Narrow Door, Wide Mercy (Luke 13:22-30)

Jesus had a way of always seeing the proverbial “question behind the question.” In today’s text (you can read it by clicking here), He is confronted with a worthy question: “Will those who are saved be few?” But Jesus has no qualms about zeroing in on the REAL (though unstated) question behind the question, a question which may be something like, “What does being received and welcomed into Your kingdom mean for ME?” In getting at that answer, Jesus uses two images: (1) that of a narrow door that leads into the kingdom banquet…a door that remains open (though not indefinitely so) and (2) all the unexpected guests to the banquet from far-away the four corners of the earth who will gain entry there.

Now it isn’t entirely obvious what a narrow door means or illustrates in this context, but one thing is clear: entering through a narrow door is, on the whole, more difficult than getting through its opposite. On the one hand, a narrow door could be a door with a narrow frame that requires more of a “one-at-a-time,” person-by-person navigation than a door where people breeze in walking three or four abreast. Jesus is telling his listeners that those assembled together for the End Time banquet will not be groups of people who simply hosted a visit from Him and so enjoy some kind of payback en masse now. Salvation is not based on belonging to the right crowd. There is something more personal and less automatic about entry through the door Jesus describes. On the other hand, the narrow door of Jesus’ telling is also a door that does not stay open forever. The image of the door at last shut by the Master of the House indicates that the time to enter will eventually run out. Entry to the Kingdom banquet isn’t only about going to heaven “someday.” It is a banquet to be enjoyed, in some respect, already now. Already today.

Entry to the heavenly banquet for all who gather there is, in the end, by the grace of Jesus Christ alone, because (as Jesus promises) in addition to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets “people will come from the east and west, north and south, and recline at table in the Kingdom of God" (29). Those who gain entry will be the people we might least expect…people who don’t “deserve” to be there: “some who are last will be first, and some are first who will be last” (30). That’s how it is in the topsy-turvy world of God’s love and mercy. Though God’s love is for all the world, those who find themselves delighting in the gift of forgiveness in Christ Jesus are often those who think they are the last ones on earth who should receive it!

In truth, none of us, sinners that we are, deserve entry into the never-ending feast in the Master’s house. But Jesus came to rescue wayward sheep like us and even calls Himself the “Door to the Sheepfold,” saying, “I came that [my sheep] might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:7, 10). The feast He prepares for us is ours today! Though we can never earn the right to enter Life, let’s give thanks that the narrow and more difficult door to Life remains open for wayward sheep everywhere who, like us, are truly “least” in the Kingdom.

We praise God that though the door to Life is narrow…God’s mercy to us in Jesus is wide!