22 Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”
He replied, 24 “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. 25 When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26 Then you will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil.’
28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for you will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you will be thrown out. 29 And people will come from all over the world — from east and west, north and south — to take their places in the Kingdom of God. 30 And note this: Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then, and some who are the greatest now will be least important then.”
31 At that time some Pharisees said to him, “Get away from here if you want to live! Herod Antipas wants to kill you!”
32 Jesus replied, “Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish my purpose. 33 Yes, today, tomorrow, and the next day I must proceed on my way. For it wouldn’t do for a prophet of God to be killed except in Jerusalem! 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. 35 And now, look, your house is abandoned. And you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
These may seem like random little stories put together, but Luke was anything but random. The question that introduces today’s reading is the theme here. A man in the crowd wanted to know if Jesus was preaching the same sort of religious exclusivism that the Pharisees (and other groups like the Essenes) were known for. Just like he did with the lawyer asking who is neighbor was, Jesus answered a general, theoretical question with a specific, practical answer. Will it be few or many? You just work hard making sure you get through the door. Because some people will be left outside. People who will complain that they had shared a meal with Jesus. Luke has given us several accounts of Jesus eating with Pharisees. This is his subtle way of also telling the questioner that, ironically, the ones excluding others are going to be excluded.
And then, look, Pharisees show up! Warning Jesus about Herod. It might seem like the Pharisees were looking out for Jesus, but at no point have they treated Jesus well, even when he was in Galilee enjoying the favor of the synagogue leaders. Plus, the Pharisees have been holding a grudge against Jesus since he called them out at one of those meals (11.53). Add to that what Luke told us in 9.9 – that Herod wanted to see Jesus – and the fact that Jesus was already on his way out of Herod’s jurisdiction, and it becomes evident that the warning here was bogus. Were they trying to get Jesus to leave? He already was. Were they trying to get him to be quiet? Or scare him? Provoke him into acting in some way unprophetlike?
No chance. Just like he told the man at the beginning of this passage, Jesus had his own door to walk through. It was both narrow and incredibly hard work. And nothing could deter him from that work. The main message of Luke’s Gospel is embedded in these (not at all) random stories. Work hard getting through the narrow door of the kingdom. Don’t be left outside with the religious folk. Be sure that you are following Jesus in the hard work he did and the narrow door he went through.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.