narrow-door02Luke 13 Part 3

22. And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.

Christ’s destination is Jerusalem, and He is moving towards His goal, teaching and helping people on the way. He did not waste the opportunity to reach out to those in need, even when on this most important journey.

Remember that though He was teaching, His topic was not Himself. He was not going around proclaiming Himself as the Messiah, but rather His topic was the kingdom of God. In fact, in Luke 9:21, after Peter proclaimed the disciples’ belief that He was the Messiah of God, we read that “He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one.” Thus, all testimony regarding Who and what He was was stopped until the Acts period. Then, the Lord Jesus was preached as Messiah, but He was preached along with the truth of His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

23. Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”  And He said to them,

This person wants to know how many people are being saved. Something in what the Lord says has worried Him. Perhaps the Lord’s teaching seemed very difficult, and so it seemed to this one as if very few will actually be saved, and he is worried about this. Sometimes the same seems true to us. So few seem to have any concept of salvation through faith in Christ, rather than through works like church attendance and baptism or living a “good life.” Fewer still seem to have a real understanding that they are sinners in need of a Savior, and that Jesus Christ is the Savior they need. They have little knowledge of Who He is, and what He accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection. If we looked at these things, we might conclude, with this man, that very few are saved.

There are many who have asked this question of themselves and of the theologies they adhere to. Ultimately, many of these answer that there are, indeed, few who are saved. Yet those who answer this seem not to take into account that this same question was asked of the Lord. If a question has been asked of Jesus Christ, and if He answered it, does it not behoove us to see what it was He answered, and to make certain that our own answers are in harmony with it? Let us use care to see what answer the Lord gave to this question, and not foolishly put forth our own answers in ignorance of what God has already revealed regarding this important question.

24. “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

The Lord Jesus does not answer this man’s question directly. Ultimately, it is not our job to know if many or few are saved. This man was really reaching beyond himself. In his day there were millions of people in the world, and in our day there are billions. We really cannot even conceive of this, though we can conceptualize it. Yet we could not even say the names of each one of these if we said them as fast as we could up to the day we died. Not to mention judging each one of these to determine if he deserves to be saved. Yet the Lord is able to know each one of these billions of people, and to make a proper determination regarding each of them. It is up to the Lord to judge every man individually, and He will do so perfectly and righteously.

So many seem ready to not only make up the rules for how God will determine who is in or out, but also are eager to apply these rules in advance and anticipate before the judgment of God is made who exactly will be out or in. If we trust our Lord as Judge, it would be best if we did not indulge ourselves in such judging before the time. Rather, we should allow Him to make that decision when the time comes.

Many, it seems, in their determinations about what makes one saved and another not, apply principles that seem fashioned to make sure people join their church, more than to make sure that they come to Jesus Christ to find a Savior. Moreover, they do not take into consideration what Peter learned in Acts 10:34-35, when he said, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” This is a good principle, and one that we could all use to take to heart.

But, some might argue, how can one receive salvation apart from Jesus Christ? The answer, of course, is that it is impossible to be saved without Him. No one will have his sins forgiven without it being through Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross. Yet don’t forget that the Old Testament saints like David, Elijah, and Moses did not know of Jesus Christ, or at least not of His death, burial, and resurrection, and yet they most certainly will receive eternal life. Will their life be through Jesus Christ? Yes, though they did not know of Him like we do. Forgiveness and life come only through Him. Yet the God they knew will apply this to them because of what they did know of Him, and their belief in that. What was revealed to them of God they responded to in faith. Thus what they did not know of, the death of Christ, is applied to their account by God.

This is the same way it will be with those even today who do not know of Christ and His death, but who do fear God and work righteousness. Each one of these has been illuminated to at least some extent regarding the truth about God. This is revealed to us in John 1:9 of the Word or Expression of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. It tells us, “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” Thus all have received some measure of light, great or small, and all are able to be judged based on how they responded to that light.

How can we, then, fear God and work righteousness, so that we can be accepted by Him? Many try many different ways to fear God and work righteousness. Yet there is one work that God looks for from those of us who know His Word, and the Lord Jesus sets this forth in John 6:28-29. There, some asked the Lord a very good question.

28. Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
29. Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

This question that was asked the Lord was a very good question, and we can be most thankful that the Lord gave them this answer. There are many works that one could do in the sight of God, but only one is THE work of God. This work is to believe on the One He sent, Jesus Christ. This is our work of righteousness, and by this work we are accepted by God. We cannot reject Jesus Christ, and then think that we can still fear God or work righteousness, for if we reject Him, we have failed to do the most important work of all. This is what we must do, and this is how we are saved.

