PassageAs Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, someone asks him if only a few are going to be saved (verse 23 (ESV)). In response, Jesus says a number of things:
- His listeners should strive to enter by “the narrow door,” because yes, many will seek to enter but not be able to (verse 24 (ESV))
- Once “the master” has closed the door, it will be too late; if they stand outside the door knocking, saying “Lord, open to us,” He’ll respond that He doesn’t know where they come from (verse 25 (ESV))
- When this happens, they will start to tell him that they ate and drank in his presence, and he taught in their streets, but they won’t even be able to finish the thought before He cuts them off, to say, “I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!” (verses 26–27 (ESV))
- In that place, where all of these people are trying (but unable) to get in, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when they see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, along with all of the prophets, in the kingdom of God, but they themselves cast out. (verse 28 (ESV))
- Contrarily, however, people will come from all over to eat at the table of the kingdom of God—from East and West and North and South. (verse 29 (ESV))
- And finally, he tells them that, “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last,” so a person’s current station in life isn’t a driver or determinant as to their “position” in the kingdom of God. (verse 30 (ESV))
ThoughtsThe question that starts off this section is a valid one—and the affirmative answer might be more surprising to modern day Christians than it was to Jesus’ original Jewish audience. The Israelites of Jesus’ day were used to the concept that they were God’s chosen people, so the idea that He had only chosen a few people—and, conversely, that the rest were therefore not chosen—would have seemed perfectly normal. His later point, however, on people from all over getting into the kingdom of God, is probably not very surprising to modern day Christians, while it would have been shocking to his original listeners.
Jesus then predicts that some of his listeners are going to end up “knocking at the door” of the kingdom of God after it’s already too late, and expecting that they should be able to get in because they knew Jesus; He taught them, and ate with them. Now, the fact that that’s not good enough—that “I ate with you that one time” isn’t reason enough for one to be let into the kingdom of God—might not be surprising, but Jesus goes even further than that: not only does He claim he doesn’t know them (despite what was just said), but then He calls them “workers of evil,” which sounds pretty extreme. Let’s take those one at a time:
- “I do not know where you come from.” What does He mean by that? Especially on the heels of them saying that they should be let in because they ate with Him and He taught them—how can He claim that He doesn’t know them? Well, it’s one thing to “know” someone, and another to know them. I’ve had dinner with a lot of people—I’ve even had a lot of teachers, for that matter—so they “know” me, but my wife knows me. The nature of the relationship I have with my wife, as opposed to the nature of the relationship I have with an occasional dinner partner, is vastly different. Jesus’ actual, real, true followers are of a very different category than the folks who will claim they should get in because they “know” Him, even though they don’t know Him.
- “Depart from me, all you workers of evil!” This sounds pretty harsh, but to the Christian it’s the underlying basis for the Gospel: We’re all sinners, we’re all “workers of evil,” so what Jesus says is exactly right.
And finally finally, I somehow ended up with a writing style whereby I capitalize “He” when talking about Jesus, except when talking about him as a man, in which case it’s just “he.” In practice, that means that almost always it’s the non-capitalized version of “he,” because that’s usually the context. In this post, however, I tied myself in knots trying to be consistent; this passage was Jesus the man (“he”) talking about a future event in which Jesus as God (“He”) will have (or not, as the case may be) relationships with His followers; from a purely grammatical point, I sometimes had to flip a coin on the “He”/“he” question.