Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Both of these passages seem to me to be about how God’s Kingdom is no longer only for the Jews. In fact, with of their rules, traditions, and history, the Jews are at a decided disadvantage. Their comfortable views of themselves as God’s Chosen People caused them to become complaisant. They loved their comfort more than they loved God.
I think the same problem plagues modern Christians. Many times we are taught that all we have to do to enter Heaven is to choose Jesus as our Savior. We boldly declare it, but then we fail to follow-up or to delve deeper and find out what it really means to accept Christ. Because it is far more than just saying it. Many Americans in particular believe they are leading Christian lives, and call themselves Christians, but can’t even be bothered to attend Church on anything that even resembles a regular basis. The term “Chreaster,” demeaning and judgmental as it often is, isn’t even relevant to members of my own family who haven’t set foot in a church outside of weddings and funerals in years, or even decades.
But we also shouldn’t fear the narrow door. Many Christians use this passage to fuel their legalism or to fear they aren’t doing enough. I don’t believe that is Jesus’s intent. Frankly, it really seems to be more of an insult aimed directly at the Pharisees. Jesus isn’t saying “You had better go to church every single Sunday or there is NO WAY you’re getting in to Heaven!” His message is possibly even more heartbreaking: “The people who have spent their whole lives expecting Salvation will have the hardest time finding it.” Key word, expecting. We are entitled to nothing, and the second we start thinking or acting like we are, we miss half of the point of the Gospel. A relationship is two-sided. We can’t expect God to do all of the work.