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The Road to Passover - Part 1

Luke 13

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, 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.’

26 “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!’

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

Jesus knew where He was travelling - on to Jerusalem for the Passover. He had to be there, because He had a mission to fulfill.

When we have something to accomplish - a place to get to, work to do, tasks to complete or something tremendously important on the immediate horizon - you and I might say we don’t have time for other activities as we need to concentrate on the task at hand. Our every thought may be so entwined with the big event that we find it hard to focus on anything else.

At this point in Jesus’ ministry, He knew that the confrontation between Himself and the world and its ruler the Devil - typified by the Pharisees and Sadducees - was coming to its inevitable and long-planned conclusion. Jesus would die. Not just any death. It would be a horrible, brutal beating and scourging, followed by crucifixion. And Jesus had to do it without sinning. Not even thinking hatred in his heart, as you or I might.

Yet, Jesus’ mission as He walked towards His own sacrifice as the Passover Lamb of God, was being fulfilled in the very questions that He was asked along the way.

It strikes me that in our Western societies today, there would be very few who would even engage with that kind of question. We would look on from afar, or go to social media and see if He had any relevant posts we could catch up on. Or we would simply dismiss the opportunity, perhaps thinking that He was just another run of the mill or would come around again for another chance.

You don’t think that’s true? Well, look around you. We have had knowledge about Jesus Christ available for 2,000 years that is now more widely available than ever before in history, yet the numbers of people in our societies is ever dwindling who seek to ask questions about Him, about His mission and what He would say to us today. They doubt any of the claims about His miracles or His identity. That shouldn’t surprise believers as, even in His day, the Pharisees disputed either the veracity of the miracles or, at the least, the legitimacy of His work as being from God. Not because they sought after truth, but because it suited them.

On this occasion, however, this brave soul asked Him, “Lord, are there only a few who are going to be saved?”

What was the motivation for the question? Did they want to be included in the few? Was it one of His followers or someone approaching Him from one of those cities and villages? Did they want to know how to discriminate those saved from the unsaved? Did they ask it out of concern for themselves or for others?

We don’t know. Luke simply writes, “Then one said…”

Jesus, in contrast perhaps to us, was always focused on His greater mission - the salvation of sinners. That salvation means not just saving from the consequences of sin, but from its very nature in humanity, so that His followers could become servants of God and of righteousness (Matt.6:33). And his teaching was one of the primary means by which He accomplished His mission and the teaching would continue as a primary means of accomplishing His work (Matt.28:19-20). So, he answered and taught this one and those who listened in, dreadfully curious as to His response.

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

A curious thing, indeed, to say as He heads up to Jerusalem.

Why not say, “Do not be concerned who will be saved! Consider yourself! All of those things I will sort out when the time comes”? Or, why not say, “I am headed up to Jerusalem to die for mankind. There you will see how everyone can be saved. Look there!”?

But He didn’t.

It’s All About Who You Know

Instead, He said, “many will try to enter but will not be able to.”

This is what He equates with being saved: you must be known by the owner of the house.

There’s only one door, one gate, to enter the house. It’s not an open field. It has walls and a roof and rooms for the dwellers. To be part of that house - to be saved - you have to know the owner.

That’s actually pretty exclusive: there is only one way in and that’s through the gatekeeper. If you He doesn’t know you, you’re out!

Someone might try to bash down the door and enter of their own accord. They are thieves and robbers (John 10:7-8). It doesn’t belong to them. And really, how on earth could you smash down God’s door? Nothing you do will ever earn you the strength or power to do so. He opens it only because He wants to. Because of his graciousness. You don’t deserve it.

So, as Jesus continues to teach while headed towards Jerusalem and His imminent crucifixion, one still might think, “That’s okay, I know think I know the owner. I know God.”

Knowing Is Doing

Jesus continues with His startling pronouncement, by qualifying what it is to know the owner of the house.

“You will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’” We know you. You are one of us! We are the people of Israel. Like you, we are the chosen of God.

Today, we might say, “I’m a regular person. I’m haven’t lived a bad life. Surely I deserve to be part of your kingdom!” or “You can’t deny the majority. You can’t disapprove of people. They have a right!”

Here, Jesus intimately ties together knowing Him with doing what’s right in His eyes. The “evildoers” - those who do not do what He says both through the righteous requirements of God’s Law and Jesus’ direct instructions - are those who do not do the will of His Father in Heaven (Luke 6:46; Matt.7:20).

But surely, if we’ve eaten with Him, talked with Him, gone to all the right places and had the right pedigree, then that’s enough? Isn’t that knowing Him and isn’t that enough? Why would doing right be tied into knowing Him?

We might just as easily point out that it wasn’t enough for Judas, who had walked with Jesus every day and been a part of his inside circle.

Anyone who really knew Jesus knew that His whole reason for being was to “be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). How can you say then that you know Him - that you understand Him and are His friend - if you don’t also want the same? That you want to be about His business - the Father’s business.

Yet, in our increasingly self-centered, presentist world, those who think back even to “what’s right”, let alone those who seek the will of Christ and the Father, are an ever decreasing number. Our Western societies are hell-bent (I use that term advisedly) on stepping as far as possible outside of any idea of a God regulating their behaviour. If you’re from another society, you may say exactly the same.

But let’s take it from looking at others to looking at ourselves. What do we, as individuals, want to do? Do we want to know Jesus? Do we want to be saved?

Jesus’ answer, presented in different ways throughout the Gospels, is always the same: “If you love me, do as I command you” (John 14:15).

That’s why Jesus’ ultimate answer is the way He started: The door is very narrow. You will see people entering the kingdom from all over, one by one, who truly knew me, but you yourself will be cut out. Because you did not believe in me, did not follow me, did not follow my Father’s will. You never knew me and I never knew you.

With not an ounce of hatred in His heart. With love, knowing the death that He was willingly walking towards. With every last breath and moment available to Him, Jesus took the time to fulfill His mission - saving people from their sins and leading them to eternal life with God - by teaching them faith and obedience in God; truly knowing God and being known by Him.

As God always does, those who have been put last by this world yet are known by Him will be placed first at the Feast of the Kingdom. There are many who think of themselves as first who will be dead last.

And Jesus walked on up the road to Passover in Jerusalem and the reason for which He came into the world.

(c) 2023

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