June 28, 2010 David Balzer

Luke 13:22-14:35: Kingdom Commitment

Australian Idol. Fifty thousand people tried out for this second series. From Darwin to Hobart to Perth to Armidale.

From 14 year olds to 50 year olds. From rappers and beatboxers, dancers, comedians, to opera singers. All wanting to be the next Australian Idol. To be the ONE PERSON to walk through the narrow door from obscurity to fame and fortune.

Fifty thousand people trying to squeeze through, but only ONE will make it.

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many will try to enter and will not be able to.”

And, dare I say it, it’s a similar situation Jesus is describing in these verses. But rather than describing entry into POP STARDOM, it’s entry into THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

And while the entrance requirements are VERY different, the DIFFICULTY of entering is similar. Lots of people trying to enter. But only a FEW making it. That’s the point of what Jesus is saying here.

The story begins with Jesus on the road. He’s heading for Jerusalem. And his popularity is growing. He’s attracting a crowd. V17, just a paragraph or two above, says that the people were DELIGHTED with all the wonderful things he was doing.

And so, as Jesus moves through the villages, there’s a great mob following. And so someone asks (v23) “Lord, are only a FEW people going to be SAVED?” How many will make it into the Kingdom of God? Into eternal life?

Out of ALL THESE PEOPLE, how many will make it?

Perhaps he sees the difference between the huge crowds who hang around, who keep up when it suits them. And the few who seem genuinely interested, who follow Jesus WHEREVER he goes.

It’s a question concerning EVERYONE ELSE? “What about THEM? How many of THEM?

Will THAT denomination make it? What about THAT cult? What about the native in Africa? What about the mentally handicapped person?”

But instead of answering THAT question, Jesus answers ANOTHER. What should be more important to the questioner is HIS OWN SALVATION. Rather than “How many…?” his question should have been “Will I be saved?”

And so that’s the question Jesus answers. He turns to the crowd, and says (v24)

(Luke 13:24 NIV)  “MAKE EVERY EFFORT to enter through the narrow door, because MANY, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.

Salvation is entered only through a NARROW door. Many trying to get in, but only a few succeed.

Crowds everywhere. People falling over themselves to listen to Jesus teach about the Kingdom of God. And yet, he says it’s only a narrow door in.

Multitudes who are vaguely interested in this carnival attraction. This free lunch. This miracle worker. This rebel leader.

But how many who actually FOLLOW? Who BELIEVE. Who recognise GOD HIMSELF.

And it’s no different today. People all over Sydney interested in Jesus to SOME extent. Some understanding. Some knowledge. And yet Jesus is interested in only ONE of them. YOU.

Stop looking around, he says. What about YOU? You KNOW it all, but what are you DOING about it? Forget everyone else. You – make every effort to enter the narrow door.”

1. Narrow, because the first will be last (13:22-35)

And in the next chapter or so, we find out THREE REASONS WHY the door into the kingdom is so narrow. WHY it takes our every effort.

And the first reason is because THE FIRST WILL BE LAST. Those who THINK they’re at the front of the queue/ are in for a shock.

Look at how Jesus continues.

(Luke 13:24-25 NIV)  “Make every effort… because many will try to enter and will not be able to. {25} 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.’

He’s talking to the Jews. God’s special people. The ones to whom the Saviour was promised. “The door into the kingdom is open at the moment, but don’t count on it being open for ever”. One day the chance will be gone. Because the owner of the house will get up and lock the door.

Jesus is talking about himself – he’s the owner of the house. You can see that from what he says next. V26.

(Luke 13:26-27 NIV)  “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ {27} “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

They thought they knew Jesus because he’d walked among them. Taught, ate and drank.

But for all that KNOWLEDGE/ their faith wasn’t REAL. And so Jesus, the owner of the house. The keeper of the door. The JUDGE. Issues his verdict. “I don’t know you. Away from me!”

And when that realisation hits. On judgment day. It’ll be a time of DESPAIR. Because they’ve missed out. Their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be there in the kingdom. But not them.

And to add insult to injury, PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD will make it. And they won’t. Gentiles will make it through the door. But it’s shut to them.

The names of the Gentiles are on the invitation list, but not the names of many of the Jews. The last will be first. And the first will be last. The ones who LEAST expected it/ will accept the gift of the kingdom, and put their trust in Jesus.

But those who cling to their own importance as a ticket in/ Who refuse to BELIEVE/ will miss out.

People like HEROD. Or the Pharisees. Or even most of Jerusalem.

Time is running out for them. God’s got a timetable for his Son. And the door is closing. And the Jews need to make every effort to enter. Before it’s too late.

They’ve got a history of rejecting God’s messengers. And Jesus knows that things will be no different this time. And it tears him apart. V34.

(Luke 13:34 NIV)  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

Jerusalem were first in line to enter the kingdom. The city of David. The city of the temple. God’ dwelling place. No-one more privileged. And yet they were in danger of missing out.

Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. Because the first will be last.

And while that’s the historical background to Jesus’ words, it’s also a principle for us today. Each of us is to make every effort to enter through the narrow door. To make sure we know Jesus personally. That we’ve accepted his gift of forgiveness.

And that we’re not trusting something else. Thinking that something else puts us at the front of the line. Because if that’s our attitude, we’re in danger of missing out.

It might be your heritage. Presbyterian through and through. Surely THAT puts you at the front of the line.

Or your family. Christians as far back as you can trace. Surely THAT puts you at the front of the line.

Or your education. You know all the stories. All the verses. All the right answers. Surely THAT puts you at the front of the line.

Or your morals. There are so many OTHER people doing bad things. And you’re much better than them. Surely THAT puts you at the front of the line.

Or your work ethic. You ALWAYS volunteer for everything. Always at the centre of things. Surely THAT puts you at the front of the line.

But trusting anything else for your entry into the kingdom is dangerous. Trust Jesus. Accept his gift of life.

Beware. The gate is narrow. Because the first will be last.

2. Narrow, because only the humble enter (14:1-24)

And the second reason the gate is narrow is because only the humble enter.

We’re into chapter 14. And Jesus is eating with the enemy. A Pharisee. But not just ANY Pharisee. A PROMINENT Pharisee. It was a really fancy affair. Saturday high tea.

But it wasn’t the sort of occasion you want to relax and enjoy. Because Jesus is under the spotlight. Being carefully watched.

And they’d prepared a little test for him. A man with dropsy. Placed right there in front of Jesus. And it just so happened to be the SABBATH.

To HEAL him would be considered WORK. Which was breaking the rules.

But in all their plotting/ they’d forgotten about the POOR SICK MAN. He was just a pawn in their plans.

But Jesus didn’t forget him. Because the door to the kingdom might be narrow. But it’s the perfect fit for people like him. Humble people. Fringe dwellers. The least, the lost, the last.

So Jesus heals him, and sends him on his way. And then he starts on the leaders. V5.

(Luke 14:5 NIV)  “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?”

You wouldn’t think twice about breaking a rule to rescue your own FAMILY or PROPERTY. But where’s your compassion for THIS GUY?

In your PRIDE, you’ve forgotten that the door to the kingdom is for THE HUMBLE.

And he scores the point. Because they have nothing to say.

But Jesus isn’t finished yet. He follows up his left jab with a three punch combination. A word for THE GUESTS. A word for the HOST. And a word for the POMPOUS.

First, the guests. It’s the same attitude of pride and a lack of compassion for the weak. Seen in a different context. Same sickness – different symptom.

When all the guests arrived at lunch, he noticed how they all took the best seats. Closest to the host. The one with the best view.

And Jesus says they’ve got it all wrong. Take the LOWEST seat instead, so that you can be moved up when the host notices. Imagine the credibility and mileage in THAT!

And he concludes. V11

(Luke 14:11 NIV)  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

At the very least, he’s talking about social etiquette. Wise and sensible ways of interacting with people.

But he’s talking about much more than that. He’s talking about the door into the kingdom.

The one who humbles himself. Who puts others before himself as a REGULAR PATTERN OF BEHAVIOUR. Is on the right track for entry into the Kingdom of God. It’s that sort of person whom the Father will EXALT. “Friend, move up to a better place”.

The door into the kingdom is narrow because only the humble can enter it. Show your orientation to humility in HOW YOU VIEW YOURSELF. Consider others better than yourself. God LOVES that sort of behaviour.

Because the door is narrow, and only fits the humble.

And then Jesus has a word for THE HOST. V12. How the sickness of pride and a lack of compassion has symptoms in THAT context.

The temptation when you throw a party is to invite the BEST. Those with the MOST to offer.

But instead, Jesus says, Don’t invite the people who can REPAY you. Who you OWE. Who have something to GIVE.

Instead invite the poor, crippled. Lame, blind. Those with NOTHING. And you will be blessed.

It won’t be a benefit in THIS life. An orientation towards the HUMBLE will have benefits in the NEXT life. V14.

(Luke 14:14 NIV)  and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid AT THE RESURRECTION OF THE RIGHTEOUS.”

That’s a promise of God. Trust it.

Too often we look to what OTHER people can do for US. There’s someone I know who won’t initiate a conversation with me, unless he WANTS something. Always looking out for what HE wants. The phone call or email is always about something I can do for HIM.

Other friends who are only interested in talking about THEMSELVES. Not interested in YOU – what YOU think. Or what YOU’VE been doing. What YOU’RE struggling with.

Are YOU like that? Don’t be.

Deal with people/ so that YOU give to THEM.

The door into the kingdom is narrow because only the humble can enter it. Show your orientation to humility in WHO YOU INVITE. Choose those who can’t repay you. God LOVES that sort of behaviour.

Third, Jesus has a word for the pompous. The presumptuous. At least, that’s the way I interpret the comment in v15.

