Luke 13:22-30 (NIV) Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once 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.’
“Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
“But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
“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. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
This person’s question was short, but very interesting: Are only a few people going to be saved? The prevailing thought in Jesus’ day was that the Messiah was going to come to save the Jewish people, and those who were willing to become Jewish through conversion, baptism, and circumcision. Thus only a small percentage of the world’s population would end up being saved.
Jesus’ answer is surprising. He did not say that only a small number would be saved. Instead, He indicated that those saved would be a different group than what the people were expecting.
Jesus was not in the least teaching that everyone would be saved, despite God’s clear desire that everyone would believe in Jesus for salvation. Instead, he taught that those who wanted to be saved would have to do it by entering through the narrow door: Jesus Himself (John 10:1-2, 7). In the end, there will be many who refuse, but who will insist that they be allowed to enter by way of their own preferred door.
For many of the Jews, this door would be through obedience to the law of Moses and conformity to the sacrificial system. Among these were the Pharisees, teachers of the law, and priests. They were familiar with this law, and were pretty good at it. But Jesus clearly let them know that that door opened onto a dead end.
Others over the last 2,000 years have wanted God to accept their devoutness in whatever religion they chose to follow. But again, Jesus tells them clearly that there is only one door into the kingdom, into salvation. Anyone who tries to muscle their way in through another door will find themselves denied entrance.
Some will even try to get in on the basis of knowing who Jesus is. But real saving faith is not a matter of knowledge about Jesus, but of relationship. If there has not been a relationship, they will be turned away at the door with an “I don’t know you or where you come from.”
The most remarkable part of this discourse is Jesus’ warning to the Jewish people that, if they refuse to enter salvation through faith in Him, they will be stuck outside of God’s kingdom, excluded from salvation, while they watch people from all over the world, Jewish and gentile, male and female, come into salvation because they are willing to set aside everything they have depended on, and enter through Jesus, the one door.
Some might be critical that God has established only one door to salvation, likely excluding many who are devout in their own non-Christian religion. But they must remember that God was not required to provide any door to salvation at all. Instead, in mercy, He established one perfect door in Jesus, God the Son, born in the flesh to be a perfect sacrifice, able to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. And then He gave all of those who have come into salvation through Jesus the responsibility to make disciples of all of those around them, and to the very ends of the earth, bringing the good news of salvation to them all.
Father, this is very simple, very easy to grasp: a single door that You provided to bring salvation to whoever believes in Jesus (John 3:16). I’m afraid that we have done a poor job, however, on the mandate to go and make disciples, spreading salvation around the world. Far too few of us, the people of the kingdom, are about that work, either just not seeing it as our job, or content to leave it to the “professionals.” Forgive us, Lord, and fill us with your fire, so that we can clearly show everyone around us the one amazing door that You have provided for salvation. Amen.