Jesus and the Narrow Door

September 15, 2019

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



Old Testament Lesson; Psalm 72

Epistle Lesson; Hebrews 12:18-24                             

Sermon Text; Luke 13:22-30


The text we will look at today is taken from Luke, chapter thirteen, verses twenty two through thirty.  This is in our Savior's name.


He went on His way from one town and village to another, teaching, and making His way to Jerusalem.  Someone said to Him, “Lord, are only a few going to be saved?”

He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.  Once the master of the house gets up and shuts the door, you will begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, open for us!'  He will tell you in reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'

They you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.'  And he will say, 'I don't know where you come from.  Depart from me, all you evildoers.'  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown outside.  People will come from east and west, from north and south, and will recline at the table in the Kingdom of God.  And note this:  Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



So, a couple years ago, we had a brand new school, and a brand new early learning center.  Everything here was brand new, even our dumpster corral, and the dumpster pad were brand new.  I remember one day walking up to the brand new dumpster corral, with its wooden walls that surround the dumpster so you can't see the dumpster.  I thought, “I am going to go in there, and throw something in the dumpster.” 

There is a big, steel, rod you have to pull up, because it goes in to a hole in the ground to keep these big, heavy, doors shut.  So, I pulled up this big, steel, rod, and it swung open - this big, brand new, heavy wooden door.  I walked into the dumpster area, and was throwing something in to the dumpster, when along comes this strong, southerly wind.  I turned around, and I could see the dumpster corral door was closing.  I watched it, as it blew shut, “Boom!”  I walked over to try to open it, and realized the big, steel rod had fallen down in to that hole.  I thought, “No!  I am trapped in here.”  

I started pushing on the door, and then started going through my options, because those walls are really high.  I was thinking, “Well, how am I going to get out of here?” 

Option one was to start yelling, “Help!  Help!”  But, I thought, “Oh man, what is that going to look like?  Somebody gets out of their car, and the pastor is yelling, 'Help!', from the dumpster.”  So, I crossed that one off of the list.

Then, I thought, “I have my phone in my pocket, and I know Pastor Tweit's phone number.  But, how is that going to sound?  'Hey, Pastor Tweit, I am stuck in the dumpster!  Can you come and help me?'”  So, I opted out of that one, for pride's sake.

My third option was, “How much do I like these dress pants, because, what if I rip them, when I try to climb out of here, and jump out of the dumpster area?”  Well, that was the option I chose.  And, I did manage to make it out of there, fully unscathed! 

About a week later, I was back in the dumpster corral area.  All of a sudden, a southerly wind blew.  I turned around, and saw the door swinging shut.  I thought, “NO!  NOT again!”  Only this time I knew what was going to happen, so I lunged with all of my might, for that door, as fast as I could.  But, the door beat me, and “Boom”, down went the rod. 

I thought to myself, “You dummy!”  I was mad at myself.  I thought, “How in the world could I make that mistake again.” 

So, I went through the options again.  “Alright, do I yell, 'Help!'?  No way!”

“Am I going to call Pastor Tweit?  No way.”  

So, I climbed over it again, and I escaped! 

After my pride had settled down a little bit, I thought, “Yeah, it is kind of fun to tell funny stories about yourself”, so I went to Pastor Tweit's office, and said, “You will never guess what happened to me?  Twice in a row, I got locked in the dumpster area, and had to climb over the wall.” 

He had a big smile on his face, and he said, “The same thing happened to me last week!”

So, if you ever can't find your pastors, check the dumpster!!!

Here is the point.  I had two powerful emotions. 

-One was, when I saw that door closing, and I knew it was going to close, I tried with all of my might to get through that door before it shut. 

-The second emotion was, once it went shut, and I should have known better, all of a sudden I thought, “Why in the world, why wasn't I ready for that the second time it happened?” 

In today's scripture reading, Jesus uses those two pictures and those two emotions to talk to you personally about the fact that there is 'a narrow door'. 

That 'narrow door' to Heaven is Jesus, Himself. 

He is 'the narrow door'.  He tells us in this scripture reading,

“Strive to enter through the narrow door,

because many, I tell you,

will try to enter and not be able.” 

The word 'strive', there, is actually the word 'agonizomai'.  We get the word 'agony' from it.  Put all of your effort into getting through that 'door', before it closes, and then it is too late.  So, He tells us to 'strive' to make it to eternity 'on the right side of the door'.  He wants every one of us, every single one of us to be there. 

