Luke 13: 22-30 – Admission to the Kingdom of God

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Luke begins the second part of the travel narrative with a reminder to the reader that Jesus is still on his way towards Jerusalem (Lk 13: 22). The first episode (Lk 13: 22-30) consists of a collection of sayings of Jesus about salvation and admission to, or exclusion from, the Kingdom of God. It is connected with the preceding parabolic teaching on the Kingdom (Lk 13: 18-21). It is difficult to determine the source of these sayings.

The question posed to Jesus whether only a few would be saved (Lk 13: 23) was frequently debated among the Jews of Palestine. In a late first century (C.E) apocryphal book (4 Ezra 8: 1-3) we read: “The Most High made this world for the sake of many, but the world to come, for the sake of few … many have been created, but few will be saved”. Again, the Mishna states that “all Israelites have a share in the world to come”. In this context, in what way is one to understand Jesus’ appeal for timely reform (Lk 13: 3, 5) and the Kingdom that he preaches?

Certainly, Jesus is not concerned about the question of the number of the saved. His response to the question is in the form of an exhortation and warning. The only door to the Kingdom is now open; but it is narrow. Those who want to enter cannot take it easy. They must struggle and thrust themselves to get in. They must make an effort to enter. Even though many may come before the door, they are not able to enter (Lk 13: 24a), because of their delay (13: 24b). For, the narrow door, though now open, will be closed and those who arrive at the door too late will be left outside. The master who opens and closes the door is Jesus (Lk 13: 25). Entry into the Kingdom is a master that will be decided by the master of the house.

Being known by the master is decisive for entry to the festive banquet of the Kingdom (‘Being known’ by God meant in Old Testament ‘being chosen by God’, see Jer 1: 5; Hos 5: 3 etc.). Mere claim of superficial acquaintance through eating with the master (Jesus) or of listening to him is not a guarantee for entry (13: 27b). Those who do use the God-given opportunity to enter the Kingdom will be excluded from it (Lk 13: 27b; Cf. Ps 6: 8).

To the Jews who thought that in the banquet of the Kingdom to come they would be the only guests and that all non-Jews would be excluded, the vivid description of the latter sitting in the company of the Israelite patriarchs and prophets (Lk 13: 28) must have been very shocking. The people coming from the four corners are the Gentiles Cf. Ps 107: 3. Jesus’ answers implies that only those who refuse the call of Jesus’ message and fail to enter through the narrow door will find themselves locked out. Those who responded in time, whether Jew or Gentile, would join the new people of God. The reversal of the expectations and standards brought by the reign of God is emphatically expressed by Jesus when he says: “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Lk 13: 30). These utterances of Jesus sharpen the edge of his urgent appeal for timely reform (Lk 13: 3, 5).

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