14 Pentecost Proper C16
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 13:22-30 Sermon
August 25, 2013
Click here for internet service broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal, Lutheran Service Book, & With One Voice):
TLH 17 "O Worship The King, All Glorious Above"
LSB 578 "Thy Strong Word Didst Cleave The Darkness"
WOV 771 "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"
LSB 837 "Lift High The Cross"
THE NARROW DOOR IS EVERYBODY’S SIZE
TEXT (vs. 24-25): [Jesus said] “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 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.’”
It’s a strange feeling…you feel angry with yourself, you are frustrated, you feel helpless, and you feel stupid…and it’s all rolled into one. This is a feeling that most of us have experienced at some time in our lives too. None of us are really strangers to it.
This is the feeling you get when you lock yourself out of something, like your car, or home, or office, or someplace else. I know that I’ve done it, and it’s happened more than once. Now usually we can get ourselves out of this trouble, but it is something that can really mess up your day.
Probably the worst instance that happened to me was when I was at a family reunion in England quite a few years ago. I was there with my family. We had rented a car at the airport, and the reunion was in a small village where my cousin lived.
It was late one evening, and my family wanted to go to the bed and breakfast where we were staying so they could retire for the night. So I drove them up there in the car, and then came back to the gathering again to spend some more time.
I was driving a brand new Volkswagen Passat hatchback, which had all of the bells and whistles and other options on it. When I got back, I wanted to get something out of the back of the car; so I opened the back hatch and took it out.
It wasn’t until much later when I went back to the car to get something else, that I realized I had laid the keys down in the back, hit the door lock button, and closed the tailgate with my keys still in there.
They had given us two sets of keys when we rented the car. If I had been smart, I would have given one set of those keys to someone else to keep; but no, they were still hooked together, and they were locked inside the car.
What in the world was I going to do? It was past midnight in a small town. I was quite a ways from where we were staying. We were a long distance from the car rental agency. And in this small village, there wasn’t even a mechanic who could help me. My relatives tried to help me, but they didn’t have any expertise in the field of breaking into locked cars. They did come up with a wire coat hanger for me to use, but it looked like a hopeless case. So one by one, they all went their various ways, leaving me alone with my locked car problem.
I tried everything. I fed the hanger through the back tailgate and I was able to hook the keys; but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t pull them through the gap. The opening was just too narrow.
Then I tried hooking the passenger side door lock button. Fortunately I could hook it and pull it up; but the car was fitted with a security relocking device; so every time I would pull up on the button, it electronically pulled it right back down again. The situation seemed hopeless, and there I stood. There was only one way into that car, and that was through a door.
I finally did get it open though. What I did was I kept pulling up on the lock, and at the same time I would lift up on the handle, trying to open the door in the split second that the door lock was in the right position. Finally I was successful; but because of all the security features, I still couldn’t unlock any of the rest of the doors. So I had to crawl over the seats into the back compartment and get the keys so I could unlock the doors properly and disable the security interlocks. That was quite a night.
So if you’ve experienced the mixed feelings associated with locking your keys in the car, try compounding it with being in a foreign country, in a strange car with all sorts of unfamiliar security features, with no knowledgeable person around to help you.
In our text for today, Jesus is using the example of a locked door to illustrate the entrance into heaven. The door is narrow; there’s only one way in, and only one way to get in. Jesus is the key to that door; and you can’t use a coat hanger or any other way to try to circumvent that. There are no other doors you can open with a different key, nor are there any windows or ventilation ducts you can crawl through. If you can’t get through that one door, then that’s it for you. Nothing else works.
Even knowing what it feels like when the car is locked and the keys are on the inside, I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for someone to be standing outside the door of heaven and not being able to gain entrance. Picture a person, yelling and crying and pounding at the door, only to get the answer, “I don’t know who you are, I’ve never met you, now go away.” The voice fades off into the distance, the door remains shut and locked, and all hope is gone.
So how do we keep from being locked out of heaven? How do we know that the narrow door will be open for us? How do we know that we will be welcomed in and received as a member of the family?
I’d like to flip this whole situation around a bit, by reading from the book of Revelation chapter 3 verse 20 where Jesus is giving us a slightly different picture: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
Here Jesus is the one pictured on the outside of the door wanting to get in. You and I are the ones with the door, which is the only way into our souls and our very lives.
There is a very famous painting by James Milton inspired by this verse, which depicts Jesus standing at a door and knocking on it. If you look at this painting carefully, you will notice that the heavy wooden door which is pictured has no lock or doorknob on it.
To fully understand this verse and this painting, we must realize that the Holy Spirit is the person who brings us to Jesus. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we come to know Jesus and his saving work. The Holy Spirit creates the faith in us so that we will believe in him and know him as our personal Saviour.