He tells us He doesn't want it to be a secret.  He doesn't want it to be a secret that someday He is going to come, and 'His door' is going to be shut, and then it is going to be too late.  He wants you to know, so that when that day comes, you don't say, “What in the world was I thinking?  Why wasn't I ready?  Why hadn't I passed through that 'door' to eternal life, before Jesus came back?”

So, as we go through this text, there is going to be a really serious warning from our Savior, and then some really serious comfort.

Before I talk about the warning, I want to talk about three things.  The first is this. 

        -Jesus makes it very clear there is only 'one door' to get to Heaven.  Only one and it is 'a narrow door'. 

That narrow door is faith in Jesus, as our Savior.

That is what we call, The Exclusivity of Christianity.  It is the teaching in The Bible that there are not many, many different ways to get to Heaven.  We live in a pluralistic society.  Our society thinks, “Aren't there lots of different ways to get to Heaven?  And, don't they ultimately lead to the same path?” 

That is not what Jesus teaches.  Jesus teaches what we call, The Exclusivity of Christianity.  He says there is 'one door'.  It is 'a narrow door', and He is it.  Jesus once said,

“I am the way the truth and the life. 

No one comes to the Father except through me.”  

That is it.  There is only one way.

St. Peter, when he was preaching once said,

“There is no other name under Heaven

given among men

by which we must be saved.”

Scripture teaches Jesus is the only way. 

Now, that can be offensive to people.  It was just as offensive in Jesus' day, as it is today.  “Why in the world would scripture say there is only one way, one exclusive way, and it is Jesus?” 

Here is why. 

To get to Heaven, you have to be perfect. 

The only people who God allows in to Heaven are perfect people.  And, there is only one Person, one Person in all of the history of the world, who can fit that description.  And, there will never, ever, ever be anybody else who can fit that description, except Jesus. 

Jesus is the only One who is

-God in the flesh, taken on human flesh,

-conceived by the Holy Spirit,

-born of the Virgin Mary,

-who was tempted in every way, like we are, and yet, The Bible says,

“He was without sin”.  

The One perfect Person.  And there will never, for the rest of eternity, on this side of Heaven be anybody, anybody who can be perfect.  You need to be perfect to get to Heaven.  The Bible tells us God has taken His holy life, and He has given it to you.  You are not going to get that from anybody else.

        -Secondly, if we sin, then we need to be punished, until we have paid the price to get to Heaven.  If that was left to you, and me, it would take eternity.  It would take eternity to pay the price.  We would be in Hell forever, and ever.  There is only one Person, and there never will be anybody else who is capable of doing this, who could take the punishment in your place. 

God has only One begotten Son. 

There is nobody else.  And, to that One begotten Son of God, the Father said, “Go to the world.  I am going to put all of their sins on you, Jesus, and you are going to pay the price for their sins.”

Jesus went to the cross.  He bled, and He died for your sins, The Bible tells us.  God has washed away all of our sins, because of Jesus.  There is no one else, no one who will ever be able to do that.  And so, Jesus is, He is the only 'door'.  He is 'the narrow door'. 

And, whoever believes in Him, will be saved.  

The point is not this…  The point isn't, “There is only one door?”  “There is only one way?”  “There is only one Savior?” 

The point is,

“There IS a 'door'.” 

“There IS a way.” 

“There IS a Savior, and Jesus is it!”

        -The second point, (before I get to the warning), is even though there is only 'one door', 'a narrow door', and the 'door' is Jesus, and faith in Christ, the awesome thing is this:  While we say, “It is exclusive, and Christianity is the only way of salvation”, that 'door' is wide open to everybody.  It is the most inclusive you could possibly get. 

What does Jesus say about who is going to be Heaven, someday.  “Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, and all of the prophets” will be in the Kingdom of God.  “People will come from east and west, from north and south and recline at the table in the Kingdom of God.”  There will be people from all over the place.  That 'door stands open' to you, no matter who you are.  Today, as long as you are alive, as long as you are breathing, that 'door is open'.  It doesn't matter where you come from.  It doesn't matter how far you have fallen.  It doesn't matter how corrupt you have become.  It doesn't matter how many times you have committed the same sin, over, and over, again.  That 'door stands wide open'.

St. Paul said,

“Christ Jesus came to this world to save sinners,

of whom I am the chief.”

Even if you are the worst of sinners, 'the door is wide open'.  Today is the day of salvation, The Bible tells us.  As long as that 'door is open', scripture calls us to come to Christ, and 'walk through that door'.

        -Here is the third point, before we get to the warning.  Someday, someday 'the door is going to close'.  It is going to close.  It will be the day you die, or the day Jesus comes back in judgment, and then, then, you will be 'on one side of that door, or the other'. 

So, here is the warning.  The warning is there are going to be some surprises.  When that 'door closes', there are going to be some surprises.  There are going to be some surprises as to who is not there.  And, there are going to be some surprises as to who is there.

Let's look at the surprises as to who is not going to be there, when that 'door closes', because they are going to be on the wrong side of 'the door'.  Jesus says,

“Once the master of the house gets up, and shuts the door,

you will begin to stand outside, and knock on the door, saying,

'Lord, open for us!' 

He will tell you in reply, 'I don't know you, or where you come from.' 

Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' 

And He will say, 'I don't know where you come from.  Depart from me, all you evildoers.' 

There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, and the prophets in The Kingdom of God, but, you yourselves thrown outside.”

The surprise is that there are not going to be people there, who you would have expected to be there.  These people are going to knock on Jesus' 'door', as it were, and say, “But Jesus, Jesus...”  There are people literally, literally who lived in Jesus' day… they could touch Jesus.  They probably did touch Him.  They heard Him preach, and teach.  They saw His miracles.  They had all of the advantages, but they are not going to make it.  People who we thought would be there, aren't going to be there. 

Why won't those people be there?  It is simply because they looked at 'the door', they saw 'the door', they maybe touched 'the door', but they never went through 'the door'. 

They never repented of their sin,

and trusted in Jesus as their Savior.

Now, Luther says here is the big warning in all of this.  This teaching of Jesus is really meant for people like us who are reading this today, people who have all of the advantages, when it comes to knowing God.  We have all of the advantages.  Think of every advantage that has been at your fingertips, at least most of you, all of your lives.  Most of us, me included, were baptized as little children.  A lot of us had Christian parents who taught us all about Jesus.  A lot of us went to Christian Day School, or do go to Christian Day School, and are learning scripture, and all about Jesus.  A lot of us get to come to church every Sunday.  A lot of us go to Bible Study.  A lot of us are involved in all kinds of things at church.  A lot of us have lots of Christian friends. 

But, please, please, please don't surprise us, someday. Please don't surprise us.  When we get to Heaven, and we have been there for awhile, God forbid that anybody would ever say, “I wonder where Pastor Bartels is?  I thought he would be here.”  That's the worst. 

“I wonder where mom is?  I thought she would be here.” 

“I wonder where my son and daughter are?  I thought they would be here.”  

Don't surprise us.  This is a call.  It is a call from Jesus.   'The door is still open'.  Don't just look at 'the door'.  He is calling each one of us to repent, to run to Him, and know, “Jesus, I need you to give me your perfect life.  Forgive all of my sins.”  

He is the way.  He calls us all.

The other awesome thing is this.  There are going to be some amazing surprises, on that day, positive surprises.  Jesus says, you will see Abraham, Issac, Jacob and all the prophets. 

They won't be surprises. 

Then He says,

“People will come from the east and west, from the north and south...Some are least who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”  

People we never expected to be there, will be there.  Someday, somebody is going to have the awesome privilege of going up to somebody in Heaven, and saying, “I never thought you would be here!  Alleluia!”  “Daughter, son, Mom, Dad, I didn't think  you would make it.  I was so worried about you in our life there on earth.  I saw you walk away from the Savior.  I had seen you fall into all of these sins.  But, here you are.  Here you are!  Thank God, before 'that door closed', at some point you repented of your sin, and came to faith in Jesus as your Savior.” 

As long as we are here in this time of grace, we continue, we continue to offer that salvation through Christ to everyone.  'The door is still open'.  It is still open.

Lastly, it is pretty awesome to think we are going to come up here to The Lord's Table, and recline at The Lord's Table.  Jesus says in the Kingdom of Heaven there will be Abraham, Issac, Jacob and all of the prophets, and people from the east and west, and north and south reclining at the Table.  Well, here we are going to come, and we are going to walk right through that 'open door', which is Jesus.  We are going to lay all of our sins at His feet, repenting of our sin, and what is He going to say? 

“This is my body, and my blood given for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.” 

There is 'the door', and it is open.  And, He declares our sins are forgiven.  So, we recline at His feet.