Luke 13:18-30 “Narrow Door”
Just like last week, Luke mentions that Jesus was teaching, And, like last week, we are not told specifically in so many words what it was that Jesus was saying. We are left in the dark. I would have loved to have heard directly what Jesus was preaching about. Again, the Bible is an outline of the ministry and not a word for word anecdotal report of everything that Jesus said and did.
But, what we do know is that Jesus had questions from the crowds afterwards that he was happy to answer. One of the questions that came up was “What is this Kingdom of God that you keep talking about, Jesus?”
This is really interesting considering that back then everyone actually lived in a kingdom. They had a king. His name was Herod. The bible tells us this as well. This is the king who had Jesus crucified. He was allowed to be king from the Roman Emperor—so even a greater king, if you will. Neither of these guys were elected but rather came to power through political intrigues. So, Jesus saying that there is a different kingdom with a different king up in heaven is of great interest to them. They need to know who this other king is that is even greater than Herod or Tiberius. Who is this that is greater than Herod the Great? Who is more august than Augustus?
This question is even more acute today than it was in the time of Luke’s writing. The world seems to have all but forgotten that there is a power in this world that is greater than any other power in this world—and that this power comes from heaven. There is a power of our lives that is more powerful than any other power—that is God. I just feel better knowing this power is real.
Like a seed, this power might appear to be small, but it is in potency very great. We cannot even imagine how this looks in the spiritual sense: how big a spiritual seed can grow, so Jesus says it is like a mustard seed—very small but can grow enormous.
When I was growing up, mustard was considered a weed in our yard. It would grow up out of the ice plant on the hillside and have to be painstakingly hand weeded out. I have lost many a gorgeous Saturday morning to pulling mustard! So, this I know for sure, one little mustard seed can take over your yard in no time. Jesus certainly got that right!
Jesus also brings up a simile of yeast. This simile also strikes close to home. Yeast is so small, and it is in the air all around us, and we do not even realize it. I love the story of how yeast was discovered and what it was originally used for. The story goes that in ancient Egypt, before they knew how to make bread, they would take the wheat kernels and soak them in water to soften them into a mush or gruel. This is the only way they knew how to eat it. The seeds are too hard otherwise. One could easily break teeth for sure. The longer the mush stayed mushy, the easier it was to eat. One day someone discovered that the mush was getting foamy on top. The natural yeast that is in the air around us found a host in the wheat mush and started a yeast colony. Then, someone added more water put a lid on it and created the world’s first fermented yeast drink. That would be Egyptian beer. From beer, we eventually gained the first bread as the yeast culture was then added to ground wheat.
So, think about what Jesus is giving us here! He is saying, “I will give you these little bugs that are floating around in the air that you cannot see, but please know one day you can make a pizza with it!” Just add the tomato and cheese yourself. This stuff is in the air around us, and we do not even see it. Is that not the Kingdom of God?
Is the Kingdom of God part of YOUR plan for the future then? When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “Thy Kingdom Come!” We pray for it to come, but I wonder how many of us really set our life’s plan on its breaking through into this world? Are we looking forward to that?
One of my favorite sayings from Saint Paul is in his address to the church in Ephesus 2:19, “So you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints. . . .” Hmmmm, think about that; we are no longer citizens of this world but rather of the heavenly kingdom that is to come.
Remember Jesus when he stands before Pilate in John 18:36 and proclaims that his Kingdom “is not of this world.” That is right. The Kingdom of God is here. It is like the yeast in the air that is about to be mixed with the flour. It is like the mustard seed about to be planted. The King himself was here already, so we follow in that same sense of citizenship to a Kingdom established with Jesus Christ.
Which Kingdom do you choose as your state? Where is your citizenship? Now I know I am not supposed to get political. So, excuse me for just one minute as I talk about migration. Not here, but in Russia. Four years ago the Levada Institute, the last free pollster in Russia, shared that of Russians between the ages of 18-35 an even 40% admitted that they would like to leave Russia. Since then, over 3 million of them have done just that. Over 700,000 have left just in the last two months. With the war and the forced conscription, it is no wonder. Nobody wants to die for no reason.
Jesus is talking about migrating to the Kingdom of God. Why not? We already have citizenship rights there! Yet, when we get to the door at the border, we hear that it is indeed a very narrow door. Why should that be?
You know, our church actually has narrow doors! Have you ever noticed that? The good thing about having narrow doors is that nobody can slip by without being noticed. If you are a visitor, it is really hard not to be met at a narrow door.
Obviously this must be the same with the Kingdom of God. We have to come through one at a time. There be no group entrance to this realm where Jesus is King! This was a fresh idea for the Jewish folks hearing this. You see, in Judaism you are saved because you belong to the group that is considered “the chosen people of God.” There is little one has to do to make it well into the next world. Your salvation is in the blood of the generations that came before, not in the blood of the Savior who took death upon himself that you may have eternal life.
Jesus is now claiming that we have to stand individually before Jesus to be entered into the Kingdom. You cannot just sneak by. You are going to have to be recognized. You are going to have to have an individual personal relationship with the Savior without which when you knock at the door, Jesus might not recognize you after all.
Have you ever tried to get into a gated community? The guard will ask you if you belong. Whom do you know inside already that can vouch for you? Are you on the list? We have in fact three gated communities here on Kauai. I did not know that until someone told me about them. I was never on anyone’s list to get into these places it seems.
However, I go to the Regency Pua Kea every week, and those folks make you go through the narrow door there. You have to announce who you are and why you think you should be let through. The schools for Bible clubs are exactly the same way. I have to be recognized and given a pass because I am expected on campus. When I travel by air, I have to show my boarding pass to get to the plane. I must prove that I have a good reason to be on the plane.
I thought we should do that here in church! We should ask at the door, “Where are you headed? Oh, God is expecting you? Then go right in.”
How many people will come in then? That is the question that is asked. And, today there is much confusion among some believers about this very issue. You may have heard that some believe that only 144,000 will ever make it into heaven. That number is found in Revelation 7 for instance. Those who make this claim as being definitive have neglected to keep on reading whereafter it says that the multitudes of multitudes will be there in heaven worshipping their Lord. Let us never make the mistake of reading one verse out of context. Please always consider the bigger picture of what is being reported in the biblical text! Those who claim only 144,000 will be saved are patently wrong for not reading the entire text.
Jesus goes on to state that the first shall be last and that last first. The big shall be small and the small big. So, as citizens of heaven, we should come to expect the unexpected. Everything may be turned upside down through Jesus. It is just like those signs in Hanapepe that read “The biggest little town on Kauai.” The kingdom of God is the biggest little thing there is!
I want to close today with a bit of science: According to scientists at the start of the Big Bang that created what we know as our universe, at 10 to the –35th power of one second, the observable universe was just about 17 centimeters big. That is about the size of a soccer ball. And, if that is truly the case, then the next big bang is just now the size of a mustard seed, but it will be the biggest little mustard seed of all time!