Yet the Lord does not go into any of this in answer to this man’s question. Rather, He focuses on what this man should be doing, not on what others might or might not be doing, or how God will judge them. This man wanted to get distracted by all men in the world. The Lord wanted him instead to focus on what he himself should be doing. It was as if He was saying to him, “I am God, so let me worry about whether or not few or many are saved. That is really none of your business. Instead, focus on yourself, and whether or not YOU are saved.”

The Lord encourages him to strive. This is the Greek word agonizomai, reminding us of our word “agony.” The word has to do with contending in a contest, such as Olympic games, or to contend with adversaries, or to struggle. In this case, it means to diligently work or pursue after something. As I said above, perhaps what the Lord was commanding seemed too hard to this man, and he wanted to pass it off as a way that could only be followed by very few. Yet the Lord does not allow him to get away with such an attitude, but rather urges him to really work to enter in through the narrow gate. It seems that this gate is difficult to get through because it is narrow, and many are unwilling to unburden themselves enough to make it through. How many refuse to come to God because they know it will take some work, and they might have to leave their favorite sin behind! Yet this is not the attitude God is looking for. He wants people who are willing to strive.

Finally, the Lord assures him that many will seek to enter into life, and will not be able. Thus, the Lord ultimately never does answer whether or not there are few saved. Instead, He assures him that there will be many who will seek to enter into the kingdom, and will not be able. Thus, the question for him is if he has done what is required to enter in himself? Regarding the many or the few being saved, he must simply trust the Lord for that. So should we as well. Let us not get ahead of ourselves, and judge things before the time. Instead, let us be assured that the Lord will deal with all men, and He what He does with them will be right. We really do not need to know more than that.

25. “When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’

The Lord tells a story to illustrate the necessity for this. In His story, the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, probably for the night, and some like this man are trapped outside and are seeking to get in. They call upon Him to let them in, “Lord, Lord, open for us.” Yet His answer is a grim one, for He says He never knew them, or where they were from.

26. “Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’

They find this hard to believe. They argue with Him that they ate and drink in His presence, and He taught in the streets where they lived. Shouldn’t this be enough to qualify them as knowing Him? Yet certainly this was not enough! Just to have been in the same locations with the Lord did not guarantee you anything. Rather, you had to listen to His words, and respond to them in faith.

Notice that this clearly limits this statement to those who were alive at that time, and who were actually rubbing shoulders with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not talking about people today. Yet at the same time, there are those who think they are in proximity to the Lord, from things like attending church (or leading a church,) or running a Christian television program, and things like this, who will nevertheless find that they were not known of the Lord at all.

27. “But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from.  Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’

In spite of the fact that they had lived in Israel while the Lord was on earth, still He denies knowing them. He was not talking about the physical location of where they were from, but the fact that they and their actions were not of God. Thus, His command to them is to depart from Him as workers of iniquity.

This speaks of the Kingdom, and those who find themselves trapped outside of it. This is a solemn warning to these men that just because they are Israelites does not mean that they automatically will enter into God’s government. Though they walked the streets that He walked and ate meals in His presence, this does not mean that they had salvation or were redeemed in His sight. He knew their hearts, and knew that they were workers of iniquity. Thus proximity to Him when He was on earth would not help them. How similar to some today who seem to think that as long as they wear a cross around their neck or carry a Bible with them then Christ must be with them!

28. “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 yourselves thrust out.

Weeping speaks of great sorrow, as we well know. Gnashing of teeth speaks of great distress and great regret. The Lord promises these men that there will be such great sorrow and regret among them when they see this great sight: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and themselves thrust out. These people took great pride in being descended from Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and from the prophets. Yet Christ assures them that this will not help them either. Though these men of God may enter the Kingdom, the wicked hearts of His listeners will keep them out.

Imagine what it will be like when men like Abraham or Isaiah or David are again walking this earth! We who have read so much about them might actually get to meet them, and to talk with them about their experiences. What might we ask Abraham if we had the chance to discuss his life and experiences with him? What might we learn from David about the composing of his Psalms, or his life on the run from Saul, or the reality of his kingdom? What might we learn from the prophets about how the word of God came to them, and what things they did that are not recorded in the Word? It will truly be a privilege to dwell in the kingdom with men like these. And it would be a great loss to be cut out of this.

