"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" (Luke 13:22-30)
Today’s Gospel reading appears to be rather sobering, to say the very least. Ominous may be a better word. Hardly a ‘feel good’ message to be sure. It does not make us feel warm and cozy. But then again God is not just warm and cozy. Our God is a God of truth as well as a God of love. And in today’s reading, His son speaks ever so clearly about His Kingdom.
We must understand Jesus’ words in light of where He is going. The last several weeks the Gospel writer, St. Luke, has written that Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. Today we read that Jesus was teaching and journeying toward the city that kills the prophets – Jesus is moving toward the cross. To be mocked, spat upon, whipped, and scourged. Violently lacerated, beaten, and nailed on a cross to die.
Jesus walks steadily toward Jerusalem – the way prepared for him. Someone in the crowd yells out to him “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” To which Jesus replies, “Struggle 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…depart from me, all you workers of evil! In the place there will be a weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Dear Christians, this is a hard saying from our Lord. As tempting as it may seem, we cannot soften and dilute the words of our Lord. We cannot tame him down, domesticate him, and soften him up. He is God. Our Lord is not speaking in metaphors here. He is warning us of the final judgment to come. The judgment against all sin and unbelief.
God is not to be mocked. He will not be tricked. Those who refuse to repent of their unbelief and reject His salvation will be locked out. The door will slam shut. And there will be a weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Those who hate God and reject the love of His Son will be granted their wish. They will receive that which they asked for. If we they wish to die with their sin, they may keep their sins. Eternal separation from God. A place of total hopelessness, despair, and eternal torment. And there are no second chances in hell. The final judgment is just that – final. And the final judgment is irreversible.
Jesus warns us in today’s Gospel that there will be many who say, “Lord, open to us…We ate and drank in your presence and you taught in our streets.” But warns that they are shut out of his kingdom. That is to say, it is not enough to hear his teaching. It is not enough to be familiar with Jesus – this does not bring us into His Kingdom. Then what is enough? What shall we do?
Jesus says, “Strive, or struggle to enter in through the narrow door.” That is to say, repent and be baptized. The narrow path Jesus, the Son of God is walking is toward his place of crucifixion. Jesus is the narrow way. Jesus is the only way there ever has been.
The narrow way, the striving and struggling through the narrow door is the life of repentance and faith. In short, the narrow door is baptism. For only in baptism may we truly understand repentance and faith.
Holy Scripture plainly says “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.”
What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should be daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
St. Paul writes in Romans chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
You see the narrow door that you are striving to enter is not your work. And this is good news. For ultimately we are not really apt to the task. It is only the work of God that He ushers us into holy baptism and grants us the faith to believe.
Faith is not a personal decision. It is more than a conviction or a personal discipline. It is the work of God that you believe. For Talia and Tatiana their Lord has given them the faith to believe.
You see we can never really advance beyond our baptism. We can never progress beyond it as if there were something much greater and more wonderful. At the very best we can return to it. For in baptism we have all the promises of God. We have his forgiveness. We are united in the death and resurrection of Christ.
What should we do then? What about that slamming door? What about the final judgment? What is the answer for us all?
Your baptism in the name of Jesus is the answer you need. Your baptism for the forgiveness of sins. In the waters of holy baptism, you have a promise that will never expire.
For Tatiana and Talia Jesus has joined himself to them. He loves them as blessed daughters and he will never let them go. Their whole life long He will be with them. Richly feeding them His Gospel and strengthening their faith as they strive and journey through this life. The baptism they now have can never be taken from them. All the evil in this world cannot snatch away their salvation – for Christ loves them with a love so deep and powerful that all the powers of hell cannot prevail against them.
This past Thursday we had our final game night with the neighborhood children. We have been studying the Lord’s Prayer. And for our final night we learned about the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from evil.” The children confessed the explanation in the words of the catechism, “Deliver us from evil…what does this mean…We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.”
The narrow way is open to Tatiana and Talia. For they have Jesus. And for you, dear Christian, the narrow door is open for you. For to have faith means that you believe Jesus is the Lord and most importantly that He is for you in every way.
Jesus struggled and won the victory for you. He has done all things well. He journeyed to Jerusalem to suffer for you. And He comes here in miraculous ways for you. Forgiving you, blessing you, and feeding you good things. What joy he has in you. For in Him you have died to sin, and He is your life.
He sees you washed clean in Holy Baptism and dressed up in all his righteousness. He sees you drenched in the waters of holy baptism and washed clean from all your sin. He sees that you are forgiven.
And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. There you have the Kingdom of God and you have entered through the narrow door. You have entered here in the name of Jesus. And His name will sustain you through all the perils of this mortal life…that when your last hour comes, He will give you a blessed end, and will graciously take you from this valley of sorrows to Himself in heaven. In the name of Jesus. Amen.