(Luke 14:15 NIV)  When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

He ASSUMED he’d be part of the kingdom. His invitation’s there. Signed, sealed and delivered. “The feast in the kingdom. That’s me. I’ve got my ticket booked!”

You ASSUME that when you’ve got tickets to a show/ that you’ve actually got a SEAT. But it ain’t always so! Gordon and Pam had tickets to a fancy show in the city a month or two ago. I think it was at the Opera House. They’d made a night of it. Got a baby sitter, dressed up, made sure they had their tickets. Got in early, and had a nice meal first.

But when they arrived at their seats, they found someone else sitting in them. Who ALSO had valid tickets for the SAME SEATS.

They eventually found some other seats, and had a good night. But SOMEONE had made a mistake.

It doesn’t pay to be TOO CONFIDENT.

And this pompous man at the table was making this same assumption. I’m IN. No worries. Aren’t we all BLESSED?

So Jesus tells him a story. About a man holding a banquet. He invites all the guests. Who all RSVP. “Yes, we’d LOVE to come”. But it’s not A PRIORITY. So when the reminder arrives, suddenly they all find excuses. Too busy to come.

So the man invites those he KNOWS will come. The HUMBLE. Those who haven’t eaten a square meal in WEEKS. The poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame. Nothing is more important to THEM than the feast.

But the pompous guests – those who’d PRESUMED their admission – who’d taken it for GRANTED – all missed out. V24.

(Luke 14:24 NIV)  I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'”

Nothing should be more important than making sure you make it into the kingdom. Don’t worry about what others think. Don’t fear the ridicule of family. Don’t wait until you’ve earned enough money, or married. Don’t wait until the kids grow up.

The door into the kingdom is narrow because only the humble can enter it. Accept God’s invitation. Do it NOW. The humble make the kingdom their TOP PRIORITY. God LOVES that sort of behaviour.

3. Narrow, because total commitment is required (14:25-35)

  1. The door to the kingdom is narrow because THE FIRST WILL BE LAST.
  2. The door to the kingdom is narrow because ONLY THE HUMBLE CAN ENTER.

And the third reason the door to the kingdom is narrow is because TOTAL COMMITMENT IS REQUIRED. Look at v25.

(Luke 14:25-27 NIV)  Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: {26} “If anyone comes to me and does not his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. {27} And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

There’s TWO PARTS to TOTAL COMMITMENT.

First, Jesus is saying that TOTAL LOVE is required. To follow Jesus, he must be MORE IMPORTANT than everyone else.

He doesn’t mean we are literally to our family. Just that we are to LOVE Jesus MORE than them. That’s what following Jesus means.

Many of us don’t know what that means. Yet in many parts of the world this verse is FULL of meaning. To convert to Christianity in many countries means you are disowned by your family. Rejected.

Love for Jesus means hatred from their family.

Perhaps for us this principle means the OPINION of Jesus MATTERS MORE than that of our family.

Your family wants you to study ONE THING, you believe Jesus wants you training for SOMETHING ELSE. Who do you listen to?

Your family thinks ONE THING – money or success – is important. Jesus thinks ANOTHER. Who do you listen to?

Whose APPROVAL do you long for? Whose acceptance means most to you?

The door to the kingdom is narrow because TOTAL LOVE is required.

And the door to the kingdom is narrow because TOTAL SERVICE is required. Jesus went to THE CROSS – why would we expect that he would demand anything less of us?

How DARE we be angry when things are difficult for us because we’re Christians. How DARE we get self-righteous and indignant when people make fun of us, or make our hurdles harder to jump than they do for non-Christians.

Jesus says that’s just what we should EXPECT.

(Luke 14:27 NIV)  .anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

The door to the kingdom is narrow because TOTAL COMMITMENT is required. Total LOVE. And Total SERVICE. Heart AND hand.

And because that’s the case, Jesus wants us to make sure we COUNT the COST. Make sure we can finish what we start. Thinking seriously about whether we’re willing to give what it takes. Like someone building a tower – working out if he’s got enough money BEFORE he starts building.

Or a king going to war, working out if he’s got a decent chance of winning BEFORE he declares war.

If following Jesus requires such TOTAL COMMITMENT, makes sure you think about what you’re doing. It’s a question we need to ask BEFORE we start on the journey of following Jesus. But we ALSO need to ask it EVERY DAY of the journey.

ARE YOU WILLING to put love for Jesus above love for family? Are your choices showing your love for Jesus is stronger than your love for your wife, or your kids?

ARE YOU WILLING to take up your cross in following Jesus? How is life different for you day-by-day BECAUSE you’re a Christian? How is it harder? How is it longer? How are the struggles greater? How much less sleep, or leisure time, is there in your day because you’re following Jesus?

ARE YOU WILLING to show your love for Jesus in the humility of everyday relationships?

Ask yourself these questions. Count the cost.

MAKE EVERY EFFORT to enter through the narrow door. Following Jesus is WORTH IT!

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