Just because you claim it, you won’t get it – 21st Sunday in ordinary time – Luke 13:22-30
Just because you claim it, you won’t get it. That is the sum and substance of this Sunday’s reading. So to understand this text better let us look at it in its larger context. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, in fact he is almost at its gates. The Gospel of Luke tells us that He is walking resolutely for it here that he will die for the salvation of mankind. On ‘the way’ he teaches his disciples.
The Gospels narrate that ‘someone’ asked him, “Lord will only a few be saved?” If we safely surmise that this nameless disciple was indeed a Jew then the rest of the text flows seamlessly. The Jews had a belief that all Gentiles would go to hell and with that process of elimination, this minuscule population of Jews would well qualify as “only a few to be saved.”
I have a theory that I have come to believe. If you ask Jesus a stupid question you will get a stupid reply or even worse, no reply at all, as in this case. The Lord, ignoring the petitioner simply addresses ‘them’, meaning the rest. Jesus does not answer the question with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ but chooses to teach the disciples. His point is clear, salvation is a narrow door and not the wide pearly gates that we have come to believe. If there is any door in question that one needs to contend with, it is Jesus himself; for HE IS THE DOOR (John 10:19)
The disciple is thus warned that this is no walk in the park. Jesus says, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” The word strive in Greek, is angonidzomai, from where you get the English word agonize. The Lord is clear with his instructions. To the ‘somebody’ in the crowd who simply thought to himself, ‘I will be saved because I am Jew and that makes me cool’, Jesus’ reply is simple, ‘strive dude, you need to work harder’!
There are no free tickets to heaven, for scripture (verse 24) tells us that ‘many will try to enter and will not be able.’ To illustrate this point Jesus uses a parable whose very words would have set off alarm bells. He speaks of the householder getting up and ‘shutting the door’ while the rest of humanity stands outside parading their credentials to get in, like yuppies at a fancy bar. It won’t work!
But here is why the alarm bells must have gone off in the minds of Jesus’ listeners. This parable sounded awfully familiar. It took them right back to Noah in the Old Testament who for a hundred years built his ark while pleading for the people to repent. They just scoffed at him. And then he rose and SHUT THE DOOR. Just eight people got on to the ark with the animals. When the flood waters rose they banged at the door, parading their credentials to be let in; in vain.
Now, Jesus the master of the house has risen to shut the door and no haggling at the door with our good deeds on that rare Sunday morning Eucharist (“we ate with you Lord”) will work. And unlike the name dropping that we in India are so used to (It seems to be a Biblical trait too), ‘whose your daddy?’ won’t work! The Jews who name dropped the big guns of the faith and hoped to dine with them, find to their horror that the ones at the table are the Gentiles whom they believed would be in hell.
God’s ways are certainly not man’s ways
Fr Warner D’Souza