Many of us have favorite subjects to talk about. We gravitate to them without thinking.
When he’s not talking about going to heaven, our brother Paulo’s conversation turns toward working out at the gym (he owns one) and soccer (he used to be a professional player).
Jesus had his favorite subjects, also. His teaching might well be summed up in the phrase, “Kingdom of God.” He uses it in Luke 13.18, 20, at the beginning of our text, and again at the end of it, in vv. 28 and 29.
God’s Kingdom grows
Jesus told two parables, about a mustard seed becoming a large tree and a woman’s yeast penetrating all the dough. The point of both is growth. The nature of God’s Kingdom is to expand and include more people.
Jesus taught many parables about the Kingdom. People had all sort of wrong ideas about. The same is true today. We also need these parables to correct our thinking.
Many think that nobody wants to hear the gospel. Their perspective likely reflects more on their lack of evangelism than the lack of receptivity of people around them. There will be little or no growth without a clear, direct, constant message being proclaimed, without sitting down and opening the Word of God with people in their homes or work places. But when the seed is sowed and the gospel is shared, the Kingdom will grow.
The growing Kingdom sets the stage for a question that someone asked Jesus: “Lord, will only a few be saved?” v. 23. Jesus redirects the questioner to consider his own salvation.
Many will try to enter the Kingdom, but because the door is narrow, they will not make it. What does it mean for the Kingdom of God to have a narrow door? It represents the will of God, doing as God has commanded. It means the Son of God, through whom we must draw near to the Creator.
The narrow door means that we cannot find another or create an entrance by our own effort, with our own smarts. All roads may have led to or through Rome in the first century, but all roads do not lead to God in heaven.
Jesus had in mind especially the Jews who rejected him as Messiah. They thought they were first in line for the New Kingdom. They would be shocked to discover they would be left out and their place taken by — of all people — Gentiles.
Jesus’ statement, however, sounds loudly today for many who are comfortable in their religious tradition, just as the Jews were in theirs.
What about you?
Jesus’ statement in v. 24 sets the tone for the whole passage: “Exert every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”
He said similar things in vv. 1-5. People were speculating about the sins of others. Jesus told them to look to their own sins and to the consequences that would result if they did not repent.
It really doesn’t matter if there will be many or few saved, if one loses one’s own soul.
Salvation requires great effort on our part. Some people deny this, but Jesus affirms it. The verb he uses in the Greek language lies behind our English word “agonize.”
The effort includes discovering what God’s will is in Scripture, surrendering one’s own ideas and efforts, and giving oneself wholeheartedly to serving Jesus.
For the person outside of God’s Kingdom, that means faith, life change, and immersion in water. For the one who has been given the Kingdom, Lk 12.32, it includes sacrificial generosity and making heaven one’s treasure, v. 33.
Many are not willing to make such effort. Those who exert maximum effort for the Kingdom of God will discover it to be a thousand times worth it.
What about you?