Yet some might wonder, how will these wicked men actually see this happening? They died before these men of the past were ever raised to enter the kingdom. How is it that they will be there to see them entering? Why would the Lord raise them, only to have them not enter the kingdom?

Yet if we knew our Old Testament, we would not ask such a question. In Ezekiel 37:11-14, we read of the time when Israel will be raised to enter the kingdom. There, we read:

11. Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ 12. Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,” says the LORD.’”

These words were spoken to the whole house of Israel. The Lord proclaims that He will open their graves, cause them to come up from their graves, and bring them into the land of Israel. Notice that this is spoken to the whole house of Israel. None are to be excluded. Yet at the same time, we know that wicked men like these, though they may be raised, will not be allowed to enter into His kingdom. Consider Ezekiel 20:37-38, which speaks of the same event.

37. “I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; 38. I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.”

These verses tell us that the rebels will be purged out from Israel. Though the whole house will be raised, there will be a purging process. Those who are purged out, as the Lord says here, will see their famous ancestors, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets, entering the kingdom of God, and yet they will be cast out of it. No doubt that the sorrow and regret of those purged in that time will be great indeed!

29. “They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.

This makes it clear that there will be many, many people who will enter the Kingdom. “Few” is not really the right way to describe it. Yet there is no exact number. How many will enter or not enter is up to the hearts of the people and how they respond to God.

Notice that these are entering from the east and the west, the north and the south. Some would make this out to be that these are a great number of Gentiles entering the kingdom. Yet while it is true that many Gentiles will enter, the fact is that I believe that this statement is focused upon the people of Israel. The fact was that at the time of Christ, there were Israelites scattered all throughout the known world. No matter whether you went east, west, north, or south from Israel, you could have found pockets of these scattered Israelites. Yet when the kingdom comes, these will all be gathered together to the land of Israel.

Then, all these will sit down in the kingdom. To sit down here means to recline or to take rest. They are here settling down and reclining in the kingdom. The reclining is as one would do at a table for a meal. As we know, to eat with someone back then indicated the closest possible fellowship and camaraderie. There are many who will thus come together in union as part of God’s government. Then, all those things that separate us shall be done away with, and all will find common fellowship in our Lord. It will be a great thing indeed to be able to settle down and live in that perfect government to come.

30. “And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”

This verse is found in various contexts in some of the other gospels, and is not necessarily talking about the same thing every time. It seems that it has both a literal and a figurative meaning, which is a situation not unique to this verse by any means. In this case, it seems that the figurative meaning is in mind. We have a problem, though, in that we do not tend to properly understand the figurative meaning of “first” and “last.”

Many assume that “first” means “most important, most powerful, or most well-off,” whereas “last” means “least important, least powerful, or least well-off.” The fact is, though, that these are not necessarily the figurative meanings of these words. Christ Himself in Revelation 22:13 states that “I am the First and the Last.” How could Christ be the most powerful and the least powerful, the most important and the least important, or the wealthiest and the least wealthy all at once? No, both these words can have a different figurative meaning than the one we would seem to naturally ascribe to them as English speakers.

“First” when it is used figuratively has to do with a ruler or leader. When used this way, this word for “first,” protos, is usually translated “chief,” as in Matthew 20:27; Mark 6:21, 10:44; Luke 19:47; Acts 13:50, 16:12, 17:4, 25:2, 28:7, 28:17; and I Timothy 1:15. I believe it means a ruler or prominent individual. “Last” when it is used figuratively has to do with position. “Last” can mean youngest as in John 8:9, or the lowest, as in Luke 14:10. Yet the last can also be the most significant, as the last day of the feast in John 7:37. Thus Christ is the best and the most significant in Revelation 22:13. Here, Christ is speaking of the Kingdom of God and the character of those who will enter it. He could mean that some who are lowest now will be chief then. Most certainly this will be true. Many whom the world counts as nothing now will find that they have a much, much higher estimation in the eyes of God, who sees not as man sees, but looks on the heart. Consider, as one example, the humble shepherds of Luke 2 who were the ones God saw fit to privilege with the announcement of the birth of the Lord Jesus!

Yet also, I think He assures us that the chief of men will be the most significant of people in God’s sight, and the most significant men will be chiefest. How different it will be from today, when those who are the most important are often far from the best in society, and often seem to be closer to the worst! Yet in God’s Kingdom all who are in power will be so because they are worthy of it.

