I told you a few weeks ago I was having trouble with Luke 13:24 where Jesus says ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to’.
This difficult statement is Jesus’ reply to the entirely reasonable question ‘Are only a few people going to be saved?’ Rather typically Jesus doesn’t give a direct answer (ie the precise number of the ‘saved is 229, 3o7, 562,4443,555 322!) instead he implies it will be hard and that ‘not many’ will gain entry.
Well, that’s very depressing, isn’t it? And if it’s not too disrespectful to say so, it rather prompts the question, ”why make it so blinkin’ hard, God?’
The problem is that this statement seems to be at odds with so much else the Bible has to say about the wideness of God’s grace and mercy. ‘all who received him’ (John 1:12) ‘whoever believes in him’ (John 3:16) and ‘How great the love the Father has lavished on us’ (1 John 3:1) to name just a few (and there are lots written by people whose names were not John). It’s even at odds with the end of the original conversation ‘People will come from east and west and north and south and will take their places at the feast in the Kingdom of God’ (v.29)
So all that explains why I’ve had a problem with Luke 13. However I have made progress with this issue. It was a phrase from Os Guiness’ brilliant book on doubt that helped me out (the book is called God in the Dark) He said sometimes we are guilty of ‘keyhole theology’. We take a few words out of context or we draw big conclusions from one thing that we don’t even see that clearly.
It was while I was preparing a sermon on Romans 11 that I suddenly realised how important it was to remember to whom Jesus was talking in Luke 13. His audience was exclusively Jewish and for them to accept Jesus as God’s anointed would undoubtedly be very hard and on a ‘few’ of them would enter through this narrow door into God’s kingdom. This door was narrow and difficult because Jesus was so not the Messiah they expected.
Os Guiness says there are two key questions that we need to answer: ‘Is God there?’ and ‘Is God good?’ I’m learning to rely less and less on having all the answers and more and more on my belief that he IS there and he IS good. Whatever else I don’t understand has to be framed by these certainties.
I like Nick Bains take on these verses… ” It is easier to stick a needle through your eye, than for a rich man to pass a camel” He used it when he was speaking to the banking world at Mansion House.
If God made it too easy how many would even bother trying to meet his standards? But if the ‘pass’ mark is 100% I’m going to fail for a start, and he was talking to Pharisees wasn’t he? Wonder what jesus would say to us today?
Personally I prefer the idea of a God who is Here rather than There – it feels a bit more personal. Mind you I do believe He is There as well – penentheism gives us a God who is sustaining all of His creation.