Proper 16c, 2013 (August 25)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
TITLE: “The Narrow Door”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter thirteen. We focus especially on the words of our Lord, “strive to enter through the narrow door”.
We hard a hard time in our culture with anything that is seen as limiting. I should be able to marry whomever I want (male or female), whenever I want, wherever I want and by whomever I want. There was even a New Mexico Supreme Court case that came out this past week saying in effect you now have a constitutional right to have whomever you want photograph your wedding! Yes, we have a hard time with limitations, and with rejection it seems.
But it doesn’t have to be about hot-button topics like gay marriage. We can talk about something really mundane that demonstrates the point. Let’s talk about food. I don’t know about you, but I hate it, hate it, when someone tells me what I can and cannot eat. It makes me crazy. I am an adult! I can eat whatever I want! We all have our hot-buttons, though. Maybe it’s alcohol. Maybe it’s your free time. I’m quite sure it is something.
We all have these things that push our buttons. So when Jesus says “enter through the narrow door” it shouldn’t surprise us a whole lot that our first reaction is that God isn’t fair. It may seem as though God is being a stickler for details, a pesky, particular God who wants to make sure that everyone does things just so in order to get to heaven.
But that is not the point of the narrow door picture.
The book of Hebrews tries to give us the answer. Hear again these words:
“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:7–11 ESV)
When we face discipline, when the way seems narrow and hard, it is exactly then that God is forming you, shaping you as His own sons and daughters. He does not discipline you because He hates you . He does it because He loves you.
The doorway to heaven is narrow, as Jesus Himself says. No one may enter this door on their own merits or works or worthiness. Every time you try to gain God’s favor by your own efforts and strength, you smack into the wall and not through the door. And it’s painful, isn’t it?
Let’s be clear about something here, though. The door is narrow, but it is for you. And the point Jesus makes here is not that if you only work really, really hard will you enter heaven. No, no, a thousand times no! The point Jesus is making is that the only way you get through the door is if Jesus Himself leads you there. We could even say that Jesus is Himself the door (John 10:7).
So think of it this way. What Jesus is saying to you today is that you trust in Him, for He is the only way you will be saved. It won’t be because you’re nice or mean. It won’t be because you have a certain kind of friend, or that you know certain things. No, the way that you are saved is through Jesus Christ and Him alone.
The book of Hebrews goes on to put it this way,
“For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:18–24 ESV)
There is where you are. You are now at Mount Zion and the city of the living God. You are in the heavenly Jerusalem, where angels and archangels and all the company of heaven praise His name, and you with them. You are enrolled in heaven, and you are in the presence of Jesus Himself, whose blood marks you as His own child and heir.
This means so much in how we look at our lives before God. Your life before God is not limited by the narrow door. It is because of this door that you have entered into God’s very presence by His Word and Spirit! And in this door lies freedom, and hope, and comfort, and a place, and an inheritance that never fades away. In this door, in this place lies heaven itself. For where Jesus is, there is the Church, His bride. And you are baptized as His bride, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come through the door marked by His blood. The Passover Lamb is now before you on the altar of God. Come to the Table, for the feast is now ready for you.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.