Jesus’s Salvation Invitation—Luke 13:22-30

INTRODUCTION

22 And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? 

And he said unto them, 24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 

28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last. (Luke 13:22-30)

This passage begins with a question that someone asks Jesus: 

Luke 13:22 And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Luke 13:23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 

Notice how Luke continues to emphasize Jesus’s march to Jerusalem. His mission is to die on the cross and Luke wants us to see how determined he was to complete that mission.

Along the way he gets this question from a man. During Jesus’s ministry, he answered a lot of questions; some were honest questions and some were questions designed to trap him. 

What prompted this man to ask the question that he did? Did he ask this sarcastically? Or was it an honest question?

I think it was dishonest and this is why: most Jews assumed that all Jews would be saved (except for a few bad apples here and there) because they considered their ethnic heritage to be enough. They were God’s chosen people. Everyone else was a Gentile dog. 

The listeners that day probably assumed that Jesus would affirm this belief. They expected Jesus to say something like, “Because God has chosen only the Jews to be saved.”

Instead, Jesus answers with how to be saved. First, Jesus says, that to be saved requires:

A STRIVING TO REPENT (13:24)

Luke 13:24 Strive to enter in at the strait [narrow] gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 

This is a stunning verse that generates a lot of questions: Are we supposed to strive and work for our salvation? Will God not let some people who are seeking salvation to be saved? Let’s start with that first question:

We must understand while we cannot earn our salvation with good deeds, that does not mean that there is no effort on our part. 

The word “Strive” comes from the Greek word, agōnizomai, which, of course, sounds like our English word—agonize. It’s translated in other places in the Bible with words like labor and fight—

12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12)

As strange as it may sound, free salvation by grace through faith does not come without a fight, without our struggle and effort. 

But an effort to do what, exactly? It’s not to make ourselves good enough to please God. Instead, it’s to deny ourselves to the degree that we really repent of our sins. 

Alexander Maclaren, a Scottish Baptist preacher from the 1800’s, said,  “We are not saved by effort, but we shall not believe without effort” (The Epistles of St. Paul to the Colossians and Philemon, The Exposition Bible, 1903). 

To have faith in God to save us, we have to give up trying to save ourselves, and that can take agonizing effort.

The Jews thought they were saved because of their ethnic background. They had to repent of that thinking and that was very difficult for them. Belief in Christ alone for their salvation came hard for them.

In our culture, there are many things that people have to strive to overcome in order to repent and believe. Here’s one example:

People might think: my sin isn’t so bad, I’m better than so and so over there. Plus, God is loving and good, so he won’t let good people—of which I am one—go to Hell, if there is even a Hell. 

That’s the sort of thinking that we need to repent from in order to be saved—and that can be quite difficult. 

That’s what Jesus is talking about when he says, “Strive to enter in at the strait [narrow] gate.” Not that we have to strive to earn our salvation. No, we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). But we need to strive to repent of the things that keep us from receiving salvation by faith.

To be saved, Jesus says, there must be a striving to repent and also…

A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS (13:25-27)

Luke 13:25a When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; 

The picture here is of a “master” who had a feast at his home. These people come to crash the party, as we might say today. They are banging on the door wanting him to open up.

Luke 13:25b and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 

The “master” does not know these people. Oh, he might know who they are, but he does not have a relationship with any of them. That’s what he means when he says “I know you not.” They object to his denial—

Luke 13:26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.

They claim that they have been around him in social gatherings. They have listened to him teach in their streets. Of course he knows who they are.

What kind of people is Jesus referring to here? Religious people. These are people who have come to church every Sunday. They have taken the Lord’s Supper and eaten and drank in his presence. They have heard the Bible taught again and again. But they are still kept out. Why?

Luke 13:27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.

Again, the “master”—Christ—insists that he does not know them. Obviously, Jesus knows everyone—he is the omniscient God, after all! 

But Christ is using the word, “know,” in the relational sense. They have never come to know him personally. They have no personal relationship.

Salvation is not a matter of making a decision, filling out a card, responding to an altar call, or any activity like that. Why? Because you can do any of those and still not be saved! 

