Text: Luke 13:22-30
Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
We just got back from our holiday last weekend and while it is very nice to be home it was also very nice to be away for a little while. One of the nicest things about the holiday we took (a three week holiday) is that that there was no rush. In fact, we often had to remind ourselves while we were driving that there is no reason to rush. We have nowhere that we have to be. It was nice to slow things down a bit; a nice relaxed pace rather than the rushing around or regular everyday life. The world we live in doesn’t take much time for relaxing like that. Everything is urgent. In our lives we usually rush around from one thing to the next making everything into an emergency, even if those things are not nearly as urgent as we make them out to be. It was nice to have three weeks where that kind of thing didn’t matter. There was nowhere to be, nothing we had to do, and there really was no urgency.
As I sat in my office Monday morning thinking about what I would preach about this morning the idea of relaxing kept coming to mind. But then I got to today’s gospel reading where Jesus does not tell us to relax more. In fact, Jesus encourages us to be more urgent about our Christian faith. Jesus wants us to be urgent. Specifically, He wants us to be urgent about our faith, not all the other stuff. There are so many thing that we worry about, so many things that we turn into an urgent crisis that needs to be dealt with right away, but we rarely think about our faith in Jesus as something that is urgent. When is the last time that you felt a sense of urgency about going to church on a Sunday morning? We might feel urgency if there is something we need to do at church, but we rarely feel urgency about just going to church on a regular Sunday morning. When was the last time you felt a sense of urgency about reading the Bible? About praying? We rarely feel urgency about our faith, but Jesus is encouraging us to see how urgent the situation really is.
Listen to some of these words that Jesus spoke in our Gospel reading today: “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When the master of the house has risen and shut the door and YOU begin to stand outside the door and knock saying ‘Lord, open to us!’ then He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from depart from me.’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all of the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.”
These words call for urgency. There will be a time when the door is shut and it is too late to enter into the kingdom. Jesus wants us to imagine what that would be like, the miserable, disastrous results of lingering too long, of waiting too long. Left outside looking in on the great feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom which will have no end. Seeing Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the other prophets from the Old Testament there in the kingdom while we are stuck outside. There is a need for urgency in our lives as Christians.
So strive, Jesus says, to enter through the narrow door. The word Jesus uses here “strive” means to struggle or even agonize over something. It is a word that was used back then to talk about an athletic contest or something like that; like the kind of wrestling you would see in the Olympics. Struggle to enter through the narrow door with every ounce of your being. Jesus does not say that you need to struggle to open the door and get in, the door is already open. But He is saying that our lives as Christians should be a struggle with some urgency to it. Our Epistle reading today from the book of Hebrews says the same thing: “Strive for peace with everyone and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Strive, the writer to the Hebrews says, to live a Godly, Christian life. Strive to be at peace. Strive to be holy. Strive to enter through the narrow door.
Jesus is also telling us in our Gospel reading that a casual association with Him, having an “arm’s length” kind of faith that observes Jesus from a distance, is not good enough. He talks about people who are left outside when the door is shut and they all say, “But we ate and drank in your presence, you taught in our streets, we hung out around you!” And Jesus responds to them by saying, “I do not know where you come from, and depart from me.” It is not sufficient to sit on the sidelines and watch Jesus from a distance. Instead, Jesus wants us to understand the urgency of our own situation, how bad our sinful disease really is, and get right into the struggle ourselves.
Being a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, means struggling; struggling with sin. It is a struggle with ourselves, with our own sin, with the sinful world around us, and with the devil who would lead us into more and more sin. This struggle has another name, it is called repentance. Repentance is a struggle in which are confronted with our own sinfulness, the guilt and the shame, we confess our sin, we receive forgiveness freely believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus which pays for the sin of the world, and daily put our old sinful ways behind us as we rise to live as the new person God has created to be in our baptism. And as long as we live in this world the struggle will go on. The entire life of a Christian is a constant life of repentance because sin will always be there. We are always caught up in this repentance struggle. It is a constant. Being a Christian means being caught up in this struggle all the time.
All this urgency and struggling that Jesus is talking about here does not sound very encouraging or appealing. We’ve all got enough struggles in our lives already that one more perhaps seems like just too much. I bet you didn’t come here hoping that Jesus would be telling us to struggle more in our daily lives. Jesus’ words here seem kind of daunting and worrisome. Maybe even a little overwhelming. How do we even know if we are striving and struggling enough? Are we urgent enough about what we believe? How do we know if we will make it through that narrow door?
The narrow door is the key to everything that Jesus is saying here. The narrow door is Jesus. Jesus says that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. Jesus is the door to the Kingdom, He is the way to the Father, He is our life that goes beyond life in this world into eternity. Jesus is the narrow door.
The door is narrow because Jesus is the only way into the Kingdom. There is no secret entrance, no backdoors, and no cracks in the wall where you can sneak through. There is one way in and it is through Jesus. The door is certainly narrow. But, at the same time, that narrow door is wide open. It is wide open for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ, it is wide open for you and me because Jesus Himself struggle and strived and agonized to get us into His Kingdom. Our Epistle reading today says “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” You haven’t struggled with sin to the point of shedding blood, but Jesus did. He struggled and agonized over your sins and mine on the cross. He bore our sins, the sins that plague us every day of our live and ought to exclude us from this wonderful Kingdom, the same sins we struggle and agonize over, in His body on the cross and there He paid the price for all of them that we could never pay. On the cross He won the victory over our sins and over the sins of the entire world and His open, empty tomb shows us that the door to heaven is open for us and for everyone.
At the end of our text today Jesus says that “people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the Kingdom of God.” People from every corner of this earth, from every tribe, nation, language, and culture will be there rejoicing in that kingdom forever. The door is narrow, but many people will enter through it. The door is narrow, but it is wide open for you.
Jesus encourages us to struggle, to be urgent about our faith, and make living our faith through repentance a priority. He begs us to get off the sidelines and come right down into the struggle with Him because life as Christian is not a holiday. But Jesus is not saying it is all up to us. In fact, none of it is up to us. Jesus went to the cross for you. He opened the narrow door for you. He forgives us all of your sins. He created new hearts in you that struggle with the sin that is always going to remain in us. And He will come again to take us to be with Him in His Kingdom. So strive, like Jesus says, to enter into the Kingdom, but above all trust in Him, the narrow door, who takes us into the kingdom of God.