But there’s that door, and it is closed. The door has been constructed by us, and not by Jesus. When that door is closed, it is because we want it to be closed. We close the door because we don’t want Jesus in our lives. It’s like we’re saying to him, “Go away from me, stay away from me, I never knew you, now leave me alone.” When the door to our soul is closed, it means that we have rejected him and the forgiving love he offers.
But Jesus still stands outside knocking; gently knocking all the time. And this continues while we are alive on this earth. It’s only after we die that the situation is reversed, and the picture Jesus gives us in our text for today comes into focus.
Those who have rejected Jesus and kept the door slammed shut during their lifetime will encounter a closed door for eternity. Those who have said “Go away from me, stay away from me, I never knew you, now leave me alone” to Jesus when they were alive will receive the same response from him when they try to enter heaven. A closed door during a person’s lifetime will mean a closed door for eternity.
For a person to be on the outside of that door is not a pretty picture at all. That person will be in a place where God has chosen to remove his presence. It will be a place, like our text for today describes, where there is weeping and mourning and gnashing of teeth. It will be the place the Bible calls “hell.” Hell is not a metaphor, or some scare tactic employed to keep people in line. Hell is the very real consequence of unbelief. And the Bible also tells us that after a person dies, there is no crossing over from one side to the other.
In our text for today, Jesus has fielded a question from the group to whom he was speaking. “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” The person was obviously looking for some sort of number or ratio. That’s not the point however. Rather, Jesus explains it by the illustration of the door. The door is open for as many people who will enter through it, through faith in him as their Saviour. The narrow door is everybody’s size, and nobody needs to be excluded or on the outside trying to get in.
But then the excuses come. Those on the outside will be saying things like are recorded in verse 26: “Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.'” Isn’t that enough to be saved?
That’s like people saying, “I went to the Lutheran Church all my life,” or “I attended a Lutheran School,” or “I went to Sunday School when I was a child,” or “I took Communion every Sunday,” or any one of a number of pious sounding religious statements. Isn’t that enough to be saved?
Jesus isn’t looking for pious religious statements. Look instead to the door in your heart. Have you jammed it shut to keep him out, or is he an integral part of your life? Have you chosen to reject the work of the Holy Spirit and plug your ears to the voice of Jesus?
I’ve talked in the past about the difference between a religion and a relationship. Having a religion isn’t going to save you; having a relationship with Jesus will. Many who come to that door demanding that it be opened for them are going to be claiming some sort of religion as the reason they should be let in. They feel that being a Muslim, or a Buddhist, or even just a pretty good person should be reason enough. But that relationship with Jesus is missing.
Our text for today does paint a rather grim picture for many people. From Jesus’ vivid description, we don’t want to be on the outside of that door, because what’s out there is no good at all. I’d think everybody would admit to that.
At the beginning, I used the example of being locked out of a car in England. It was late at night, in a foreign country, with nobody to help. I can’t think of anybody who would intentionally lock the keys in their car just so they could experience what I did. So then, why do people insist on locking Jesus out of their lives? Why do they intentionally want to be locked out of heaven to spend eternity in the hostile environment of hell? What is the attraction?
Sin is the attraction here. Sin is the thing that built the door between us and heaven. And sin is the thing that makes us want to push Jesus away from our lives and out of our souls. It’s sinful pride that makes us want to be masters of our own destiny, instead of putting ourselves in the safety of Jesus’ hands.
One of the distinct privileges of being a pastor is what I do every week, and what I’ve done for the past 25 years. I have the privilege of proclaiming the love and grace of God to you. I have the privilege of proclaiming this through the ministry of Word and Sacrament. This is the way God the Holy Spirit comes to you and works faith in your heart.
The message of sin and grace is of the highest importance. We see ourselves as sinners, and that’s not always the easiest thing to hear. But it is necessary, because we need God’s grace in our lives. We need the forgiveness we have through faith in Jesus our Saviour. We need to have a close relationship with him.
With God’s help, it is my goal as a pastor to show everybody that narrow door, and that it is open wide for them through faith in Christ alone. Nobody should ever walk out of these church doors, or complete watching one of our broadcasts, or finish reading a sermon transcript without knowing how to get through that narrow door Jesus talks about in our text for today. I want everybody to know the forgiving love of Jesus, and to accept him as their personal Saviour through faith alone. That narrow door is everybody’s size.
Our text for today may be fearful for some; but for us who have a personal relationship with Jesus, it is a source of comfort and hope. In John chapter 14, verse 6 Jesus says: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Those words describe a relationship, and not just a religion. Through faith in Jesus our Saviour, we will be among those who are saved. Our many sins have been forgiven. Our record has been wiped clean. And that narrow door will be opened wide for us, as we are gathered in our Saviour’s waiting arms as his dear children.