There is a time for everything, the Teacher of Ecclesiastes tells us. Whether it is a time for birth or for death; to plant or to uproot; to weep or to laugh; to mourn or to dance – understanding the time in which we live as we enter 2023 really matters. Knowing our time will dictate how we should act, what we should do, what we should prioritise, and what we believe is most significant. So, what is the time in which we live? Jesus says in Luke 13 that this is the time when we will answer the question of where we are spending eternity.
For a few chapters previously, Jesus has been travelling south from Galilee to Jerusalem. As he enters a village, a random person calls out from within the crowd: “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” (v23). This person is asking Jesus who will actually be in heaven. But Jesus doesn’t really answer his question. It seems as though this man’s hypothetical question is unnecessary speculation. Instead of answering his question, Jesus responds by answering another question – a more relevant question: how do you know that you yourself will be in heaven? He does this by making two significant points.
- Salvation is exclusive
Jesus uses the image of a banquet to give us a picture of life with God – joy in eating and drinking to our hearts’ content, always satisfied. Yet, entry into this banquet is via a single narrow door. There are no side doors, back exits through which to sneak in, and definitely no tunnels in. Not exorbitant amounts of money, nor stellar reputations. No Muhammad, Karma, or Buddha. Only one door, one entry point – the Lord Jesus Christ. But it’s not just that there is one door; that one door is narrow. Doors, by their very nature, divide, and this narrow door means that not many will enter through it. Perhaps this is why Jesus asks the crowds to “make every effort” (v24). This is no small ask from Jesus. For some Christians, walking through this narrow door comes at unbelievable cost. Our friends from Muslim and Hindu backgrounds who follow Jesus have often had to give up family, support networks, financial stability, and countless other things. Others have had to endure persecution, ridicule, limitations in success and opportunity in the workplace, and so much more. Yet, a feast like this one is worth it at whatever cost.
Of course, the other thing about this door is that it won’t always be open (v25). There will be a time – a time coming very soon – when Jesus, the owner of the house, gets up and closes the door for good. Once this door is closed, it is closed for good. No matter how much you want it, no matter how much you knock and plead, you will be met with the most soul-piercing of responses from our Lord: “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” (v27). As if this weren’t scary enough, notice also that an appeal to familiarity with Jesus doesn’t cut it. Being at the same table with Jesus, eating food with him, hearing his words as he teaches isn’t enough. Sunday church attendance, Bible study attendance, singing heartily, talking in Christian jargon, knowing the popular Bible stories – these things, as good as they are – are not enough on their own. In other words, familiarity is not the same as friendship. The banquet doesn’t give entry to everyone. A relationship with Jesus is needed, and nothing else will suffice.
As harsh as this might sound, be certain that being nicer as a Christian is a fool’s errand if it means that people don’t hear the truth. There is no comfort in lies that lead you away from salvation and eternal life. That path, that lack of a door, leads to bitterness, to wailing, to weeping, to gnashing of teeth (v28). So heed the words of Jesus, and make every effort to walk through that narrow door.
- Salvation is inclusive
While the exclusivity of salvation is clear, unpopular a claim as it might be, it is worth also knowing that salvation is inclusive. The Christian message is the most inclusive invitation. Every tribe, tongue, nation; blue collar workers, white collar workers, workers without collars; every age bracket, and every socioeconomic category – all are invited (v29). The inclusivity of Jesus is the reason why all of us who have walked through that narrow door, all of us who follow Jesus, will take our place at the feast in the Kingdom of God! As if that weren’t enough, the proud will be brought low and the humble exalted (v30). This is in step with Luke’s account of Jesus’ interactions with people. Whether they are the downcast, sinners, betrayers, or tax collectors – no matter your lot in life, all people are invited to come in. Jesus really is that inclusive.
As we begin 2023, the temptation might be to enjoy all the freedoms that were restricted during a season of Covid. The temptation might be to trick ourselves into desiring the pleasures of the short term. Remember the time in which we live! Now is the time of salvation – the time to know with assurance where you sit in your relationship with God. God might be patient, but the time is coming to an end very soon and the banquet is being filled up. We can’t even be sure if we will see out January before Jesus returns, and there is a profound foolishness to imagining that once the door is closed, you can knock really hard and use clever arguments and still get in. You won’t be able to. So, I beg of you to understand the time in which you live and make this the year to make sure you truly know Jesus as you come through the narrow door and feast in the Kingdom of God.