Luke 13: 22 – 30 (Pentecost 14, 2016)
“Jesus is the Door to Heaven”
The ever popular “All-Roads-Lead-to-Heaven” theology is finds healthy soil in our world today. Social climates beg for no absolute authority on religion. Powers and authorities around the world aim to thwart the efforts of Christianity. Since Adam and Eve disobeyed God humanity has repeated the self esteem movements. The sinful nature does not like to tell anyone that they are wrong about anything. We rationalize sin, avoid discipline, stroke the esteem of others, and attempt to spare kids from any kind of failure. Nobody is ever wrong and therefore no body is ever right either.
How dare Jesus claim to be the only way to eternal peace! How dare he claim a monopoly on the truth! How dare he say “I am THE Narrow Door!” Yet, His prophecy has come true: “many will try and enter and will not be able to.” Many have tried going through the wrong gates. On Judgment Day that one door will be locked to them. On Judgment Day believers in Christ will be welcomed into an open heaven.
1. Many Look for Other Doors
There are only two religions: Christianity and Unbelief; Faith in Jesus and Work Righteousness. Anyone refusing to be saved by faith in Jesus must attempt to save themselves – something impossible to do, but many try. Notice, Jesus is not talking about church denominations. He is not speaking here about joining the right visible church. He is not distinguishing between confessional Lutherans and everyone else claiming to be Christian. He is teaching us the doctrine of the Holy Invisible Christian Church. Paul quotes the Old Testament Scriptures in his letter to the Romans when he writes: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).
Everyone who doesn’t call on the true God is looking to save themselves another way. They won’t find an open door on Judgment Day. The Christian Church has noticed those banners for centuries. “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere.” “Who are who to judge me?” “God wouldn’t send nice people to hell just because they don’t believe in Jesus, would he?” Those banners exist all around us:
- There are the churches without denomination or convictions who simply hope to avoid doctrines and confessions which turn people off.
- There are flooded stadiums where preachers blather about what the itching ears want to hear.
- Worship services and sermons that avoid the confession of sin and the announcement of Jesus’ death on the Cross as the foundation of forgiveness.
- Cults have been formed by false prophets who have re-written the Bible to make say what they want it to say.
- There are straying souls in Christian congregations who, like Adam, run from God in guilt, afraid to have a relationship with God because of their sin.
- There are the hypocrites who sit in sanctuaries every Sunday morning just going through the motions to give the outward appearance of righteousness.
- There is the voice of the atheist who openly mocks the idea of a God, and would attempt to find peace in his own imaginations.
- Finally, there is our own sinful opinion about law and grace. There is the natural voice in each of us that loves to think that we have added or could add to what Christ has done to save.
Many, says Jesus, will try another way. Wide is the gate that leads to eternal death. Any theology that is not based on Christ is based on the thought that human beings can save themselves. And if anyone insists throughout this life that there way is just as good, or better, than Christ, they will be locked out of heaven forever. They will be cast out where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Believers in Christ go to heaven. Everyone else goes to Hell. The thief on the cross enjoys paradise. The nice man who opens the door for you but does not believe in Jesus goes to hell.
Does that bother you? Does it go against our grain to think that God has to be so absolute, so exclusive – so just? Is there a hesitation inside of us that creeps its way up when the world calls us and our God conceited, arrogant, or unloving? When was the last time you blushed or cringed under the pressure to say with absolute authority “Yes, believing in Jesus is the only way to go to heaven.” Love does not excuse bad theology. No one got to heaven by being permitted to believe that there is another way to heaven outside of Christ. Wide is the way that leads to eternal death. Narrow is the gate to heaven.
Believers See the Narrow Open Door
Of course Jesus’ other prophecy will come true: “People will come from east and west and north and south and take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” God is slow to anger abounding in love (Psalm 103: 8). “God “takes no pleasure in the death of anyone” (Ezekiel 18:32) “but wants all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:4). “God does love the world so much that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Jesus is the narrow door to eternal life. God is not exclusive. He is exclusively gracious and kind. The blood he spilled was sufficient to pay for the sins of all people. “He is the atoning sacrifice not just for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The obedience to his Father that Jesus accomplished is the righteousness that His Father gives to us. He died to forgive conceited hearts. His sacrifice means death to our natural egos and life to our saving trust in him. He presents us holy and blameless. He has sent his Holy Spirit into our hearts. He has created in our hearts the clear confession of Jesus as the only Savior and God. He has instilled in us a confidence that knows we will be with him in eternity. He continues to bring the train of his believers through that narrow but open door. That narrow door is the one who came in flesh appearing. It is Jesus who dies and rose again. It the Jesus who sits on heaven’s throne and will come again to judge the living and the dead
Jesus offers no mention of a denomination. He does not speak in terms of visible church. There are no disclaimers regarding hypothetical villages that didn’t get a missionary. There is no mention of how bad or good any one was. There is no mention of age, race, class, generation. The saving of souls is a timeless issue with God. From all corners of the earth Christ will seat his believers at the feast of his kingdom. And they will all enter through one, narrow, open door: Faith in Christ Jesus.
If it were not enough to give his Son as the all atoning sacrifice, God the Father has also given his Church the Holy Spirit and the tools necessary for calling others to the eternal feast. He has generously poured out his truth. “His Word will not return to him empty” (Isaiah 55: 11). It will warn and rebuke. It will comfort and encourage. It will strengthen and heal. “The Word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4: 12). It plays no favorites. It is as fair and just as the God who gave it. It is eternally relevant. It does not change. Baptism does bring to faith. The Word of God does feed the child of God. The Sacrament of the Altar does give us the forgiveness of sins. God’s Spirit does foster in us the sound confidence in Christ. It is a confidence that looks forward to Judgment Day when he will lead us through that narrow open door to the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Lesson from Hebrews (Hebrews 12: 18-24) today pictures this concept at two separate mountains. The writer describes Mount Sianai as the thunderous mountain of God’s law. That mountain calls us to bow before God in humble awe and fear. But it does not save us and it offers us no peace. Then he directs us to Mount Zion, the mountain representing the grace of God to us in Jesus Christ. There the Lord’s blessings are generously out poured. There God’s people have pardon for their sins. There they have redemption. There they experience true joy. Today we are reminded of the certain confidence that we are being ushered through the narrow door that leads to eternal life. Jesus is that Door and his Holy Spirit is the usher, and the Mountain of Heaven awaits us!
You are the way through you alone Can we the Father find
In you O Christ, has God revealed His heart and will and mind.
You are the way, the truth, the life Grant us that way to know
That truth to keep, that life to win Whose joys eternal flow (CW 356: 1,4) Amen.