At first glance of the scriptures this week from Luke 13, one would find the question of someone who encountered Jesus along His way to Jerusalem challenging to answer. Namely that is “Who will be saved?” Initially I thought of all the different responses, from a small group of faithful, to those 144,000 to everyone and anything in between that might be a response. We get a clearer idea from our reflection on the scriptures. God’s desire is that all people be saved, but it also requires our participation. Ultimately salvation is God’s gift to us, but it is clear that we participate through our acceptance of this gift.
Let’s get at it! The scripture from the prophet Isaiah brings a message of hope and joy. It is clear that this word from the prophet gives us the hope that God has for humanity.
Thus says the LORD:
I know their works and their thoughts,
and I come to gather nations of every language;
they shall come and see my glory.
The Lord desires that the peoples come from the East and West the North and South to find a place in the Kingdom of God.
“They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations
as an offering to the LORD,”
Israel’s special relationship with God as His chosen people is meant to bring the possibility of salvation for all persons. God seeks out persons of every language and way of life to share in His glory. Through this desire and invitation, being partakers in the Divine Life is offered to us to live our lives for others to the glory of God. He says the Lord knows their works and their thoughts.
This is the lead into the Gospel of Luke where we find someone asking Jesus,
” Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
We might look at this with concern, however, if we put ourselves back in the first century, we have a Jewish man asking a Jewish Rabbi what would at first seem to be easy. Being God’s chosen people would seemingly be sufficient for salvation. Salvation isn’t an ingroup or outgroup, as a Good Old Boys Club, only a few of the chosen and destined can enter. Recall, it was from the beginning and is still God’s desire that all people be saved.
Jesus’ response paves the path for us to walk to salvation.
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
In the Gospels we here of the challenges and requirements to enter through the narrow gate. The narrow gate speaks to what our part is in God’s gift of salvation for us. Jesus teaches us that we need to rid ourselves of the baggage that weighs us down and prevents us from entering the narrow gate.
“And again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And when the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking upon them Jesus said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (NASB) Matthew 19:24-26
In the ancient city there were foot gates and gates that carts, camels and larger items could through to enter the city. The needle’s gate was the narrow Gate and the only way for a Camel to enter would be unpack it, lower it in and then put the load back on its back. Here we see that we have a great deal weighing us down, heavy and burdensome. whether it is the weight of sin, bad habits and negative attitudes, or if its greed, hatred, or sloth or a life that is centered on self. Whatever it is we need to unpack, unload and be free to live for God and others.
In the Gospel of John Jesus has a number of “I am” teachings and having said that He is the Good Shepherd, and that His sheep know his voice, he further clarifies this when He refers to Himself as the Sheep Gate, ” So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.” What we think, say and do, will demonstrate our ability to listen to God’s voice and direction in our lives. Our willingness like Jesus to care for those on the peripheries, those in need, those who are marginalized. How we seek Justice for those who cannot stand on their own.
To enter through the narrow gate cannot just be eating and drinking and listening to Jesus, but it requires action. Being in the Good Old Boy Club isn’t enough, listening to Jesus and doing nothing is not an option. Clearly, we are called to act in justice and work for the betterment of our sisters and brothers and to be at the service of others. This leads to true life and living the divine life.