Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sermon - Pentecost 13 - Luke 13:22-30

Luke 13:22-30
“Who Gets Saved?”

Jesus, as a great teacher and authoritative preacher, was asked many questions. Sometimes the questions were designed to trick him, like, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar??” or “What about marriage in heaven?'
Sometimes they were meant to change the subject: “Oh, I see you are a prophet! Let's talk religion; Where should we worship?”
Sometimes the questions are asked with honest intentions, “Teacher, how shall we pray?” and sometimes looking for self-affirmation, “What must I do to be saved?”

Today we have another question asked of Jesus in our Gospel reading from Luke, “Lord, will those who are saved be few??”

It seems like a fair enough question. Perhaps asked from general curiosity. Who gets in to the kingdom? How many are saved? Is it 90%? 50%? Only 1 in 5?

When we pastors are yet in school, an handy rule of thumb we are taught is not to answer a tough question too hastily. But rather, ask often, “why do you want to know?” Jesus, of course, doesn't need to ask that question. He already knows what the real questions is, or at least, should be. So his answer is not as straightforward as we might like, or as the original asker might have liked. Jesus doesn't simply say yes or no.

In a way, he answers the question behind the question. “What are MY odds of getting in?” or “am I likely to be saved?” Now that we make it personal, that question becomes much more important, and much more real.

What about you? Do you think you are likely to be saved? What if you had to put a percentage chance on it? 50-50? 75%? Of course we know in our heads, the answer we've learned, what we SHOULD say is 100%, of course, pastor! But is our faith always so unwavering? Or do we doubt and wonder?

Jesus says, in effect, “Don't you worry about how many others are saved. You be concerned about yourself, first. Make sure you strive toward the narrow door. For many will seek to enter and not be able.” WOW! So Jesus does answer – there are many who will not be saved! But am I one of them?

When he goes on to talk about those who will not be saved – it's not a pretty picture. Weeping and gnashing of teeth. The sense that those who are cast out know their misery well, and know that others have escaped it. We're talking about the torments of hell – eternal damnation. It's what we all deserve. Which makes the question even more pressing!
How likely is it that I get in that narrow door? Or will I be one of those on the outside, suffering the punishment I deserve?
Well there is a time when Jesus will cast away the wicked. Not everyone gets in. And it certainly isn't enough that we THINK we're deserving. Some will attempt to enter the kingdom on that basis, and Jesus will not accept them. He will look at all their supposed good works of merit and call them evildoers.

Nor is it enough to have a casual association with Jesus. Even some of those who met him in person, ate with him, and heard him preach will not enter the kingdom.

Nor is it enough to have the right birthright. To be born into the chosen people, whether we consider that to be as an ethnic Jew, or if we are born and raised in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. No, even some of those will certainly be turned away at the door.
So what is it then? What is the narrow door? How do I strive? How can I be certain? Forget how many and how likely. I want to know about my own soul, my own salvation, and have my own assurance that I get in!
Fear not, Christian, for Jesus has opened the door to you. And he has given you the kingdom. And you can be assured.

We know that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to die for it... so that whoever believes will not perish but have eternal life. That means that the sins of the world are paid for – that no one is forbidden from the door. God's grace is an open invitation – even more – it is an undeserved kindness for all sinners. Salvation was won by Jesus at the cross where his blood was shed for all sin. But still, not all will receive this gift.

Some, even many, reject it. This is the broad road, the wide path to destruction. Disbelief. Those who do not trust in what Christ has done for them are doomed to eternal punishment.

But for us who believe, we are promised eternal life, freedom from hell, and all the blessings God has in store for his people. Faith in Jesus Christ is the narrow door. Only through him – the Way – can we receive the kingdom.
Faith, as we have said, is the assurance of things hoped for and the certainty of things unseen. Faith makes our salvation a certainly, not a likelihood. Faith says, I believe it, not because I am so good, but because God is! I trust, not because I am so trusting, but because God is so trustworthy. Faith always looks to God, to Christ, outward, not inward. And there faith finds its certainty.

You may say, “yes, but how much faith do I need?” And Jesus says, “only a mustard seed” But that seed of faith will always grow in his word. You may say, “What about my doubts and fears?” And Jesus says, like he says to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe!” And you may pray, with the disciples, “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!” And he will, by his Spirit, through his Word, in his Sacrament.

Faith looks to the promises of our baptism and the promises in God's Word, and the promise of his truly present Body and Blood for forgiveness, and faith is strengthened.

When doubt and fear ask the question, “who gets in to the kingdom?” Faith answers, “I do, but only through Jesus Christ my Lord. Who died for me, who lives for me, and who promises me life in his name.”
Of all the uncertainties and likelihoods and unlikelihoods and questions of life, here is one sure and firm and certain and unquestionable and rock-solid truth to cling to. Jesus died for you. You are saved through him.


Stal Herz said...


I'm not here to talk about God, but something that Jesus loves: Football - More than that, fantasy football.

My name is Stal Herz, and I'm a fantasy football writer who has written for Fantasy Sites but is branching off on my own.

I would like to invite you to check out my blog and leave comments. As the season gets going, I will offer start and sit advice to your specific team.

How do you keep track of scores and hold services at the same time?


Doorman-Priest said...

I enjoyed your sermon. I like a blog with theology -which I should expect from a Pastor. Not so sure about the fantasy football though. I have a new Lutheran blog which might interest you: