Jesus is still on his way to Jerusalem and the cross. A random person asks if only a few people will be saved. That’s a good question. Many are gambling that all roads lead to God and so the margin of error is pretty big. Generally it boils down to being good (like me) is all that is needed. The qualification to enter the kingdom of heaven is based on my actions of kindness and not on faith or a personal relationship with a God that cannot be seen. How much wiggle room is there in this dynamic we call faith? Do we need just a mustard seed of faith or faith that moves a mountain? Jesus talks about the “narrow door.”
The desire for the good life is a dream for all of us whether we call it heaven, Nirvana, or Paradise. For some of us this looks like financial success while for others it may look like social success and unfortunately for many it is defined by power. We list the most influential people at the end of the year, the most successful, the most talented, the most-you name it. But the person in our text is asking about being saved. Being “saved” means being included in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus answers that “the owner of the house” makes the decision. It is not based on our actions but on God’s. Once God closes the door, the final deadline has been reached. No excuses – I meant to…, I wanted to…., I’m a friend of…., I tried once but got confused… All our excuses will be useless. Jesus continues to say that all sorts of people we did not even know will be included and people we thought so highly of will be excluded. We do not know who is in or out because we are not the owner of the house. We do not see the big picture. The margin or error is not about our behavior but God’s grace. It is not about whether we act good enough. It is about relationship.
It sounds harsh to our Western ears but in fact we can name so many situations where parameters are set on membership in whatever. We even use that kind of thinking with our families as we ponder how far to bend with that alcoholic child, that child that does not follow the family values, and that child that is just different. We, as humans, understand “belonging.” We use the word “adoption” to talk about people included by the grace of the “owner.”
Today’s text is serious. We do not want to think of some included and some excluded or that the door is narrow. It is hard to trust the owner of the house to make that decision. Grace, faith and trust are hard. We want to qualify based on our qualifications and our wonderfulness. But the truth is that we are all sinners and all are welcomed into the kingdom of God by his grace. The stories we cover during Lent draw us to the truth of our need for God and characteristics of the kingdom Jesus is ushering in. Reflect this morning on how a “works” thinking sneaks into your thoughts towards yourself or towards others. Thank God for his grace and that the “door” to heaven is wide enough for sinners like you and me!
Lenten challenge: “In India, community health workers provide free medical care. The ELCA Hunger Appeal helps pay for their training. Give 25 cents for each time you visited a doctor this year.”