see people come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God but not them.
Dear ones keep your eyes focused on Christ Jesus, be faithful trusting always in the faithfulness of Christ Jesus where yours falls short. I’ll leave you with this closing thought: Forever ago and a day there was a popular name for dogs, that name was Fido, which comes from the Latin meaning “to trust or confide in” in short it means, “I am faithful.” Mediaeval Grave Markers carved in stone would put a dog at the feet of the deceased to tell the world that they were faithful to their Lord and Master Jesus. So thinking back to that quote from the poet Ogden Nash wrote, “A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of,” dear ones, as baptised Christians with your faith in Jesus, you are not perpetually on the wrong side of The Door. As ones who in baptism have been buried with Christ in His death at the cross of His Good Friday crucifixion and raised to new life in Him, “seek the things that are above, [As Saint Paul says,] where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [Dear ones,] set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [And] when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” The Door may be narrow but it is open and you are tucked away in that Narrow Door, you are on the right side of The Door because you belong to Jesus and He is The Door. 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.
 Quotes for The Fast Lane, McGill-Queen’s University Press 2013, page 149.
 Morihei Ueshiba (1883 – 1969), The Art of Peace, Shambhala Publications Inc 1992, page 42.
 Matthew 7:13–14
 Quotes for The Fast Lane, page 398.
 Hebrews 9:27
 Hebrews 9:28
 Think for a second about Christ at the cross, it’s not the summit of Mount Fuji but the summit of Mount Golgotha and there is nailed Love to the wooden beams and on the top of that Mountain are two men crucified there with Jesus both know who Jesus is only one of the two has faith in Christ Jesus, the other rails against Him, Luke 23:39-43
 John 10:1–10
 Philippians 2:8–11
 Hebrews 12:3–4, “Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Unlike Christ Jesus who resisted sin the point of His innocent blood being shed for us, to the point of death, to death itself.
 Romans 6:3-11; Colossians 2:12
 Colossians 3:1–4
Photo Credits: Main Photo of detail of Mount Fugi from pexels; detail of dog at door from pxhere; detail of Mount Fugi from unsplash; detail of Aeriel Photo of Overpass from pxhere; composit of photo through open door from unsplash; composit of photo through open door from unsplash with statue of Jesus from unsplash; detail of statue of Jesus from unsplash; detail of Photo of Christ Crucified from Pastor Ted Giese; detail of sculpture of Christ Jesus in death from pexels; detail of faithful dog sculpture at foot of grave marker from wikimedia commons.