March 15th, 2009 – Luke 13:22-30

The Narrow and Soon‐Shut Door

Luke 13:22‐30


The kingdom’s coming has implications for the Jewish nation. The time to join God’s eschatological program has come, so one had better respond quickly before the door closes. Jesus stresses the nation’s situation in the picture of the narrow and soon‐shut door. After this passage, Jesus will issue a lament, because the nation does not respond (13:31‐35). What Luke has been showing since 11:37 is that the Pharisees and many others in the nation have not responded. Though they see themselves joined to the patriarchs and prophets, they are rapidly placing themselves in a position where they will be isolated from them. Jesus warns that the time is short and, once the door closes, it will be too late. In addition, He notes that many others from around the world will be at the table with these great OT saints, while those racially related to them will be missing. The passage has a strong note of warning and pity. It is no accident that it begins by noting that Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. The nation’s very resistance to accept Jesus will drive Him to His fate in the nation’s religious center.1

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE SETTING (13:22).
    The text marks a travel note: Jesus is on the move through the nation – heading steadily and unalterably toward Jerusalem. His mission involves teaching in all the nation’s regions.
    1. Question about the number to be saved (13:23).In Judaism, views varied about the fate of the saved in terms of experiencing blessing, though all agreed that the nation of Israel would share in the blessing after the resurrection. Rabbis would site Isaiah 60:21 to argue for Israel’s salvation – a view that allowed for a few exceptions: those who denied the resurrection; those who denied that the law came from heaven; Epicureans (who were devoted to sensual pleasures and luxury, especially good food); and those who read heretical books, uttered charms, or pronounced the holy name (YHWH). Jesus’ teaching makes it clear that there will be distinctions within Israel and that heritage and genetic origin are not enough for election.2
    2. The picture proper (13:24‐27).Jesus doesn’t answer the question of number directly; but He does show that that the people who will be blessed will come from many places (13:29). There will be many who thought they were inside who will find themselves outside. Many such people, He suggests, reside in Israel (13:28).

      His exhortation for them to “strive or make every effort to enter through the narrow door” does not refer to a person working his way to God. Rather, it refers to listening carefully and responding to His message. It would be very much like the exhortation in Proverbs 2:1‐5 – ” My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding,. . . then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God” (NIV).

      The reason for the Lord’s exhortation is because many will try to enter and will not be able. They did not respond to His call in time – and when they are excluded and protest, He will say that He does not recognize them. Access after a certain point becomes impossible. The owner will close the door once and for all. They must listen and respond now to sit at the table.

    3. Three sayings on the significance of the image (13:28‐30)
      1. Some will be cast out (13:28).Those who have evidenced nothing more than a curiosity toward Jesus and His ministry will be excluded from the kingdom. Their rejection of Him and His word evidence the fact that they lack the righteousness necessary to enter His kingdom. The phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” depicts the emotional and physical reaction to traumatic news, in this case exclusion from God’s promise.3
      2. Many will sit at the table (13:29).In contrast to the many Israelites who will be excluded from the kingdom will be those who come from everywhere: ” People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

        People from east and west is a reference to the Gentiles – in contrast to the crowd before Him, who will sit down at the blessed banquet table with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets.

      3. Reversal of the first and the last (13:30).The reversal (first last and last first) indicates that those who are first or close may in fact end up far off or last (e.g. those in the crowd); while Gentiles who are far off or last may end up near or first. The remark applies to the end‐time when the fullness of the kingdom comes.
    • Faith in Jesus Christ brings results in the righteousness necessary to enter His kingdom.
    • Hearing the truth is not sufficient; one must act upon the truth to find approval from God.

1 Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament, Luke 9:51‐24:53, Darrell L. Bock, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, p.1230.
2 Ibid, p.1234.
3 Ibid, p.1238.

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