These acts might be helpful in directing a person to salvation, but the mere performance of them will not save you—that would be a works-salvation.

Only entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will save you. You need to know him personally. This is what the Bible describes as being in Christ Jesus and Jesus being in you. It’s having a shared life with Christ. Paul described it in Galatians 2—

20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Do you know Jesus like that? Are you crucified with him? Does he live in you? Or do you only know him superficially, kind of like the way we “know” a celebrity…only from afar?

To be saved, Jesus says, there must be a striving to repent. You must set aside the things that keep you from believing. You must enter into a personal relationship with Jesus. And, finally, you must have…

A REAL PERCEPTION OF ETERNITY (13:28-30)

Earlier I mentioned two issues people have with this text. We’ve dealt with the first, now let’s look at the second. Does God keep people out of Heaven who really seek to enter?

Luke 13:24 Strive to enter in at the strait [narrow] gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 

At first glance, it may seem like God is refusing to let some enter who are seeking to enter. Does God not want some to be saved, even ones who might be seeking? No, of course not. We read in 2 Peter 3:9 that God is, “…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

When Jesus says, “for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able,” he is not saying that there will be people who live their lives honestly seeking God and Heaven and but God prevents them.

He talking about that moment after a person dies, and they have not trusted in Christ as their Savior. Then the door is shut! It’s too late. There is a time limit on entrance to Heaven—it’s the length of our lives. Once a person dies, it’s over.

27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27)

If you are alive, the door is still open. You still have the opportunity to enter in. Don’t waste the opportunity. It could end at any time and after you die, it’s judgment time. 

Imagine the sheer terror an unsaved person will have moments after they die. They will suddenly realize that the God in whom they have refused to believe is quite real and that Hell is real and their destiny is eternal torture. Jesus says that…

Luke 13:28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth [Doesn’t that sound painful?], when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

The torment of Hell will be painful torture, and it will never end. 

Imagine the disappointment of a Jew who spent his life waiting to see the heroes of the Jewish faith—“Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob”—only to be denied entry to Heaven. 

And part of the pain of Hell—for Jesus’s original Jewish listeners—would be the shock of who made it to Heaven.

Luke 13:29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. Luke 13:30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

Who are these people coming into Heaven? They are people from all over the world. They are non-Jews. They are the Gentiles so despised by the Jews. 

What a tortuous disappointment for the unsaved Jew! He had focused so much his heritage as a Jew, that he missed the reality of needing Jesus to go to Heaven. He did not have a real perception of eternity.

People today often do not have a real perception of eternity. Some do not believe in an eternity. They think that when you die that’s it, you just ceased to exist—imagine their shock one second after they die! 

Others believe in an eternity, but they foolishly believe that they are good enough, or from the right family, or the right country, to enter into Heaven.

A real perception of eternity however, understands that our sins have doomed us to Hell. And we need to understand that before we can repent or enter into the personal relationship with Jesus!

Here’s a diagnostic question for you: do you desire Heaven most because it’s not Hell, because your loved ones are there, or because Jesus is there? 

Answer it honestly. We all know that we’re supposed to desire Heaven the most because Jesus is there. We know that the right answer, but is that the answer of your heart? What do you most honestly desire about Heaven? If it’s not Jesus, you need to…

1) Strive to repent of your sins. What is holding you back from truly repenting? What do you have to knock out of the running for your affections? Maybe for some of you it is the idea that you are already saved.  And that false idea keeps you from repenting! Repent and turn to Jesus.

2) Turning to Jesus means that you, by faith, enter into a personal relationship with Jesus. This isn’t a religion that I’m talking about, it’s a relationship. Do you know Jesus like a far away celebrity, or do you know him personally?

3) All this happens when you get a real perception of eternity. The other side is real. Judgment is real. And Jesus is the only way to safely cross to the other side.

Jesus is calling you to a relationship with him. The door is wide open right now. But it won’t be forever, won’t you enter now?

Levi Durfey—LDM-42-Luke 13:22-30-LKA#073-20190922FBCAM

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