Q&R with Brad Jersak – “You yourselves cast out” (Luke 13:28)

Question:

In Luke 13 and the “narrow door” parable, Jesus says in verse 28, “but you yourselves cast out. What is He getting at? Is it what Jesus sees in the questioner verse 23?

Passage – Luke 13

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

Response:

Throughout Luke 13, Jesus definitely delivers a series of dire warnings, including severe language that describes exclusion from the kingdom (the door to which is very narrow). He even talks about some being “cast out,” which is the same word used concerning demons!

What we must not do is rush to “fix” this passage or divert our attention from the force of Jesus’ words with counterpoints from his decisively all-inclusive teachings. We must first undergo the sting of these words because both the warnings and the judgments are means to the Good News outcome.

Judgment is real, even when it is restorative. Even though we know the victory Jesus Christ renders all judgment, however terrible, penultimate (i.e., it doesn’t have the last word).

But when warning someone of the awful consequences and painful rehabilitation of their rebellion, one does not diminish it by saying, “Don’t worry, it will all work out in the end.” That would be to dull the edge of his rhetoric to confront and transform our self-destructive resistance. It would undercut the ways these parables contribute to repentance. They are to be taken seriously because Jesus’ rhetoric is never empty… it always functions to bring about a radical change in our lives.

So even the glorious End (“When I am lifted up, I will draw everyone to myself”) comes about through these “great and terrible” means. Practically speaking, this might look like having to come to grips with how we’ve squandered our lives or becoming aware of every harm we’ve done, knowingly or not. The grief of that revelation may be unbearable when we experience the condemnation, not of Christ, but of our own accusing conscience–when I see how often I betrayed Perfect Love. Maybe that’s what the unrepentant and the loophole experts and the self-righteous need to hear.

On that day, Jesus did NOT respond to the question, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” with“Of course not. Through the Cross, ALL shall be saved.” Why not? Because he could see clearly into the heart of his questioner and knew he needed a stern reality check. His “Come to Jesus moment” needed these particular ‘teeth.’

On another day, faced with a lost sheep, world-weary and bereft of hope, the “Come to Jesus moment” might sound more like “Be not afraid” or “I will give you rest” or “mercy triumphs over judgment.” Instead of “beware of the fires of judgment,” Jesus might say to them, “come out of the fires of judgment into my loving arms.”

I believe Jesus’ words, “There will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth,” and therefore I also believe “he will wipe every tear from their eyes.” I believe there is a narrow gate, and therefore I also believe “her gates will never be shut.”

And this seems to be Jesus’ precise point in the final two verses of the passage: NOT “few” but MANY will come… from all over the world, from every direction, and be welcomed to the feast, including those who we’d seen as “last” because they were too different or too immoral or too unbelieving or too broken, etc. Whoever in OUR minds is least, lost or last will find a welcome mat, an open door, and a place at the table! Suddenly the few become the many, the outsiders become the insiders, and this inversion may be the very point of repentance the questioner needed Jesus to speak to.

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