CAN OUR NARROWNESS LEAD US?
Ashok Kumar Ram Rana
Dr. Ravi Zacharias said, "When you look back upon the last six centuries you see the human worldviews are moving from one side to another." Finally we have arrived in the 21st century post modern world where we end up saying, words mean nothing, absolute means nothing and morality means nothing. We are the definer of our own reality. What is our reality? Science and human reason say that there is no life after death. Religion says that human beings need to attain mukti (moksha). Every religion has its own understanding and faith that differ from one another when they talk about salvation. Many say that human beings can attain salvation through their own efforts. But are we really the definer of our own reality? That means we can attain salvation through our own efforts. Or is it dependent on the grace of God?
The Narrow Door
Luke 13:22-30 begins with the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. Jesus, if Jerusalem was His destination, is reminding His hearers that there are two possible destinations that await them at the end of their journey, the first being God's house, where a great banquet is prepared, and the second outside the house where is eternal frustration and pain. It all began with a question asked by someone while Jesus was travelling, "Lord, will only a few be saved?"-a question commonly discussed during the time of Jesus. The orthodox answer was that all Jews, except for notorious sinners and heretics, would find entry. Some Jewish groups limited the number to those who were truly religious according to their own rules.
Jesus was quite sure that there were many who were experiencing His ministry but would not be present at the final banquet. Without entering into a theological debate, He threw back a personal challenge to the person who questioned Him. Jesus gave an answer concerning the urgency of time. He argued to strive to enter through the 'narrow door' before it was shut. The imagery of the narrow door hints at the difficulty involved in entering it and becoming a member in the kingdom of God.
It also points to two important aspects, the door which many try to enter, but are unsuccessful, and the door which will not be always kept open, but will be shut by the master of the house. When the people who are left outside knock on the door, the master of the house replies from behind the closed door that he does not know them or where they come from. They demand that he would surely know them, since in the past they ate and drank with him and listened to him speak in the streets. Here people are referring to the fact that when Christ was on earth, they were fellow guests, or even hosts, at dinner parties which He attended: they knew Him socially. They were even present on the occasions when He preached and had taken some interest in it. This they felt was enough to gain them entry into the kingdom of God. But they are surprised when they find out that it is not enough.
Questions arise as to why the master did not open the door, even though the people said that they ate and drank with Him. Luke wanted to remind his readers that the eating and drinking, which symbolise the Eucharistic celebrations among Christians, were not just enough to enter through the narrow door and be saved. It is required that one must know Christ personally through a mutual direct relationship. The people standing outside the door had never shared any personal relationship with Christ. While they were on earth, they never radically repented of their sins, never sought and obtained forgiveness and the gift of eternal life from Christ. And now they are unable to enter. Even though they were followers of Christ Jesus and felt happy to be called as believers, in reality they were never in Christ and they never repented. For such a 'crowd' the entry is prohibited.
Religious affiliations, identity and the daily ritualistic practices were of not much help in entering the narrow door. The Jews in their pride thought that when the kingdom was fully realised the whole of Israel would be saved and all the Gentiles would be abandoned. But in the passage there is a radical reversal. Those who entered the narrow door were more than the Jews. It was people from all the corners of the earth who enjoyed the banquet fellowship with the patriarchs. The last became the first.
It required that one must be the last to be the first in humbling oneself and serving others with love and humility. It called for obedience to the teachings of Christ. The mere hearing of the words of Jesus was not enough, but one must listen to it carefully and practise it. A mere confession, addressing Jesus as Lord, was not sufficient; practising what He preached meant more. Probably the Gentiles, who entered through the narrow door, not only accepted Christ, but also accepted His teachings, but the Jews, to whom the message was first given, did not welcome it, nor practised it in their lives. People who claim that religion and all its benefits belong to them may not enter into the narrow door, but those who are humble and downtrodden by religion and society would be able to make the entry.
If so, what does the passage mean to us today? What is our destination and where should our journey end? Is it God's house, where a great banquet is prepared, or outside the house where there is eternal damnation and pain. If it is the eternal fellowship with God, then we need to enter through the narrow door. The narrow door calls for discipline in our lives, both personal and academic. The narrow door reminds us to be in constant fellowship with God. The narrow door reminds us to be obedient to the teaching of Christ and to lead a life of commitment to our calling.
Dear friends, though the door to the kingdom of God is narrow, it is still open. Before it closes, let us enter. Claiming to know Jesus on the day of reckoning is of no use if we do not respond to His message today. Later, no matter how much we knock, it would not open once it is shut. May God bless these words!