Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 26, 2007
Text: Luke 13:22-30
There are two kinds of people in God’s sight. There are those who believe in His Son Jesus Christ, and there are those who don’t. There are those who trust in the saving work of Jesus on the cross and who claim Jesus’ righteousness as their own, and there are those who reject Jesus and His righteousness, preferring to offer God their own works. There are those from the east and the west, the north and the south, who recline at Table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all of the prophets, feasting on the Lord’s body and blood. And there are those who spit out that holy food in rejection, who refuse to take the medicine of immortality, and by the time they realize what they have missed, it is too late. The doors have been locked and the unfaithful find themselves in the darkness of night where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Now is the Day of Salvation. You cannot be saved by your own works. Don’t even try. You have no righteousness of your own. You have no leg to stand on. If you hope to be saved, you must have the righteousness of Another. And there is only One Whose righteousness fits the bill. It is our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lived the righteous life that we cannot live. It is our Lord Jesus Christ, Who paid the death penalty that we, by our sins, deserved. It is our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was raised again by God the Father for our justification, forever defeating death and Satan. Faith receives the gifts of our Lord. Faith receives His righteousness and salvation. Without faith, it is impossible to receive these things. Without Jesus, it is impossible to be saved. Without Jesus, it is impossible to be righteous.
So from God’s perspective, there are two kinds of people. There are the righteous, and there are the unrighteous. Now, you have to understand that the difference between these two kinds of people has nothing to do with their own personal sinfulness vs. their good works. Both kinds of people are sinners who deserve nothing but damnation. But the first kind, those who are righteous, have the righteousness of Jesus and make no claims for righteousness on the basis of their own works. The second kind, the unrighteous, are unrighteous because they refuse the righteousness of Christ. The first group lives before God justified, righteous on account of Christ. The second group lives before God as wholly unrighteous and wallowing in sin.
This brings us to the question presented by one of Jesus’ hearers in the Gospel lesson. “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (Luke 13:23; ESV). Jesus answers, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (v. 24). Even in this fallen flesh, it is natural for man to seek salvation. Every religion under heaven seeks to answer the question: What will happen to me after I die? How will I face the Judgment seat of God? Many seek to enter the Lord’s Kingdom. But there is only one way, and few find it. We can only enter through the narrow door. All other doors lead to hell. You can only enter the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus means when He talks about the narrow door. You can’t invent your own way into the Kingdom. You can’t get in by your own quick wit, your charm, or your good works. You can only get in through Jesus. That means believing in Him, trusting in Him for salvation and every blessing, knowing that His grace is for you. That kind of faith is a gift from God. It is given to you in the Word and in Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is given to you in no other way than by these Divinely appointed means of grace. And it is sustained by God in these means of grace. That’s why it’s so important that you be in church each Sunday. You need the means of grace like your body needs oxygen, food, and water. You need the means of grace if your faith is to live. The means of grace give you Jesus, and He alone is your righteousness and salvation. "(A)s it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith'" (Rom. 1:17).
We’ve talked about how there are only two kinds of people before God. There are also only two kinds of religion. There is Christianity, the religion of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone without the works of the Law. And there are all the other religions that tell you that you can only be saved by living a righteous life, fulfilling the Law. All religions but Christianity are religions of works. Christianity alone is a religion of grace. And Christianity is the only religion that gives you Christ, the narrow door. So only Christians can be saved. This is a scandal to the world. Everyone in the world wants to get into the Kingdom of God. But there is only one way: Christ. There is only the narrow door. “When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and 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” (Luke 13:25-28). This is a hard word from the Lord. But it is a crucial warning. When the Master shuts the door, which is to say, when you die or when the Lord returns, there are no more chances. Outside of the door there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, which is to say, hell. So stop inventing your own ways into the Kingdom. There are no side doors. There is only one door; the narrow door. There is only Jesus. He is the only way. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Believe in Him, trust Him, for He brings you into the narrow door, into His Kingdom, and gives you His righteousness, the forgiveness of sins, salvation, eternal life, and every other blessing.
In other words, He makes you into the first kind of people we considered, those who claim Christ’s righteousness alone, who are justified by faith in Christ, and have peace with God. You are believers in Christ. You have been made believers in Holy Baptism as God claimed you for His own. You have ever since been sustained by His Word and Holy Supper. The Holy Spirit has given you faith in Christ by means of the Word, and He has sustained you in that faith. Even your faith is not a work that gains entrance to heaven. It is a gift. God guides you through the narrow door.
So now, what happens to you when you die? As a Christian, one who trusts in Christ for salvation, your Lord says to you, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). Your soul enters the heavenly mansions to live with Jesus, while your body peacefully sleeps in the grave awaiting its resurrection and reunion with your soul. How can you face the Judgment seat of God? You can face it with confidence, knowing that when God looks at you, He sees the righteousness of Jesus. He sees robes washed white in the blood of the Lamb. He does not see sin. He sees only the perfection of His Son. You stand as those baptized into Christ. You stand as dearly loved children of God. So God declares you innocent in the Judgment, because of Christ. That is why you believe in Him. That’s the narrow door.
By the way, you’ve already entered the narrow door. Just don’t go out of it again, back into the night. You entered the narrow door when you came to faith in Jesus. Eternal life starts the moment you come to faith. For most of us, this happens when we are baptized as infants, but it isn’t too late if you are an adult. It is only too late when you die, or when our Lord returns. That is when the door is shut to you. But right now it is open. And you have been brought through it by faith. You have been brought into the Kingdom by God. You even now enjoy the status of the redeemed Kings and Queens of the universe. The world doesn’t recognize that now, but that’s okay. They will. They will when our Lord returns and Himself bears testimony to the truth of your royalty.
In the mean time, it is enough that He’s knows you, and loves you, and bids you feast at His Table. There, feasting with you, are Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. There are all the prophets and apostles and martyrs. There is St. Paul and Martin Luther and the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is Ruth and her grandson, King David. There are the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, including your loved ones who have died in Christ. And there is the Holy Church throughout the world, spanning all of space and time, made up of holy believers in Christ. Behold the host arrayed in white, who have entered the narrow door, and feast with us this morning on the Lord’s body and blood. Thanks be to God. It is by His grace that we are here this morning. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.