31. On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to Him, “Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.”

On the same day as the events we have been reading about above took place, some Pharisees come to him with this warning. It seems likely that these Pharisees just wanted to get rid of the Lord Jesus, and were hoping that He would respond to this report with fear and would go into hiding, thus getting Him out of their hair.

32. And He said to them, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’

The Lord seems to reveal that these Pharisees had actually come from Herod, and seems to imply that his desire was more to see the Lord Jesus perform a miracle than it was to kill Him. Christ orders them to go to Herod, calling him a “fox.” The fox is reputed to have a very cunning nature, and Herod was a cunning man, though he was a usurper and a Godless man. They are to tell Herod that He will only be performing miracles for three more days, and then that part of His ministry will be completed. The meaning of the word “perfected” here is “filled full” or “completed,” and indicates the conclusion of His miracles, at least those preceding His death. This should be translated “the third day I shall be finished.”

The last miracle He performed as we have it recorded for us (until after His resurrection) was the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11, for that indeed “perfected” His ministry through miracles. We have no mention of the Lord performing any miracles during His last days in Jerusalem.

The miracles the Lord performed were for two purposes: to demonstrate the truth of what God would do in the Kingdom and to set forth Christ as God. This last miracle demonstrated His Godhood more than any other, for only God could raise the dead and call their spirits back into them. Moreover, it demonstrated one of the most important aspects of the Kingdom: that many of its subjects will be raised from the dead in order to enter it.

The word “cures” here is an odd one, occurring only here and in Acts 4:22, 30. Yet it is clear that this word does mean healings and cures, for this is what the Lord was performing.

33. “Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.

The Lord is going to be spending this last three days in which He worked miracles journeying towards Jerusalem. We know that it was in Bethany, a village just outside Jerusalem, that He performed His last great miracle of the healing of Lazarus.

This last part of the message seems to drip with sarcasm. Of course a prophet could be killed outside of Jerusalem, but knowing the history of that bloody city we know that a good many of them were martyred there. Of course, the Lord Jesus Himself died outside the limits of Jerusalem, so we know that His words were not meant to be taken literally, but were an ironical rebuke of these conniving Pharisees and the “fox” Herod.

34. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!

Now the Lord soliloquizes the city of Jerusalem as a whole. He speaks of this city as the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. Remember, Jerusalem was the ruling city in Israel. All the chiefest men of the Jews lived and dwelt there. It was these who so often in the past had killed the messengers the Lord had sent to them.

The word “sent” here is a form of the Greek word apostello. These were the men whom the Lord had commissioned with His authority and sent them to the leaders of Israel in Jerusalem. The general attitude of the leaders had been to reject these men, however. Now, they would reject the Lord Himself.

In spite of all Jerusalem had done to the ones He sent, the Lord expresses His love for them in His desire to gather their children to Him as a hen gathered her brood under her wings. Yet, alas, they had been stubborn and unwilling. What a picture this gives us, both of the love of God and the one thing that can hinder that love: a stubborn and rebelliously sinful heart! Moreover we learn something of the depth of God’s love for Jerusalem. Surely He must grieve to see the sorry state of affairs there in our day.

It is interesting to note that the Lord compares Himself to a hen here, whereas He compared Herod to a fox back in verse 32. The fox would destroy the chicks, yet the hen would protect them, if she can. Herod was truly a destroyer, but the Lord was the One Who cared for His Own.

It is also interesting to note that the Lord compares Himself to a female creature, a hen, here. Though the Lord was without doubt a man, we know that the God of Whom He was the perfect representation is not a man. Rather, all the best qualities both of men and women truly are epitomized in Him. Thus, the Lord did not shy from comparing Himself to a mother, for true motherhood, like true fatherhood, finds its source in God.

35. “See!  Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”

The Lord declares what would happen to them because of this attitude of theirs. Their house would be left to them desolate. The “house” means the center of one’s activities or authority. Israel’s place and authority before God became desolate and has remained so even until today. Most important of all was the temple, which was the center of so much of Israel’s religious and political life in that day. That house would be left to them desolate.

The word for “see” here means to perceive and discern. Not until they would say that He Who comes in the name of the LORD is blessed would they be able to discern Who and what the Lord Jesus is. And although they did indeed say “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord” at the triumphal entry a few days later, we know also that since His ascension, Jerusalem will not see Christ again until as a whole they once again acknowledge Him as the very Chosen One of God.