Pastor’s Message

From latest newsletter: September & October 2019

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to us in a parable: the Parable of the Master of the House (Luke 13:22-30).  The story begins with Jesus travelling towards Jerusalem and teaching in various towns and villages along the way.  While this is taking place, a man asks him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”  Jesus tells him, and the others who are listening, to “strive to enter through the narrow door.  For many,” Jesus says, “will seek to enter and will not be able.”  Jesus then explains himself by telling the Parable of the Master of the House.  “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.’  Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’  But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from.  Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’  In that place 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 but you yourselves cast out.  And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.  And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Notice the imagery used by Jesus.  Heaven is depicted as a house with only one door.  And those who do not enter through this one door will find themselves locked outside.  Certain early church theologians refer to this door as “the door of repentance and faith.”  The point that Jesus appears to be making in the Parable of the Master of the House is this: those who do not make their entry through this door, while it is still open, will find themselves locked outside.  During this period of grace, before the second coming of Jesus and his final judgement, the door is still open.  The door is closed, however, for each person at their moment of death and for all mankind at Jesus’ second coming.  This entire scene may remind us of a verse from the Epistle to the Hebrews, where “Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal…when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears” (12:16-17).  Jesus’ words and their imagery are important to us, for both good and bad reasons.  They are both a threat and a promise.  To us, they are both law and gospel.  Why?

Jesus says to us: “Strive to enter through the narrow door.  For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (verse 24).  This is certainly a gospel invitation from Jesus.  But ‘how’ are we able to enter through the narrow door?  The Apostle Paul, in one of his letters to the Thessalonians, reminds us that we are chosen by God, and his word and his spirit are at work inside of us: “For we know, brothers, loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5).  We are able to enter through the narrow door only because Jesus makes us able.  We do not deserve to enter through the narrow door.  In the parable, the words spoken by the master of the house will be the words spoken by Jesus at his final judgement: “I tell you, I do not know where you come from.  Depart from me, all you workers of evil!  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (verses 27-28).  We deserve to hear those words.  But, the Apostle Paul again reminds us, in his letter to the Romans, that we are chosen by God only by his grace and not on account of anything that we have done: “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.  But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise it would no longer be grace” (11:5-6).  It is only by the grace of God that we are able to enter through the narrow door.

So, why is a period of grace, the time before the second coming of Jesus and his final judgement, important to us as his disciples, as his followers?  If it is only by the grace of God that we are able to enter through the narrow door, then a period of grace before Jesus’ second coming and his final judgment isn’t useful only for us, his disciples.  Certainly those who are not Jesus’ disciples need a period of grace.  They may yet become his disciples.  They may yet repent, turn back to God, and enter through the narrow door.  A period of grace before Jesus’ second coming and final judgment is useful also for Jesus’ disciples, his followers.  We need a period of grace, too.  What if we fall away from God?  We could easily be locked outside “in that place of weeping and gnashing of teeth” (verse 28).  And deservedly so.  We disobey God continually.  Someone once asked Jesus: what is the greatest commandment?  Jesus answers: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).  We don’t, on both counts.  Jesus spends an inordinate amount of time teaching us about love.  He also spends an inordinate amount of time teaching us about forgiveness.  We have a tendency to do neither.  We deserve to be locked outside.  This is why we need a period of grace.

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