From the East to the West to the North to the South: Preparing to Feast Together
Sermon on Luke 13:22-30
Title: From the east to the west to the north to the south.
Theme: Those entering through the narrow door come from all corners of the world.
Goal: to all people to strive to enter through the narrow door.
Need: We wrestle with what it takes to join in the true feast.
- The question of all questions
- What doesn’t matter.
- What is most important.
Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
What leads you to question the existence of God? It isn’t a matter of if you have ever questioned. It’s a matter of in what ways does your mind bring you to wonder about in a negative way about God.
Why do bad events devastate people and places around the world? Would a good God allow for people to suffer? A person’s life was snatched away too soon, how does a good God fit into a world infiltrated by such suffering?
A close second to that. My child, my parents, my brother or sister. My friends haven’t surrendered their life to Jesus, how could I possibly accept a God just as he is if he can’t accept my loved ones just the way they are?
Wow! Questions like that. They rip at the deepest parts of our soul, don’t they? Before we talk some more about this, we need to realize that these doubts run deep in us, and they run deep in the hearts of the people of this world. The stream of our culture today pulls towards eternal blessings for everyone. The cultural stream moves us to feel virtue is found in being yourself instead of being like anyone else, even being like Jesus.
“Salvation” in the world today is stupid to even talk about, all death brings is a crossing over to the “other side.” No judgement of a persons faith and life. Just a different side of existence. Jesus’ teachings in this passage stab painfully at our cultural values. This passage is going to hurt. But let’s first acknowledge it is the truth from Christ. And let’s not let that distract us. Christ motivated his followers with this teaching. Should it do anything different for us today?
Read the passage here. Luke 13:22-30
The question right of the bat nails a tough point. 23Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
The person asking this question probably wanted to get into a theological discussion with Jesus. Jewish thinkers of Jesus day used this sort of question as something to speculate about, to debate about, then to come out on the other side saying, well, now I know where rabbi Melchizedek is coming from.
So Jesus could have rattled off the theological answer to the question, but do you know Jesus to be one to do that. Nope! Instead he turns it into a moment to teach and to challenge the crowd in the way they think and live.
You hear that for us in the passage as well? Jesus moves us from simply thinking theoretical questions to action, to doing something with the way we live.
The challenge to Jesus: Convince us Jesus that you know about how many are going into heaven!!
The response in verse 24 and 25.
24“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
“What kind of answer is that…. Oh wait. Did you hear what he just said?”
Christ answers in a way that ignores the theologically obscure topic this person raises. Essentially, he says, let’s not worry about the number of people in heaven. Let God in his grace and justice worry about that. Just remember to keep on striving for the narrow door. Keep on allowing the Holy Spirit to capture you, to bring you back onto the path that leads through this narrow door.
Notice the difference in the words used by Christ. Make every effort.
Now, I know, “Everybody wanna go to heaven. It beats the other place no doubt. Everybody wanna go to heaven. But nobody wanna go right now.” But isn’t that kinda what Christ is talking about right here. Sure you want a hundred more years or so to live life, but as much as we are tied to this world, Christ wants us living everyday like we are two steps from entering the gates of heaven.
Sure we feel tied to this world. I love living this life. We are allowed to love life in this world, as long as we are loving life that isn’t all about women and whiskey or following the wrong paths of the sinful world. To not live today like we are heading for the narrow door puts us in league with the people standing at the threshold of eternity knock knock knocking at heavens door. They didn’t spend their life on the path, they just figure when it is all said and done they can just get in.
Christ says, hop off that path right now. He says to everyone, Toby, Kenny, Johnny, Carrie, everyone, don’t just coast through life thinking the door will be open yet when you get there. Make every effort, or the owner of the gates of heaven might just say, sorry. Who are you again?
This isn’t the first time Christ has said something like this. Many will come saying, Lord, Lord. But he will say, I never knew you. It doesn’t sound to me like it’s the most obedient idea to wander let your life do whatever and hope God doesn’t mind. Doesn’t it sound like a better idea to put your heart and soul into following Christ today, now and always. Then when we inevitably realize that we keep on messing it up, then praise God for his glory and grace.
But isn’t it enough that we have spent our time in church. We took the Lord’s Supper. We tossed a bit in the offering plate, or even used our offering envelopes. Isn’t that it?
Those signs show our ability to do things that look good to others. But has our heart ever encountered Christ. Have we made the serious effort to act as a person who belongs body and soul to Jesus Christ?
Just listen. This ought to challenge the Christian, rebuke us when we wander away, and maybe even terrify those who refuse to trust in God.
26“Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27“But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.
Today if we took part in the Lord’s Supper we can be ones who say, Jesus we ate with you. We shared your body with all the other Christians in church that day. And we can say we drank with Christ. Jesus we took a good gulp of the juice that represented your blood shed on the cross that day in church. Don’t you remember.
And we might say, “Jesus the preacher was preaching the words of the preacher.” I listened as he told me to quit the alcohol, stay committed to my family, to serve people who need help. I listened. I even stayed awake for most of the sermons. Jesus we were there as your word was taught in my church. Sounds like our passage doesn’t it. Jesus you taught in our streets and towns.
But if the narrow door wasn’t in our sights at all, the reply will be the same. I don’t know you. You didn’t try for the narrow door. You just walked any which way. I don’t know you.
The thought of hearing those words scares me a little bit. And I think it’s okay to let that thought scare us a little bit. They are the words of Christ. They are tough words of Christ. It makes me cringe a little at the thought of that reality. Shouldn’t we all be a little upset by the thought?
But the words of Christ don’t frighten us away. Christ spoke in a way that was intended to welcome in the people who were following him. The harsh language is an invitation for all of us to find true meaning and true life in a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ says the punishment for not following him is nasty. But he also shares with us that the promise of eternity with him. 29People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
Christ never answers that first question that is asked. Hey Christ, there aren’t going to be too many people in heaven will there? Christ says, silly question. There’s a narrow gate. It takes effort and the grace of God to be on the right path to the narrow door.
But in the end, when Christ has allowed all his own to come through that narrow door, he is going to have a spread much bigger than the tiny celebration that we had today. Tiny little nugget of white bread. A mouthful of juice. NO. At the end there will be a feast laid out. We will be satisfied to the deepest parts of our soul because it will be a feast that never ends. It will be a feast of food like no other.
And we will look around, and instead of noticing who the numbers of people that are there. We will notice that by the grace of Christ. And by the spreading of the word of God around the world to our friends and neighbors and to the farthest reaches of the world, the feast on the inside of the narrow door will be the greatest mixture of people. We will be lost in the wonder of the way God has rescued people from around the world, and has renewed all parts of his creation for this celebration feast with Christ.
How many people will there be… I am not really sure I would like to live with that sort of knowledge, would you?
If Christ said 150,000 or 150 million, would it change anything?
But personally, put the effort into staying on the narrow road. Putting aside dishonest business, or the bottle, or end that inappropriate relationship. You know what you have to do for the next step in working toward the narrow door. If you are not sure about where to go next keep your nose in the Bible. Come knock on my office door. Ask a trusted Christian friend. But let’s do this together. Let’s be at the feast from all corners of the world.