Luke 13:22-30

The Journey to Jerusalem – 2

Conversion – Going Deeper 

Luke emphasised again his setting. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. Luke continued to use the journey image for his reflection on the spiritual journey of the disciple of Jesus. He endeavoured to bring some order into the unconnected series of teachings that were in the tradition, as he had promised initially to Theophilus: an orderly account. What followed was drawn mainly from his own source, though he also included passages from the source he shared with Matthew. Very little was taken from the Gospel according to Mark, since Mark’s concern had been more the deeds of Jesus than his developed teachings.


The Way of Dispossession (1) 

Luke 13:22-30  -  The Narrow Door

22 Jesus was going around through towns and villages teaching,
and making his way to Jerusalem.
23 Someone asked him, "Master, are those who are saved few?"

What would have been the likely motivation for such a question? Curiosity, possibly – an academic question. Or it may have reflected a desire to be special, superior, to belong to a select elite. Whatever the motivation Jesus did not answer the question, but used it to teach what for him was of much greater import.

The meaning of the question was assumed. It seemed to refer to the issue of ultimate salvation, not simply healing of sickness. It reflected the widespread attitude that life as it was currently experienced was not enough to satisfy human longings, and that things needed to be better.

He said to them,
24 "Keep up the struggle to enter through the narrow doorway;
for many, I tell you, will seek to get in
and will not be able to.

Jesus used a suggestive image for the point of entry to the experience of ultimate salvation: the narrow doorway.

In his advice to the disciples sent on mission, he told them to travel light, to trust in God, to need little (10:1-12). The same approach would carry on to their way of living at all times. Growth in discipleship seemed to be more a matter of letting go than of gaining, of surrendering than of controlling, of learning to accept one’s powerlessness and total need before God than of trying to look good and to be in a position of strength to bargain.

Jesus inferred that such letting go did not come easily to most. 

25 Once the householder has got up and locked the door,
and you are left standing outside knocking on the door
and saying, 'Master, open up for us',
and he will say, 'I do not know where you come from',
26 then you will begin to say, '
We ate with you, and drank,
and you taught in our squares'.
27 And he will answer,
'I tell you, I do not know where you are from.  
Go away from me, all you evildoers'. 

Jesus’ story served to identify the doorway: it was the doorway to where God could be found. His comment also served to indicate one of the non-essentials that could conceivably impede entry: trust in what was irrelevant. What mattered for Jesus was that disciples truly listen to him, shape their lives according to his values and learn to love. Salvation was certainly not a factor of ethnic or religious identity.  As far as Luke’s community was concerned, it was not assured simply by their calling themselves Christians. Discipleship was essentially praxis. Anything else served only to inflate the self-image and make entry through the narrow doorway impossible. Whatever about the future, the present life, when not lived according to the way of Jesus, fell inevitably short both of the longings of the human heart and the hopes of God.

28 Then 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 thrown out.

The imagery was somewhat violent, almost sadistic. Essentially it was a poetic expression, an emphatic way to stress the importance and urgency of the issues at stake. It was not a description of life after death.

29 And people will come from east and west, from north and south,
and will recline to eat in the Kingdom of God.
30 Look, there are some who are last who will be first,
and there are some who are first who will be last."

The message may have sounded particularly reassuring for Luke’s community of Gentile converts. They were among those coming from east and west, from north and south. They were the latecomers, the last, to be drawn into the adventure of God’s saving action across history.

Next >> Luke 13:31-35