Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ 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, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”
People in the crowd were trying to weigh up what Jesus had said: suffering a grim fate did not mean the victims were the most evil; not giving up their sin meant ‘death’; they might be given a second chance; hypocrisy was a strong and unacceptable human characteristic; small beginnings could lead to great things. Then the focus moved onto this ‘narrow door’. Turning from our sins might be the entry-ticket, and Jesus recommended His listeners to get in if they could.
Typically human, one person asked if only a few people could get in to the venue. ‘What were the odds?’ as it were. ‘Did status come into the reckoning?’ Well, the venue was not for a single elite from a single place; many people from all directions would get into the feast of the Kingdom of God.
We find that the kind of weighing up we see going on here is not likely to be effective. Even ingratiating yourself with ‘the powers that be’ is the last thing that will work; for the Kingdom’s values are topsy-turvy compared with those of the world. Working out a behaviour strategy then assuming we’re nearer to getting an entry-ticket is self-defeating. Important people leaning to high self-esteem will be among those excluded.
Ulterior motives will be spotted from light years away.
We need to try to serve our God in humility, without stress on self-worth.
we read that when Jesus gave us these teachings
He was on His way to Jerusalem,
and knew what was facing Him there:
death on the cross.
I, too, will face the challenge of death,
but knowing neither the time nor the hour.
Save me from serving You out of fear of that time;
I ask that lowliness of heart,
self-honesty and true repentance will grow in me, Lord,
and that You will grant me the grace to try to live always as a
true and loving follower of Jesus, Your son.
Margaret Edwards is an Elder in Wilbraham St Ninian’s, Chorlton, South Manchester
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