Some people seem to have an ingrained
sense of entitlement. They put themselves first without regard for the sensitivities
or rights of others. Whether their behaviour derives from childhood experiences
of over-indulgence or from some other source, it can be quite divisive and even
destructive of family or workplace or community. Those who put themselves first
will often find themselves last in that they are tolerated at best rather than
welcomed into most circles.
As Jesus moves from
town to town on his way to Jerusalem, “someone” puts a question to him. The
question is about salvation: “Are only the few saved?” Jesus treats this as a
rhetorical question that presupposes an affirmative answer. His answer could be
interpreted as affirmative, even if it is a far cry from the expected response.
The questioner rightly assumes that God is the one who saves. Jesus responds
with a reminder that God’s saving action cannot be taken for granted. One must
“strive to enter the narrow door”. Hard work is involved in ensuring that God’s
saving power is there for God’s world.
question comes from one person, Jesus’ response is “to them”. The insistence of
people in the crowd that they have eaten with him may suggest they are among
those who have been following him from Galilee. They may even be those who
objected to Jesus’ table companions, the tax-collectors and sinners (Luke 7:34).
The text makes it clear that they have heard his teaching: “You taught in our
indicates that the tables have turned. It would come as no surprise to a Jewish
audience to hear Jesus stating that the kin-dombelongs to Israel’s ancestors and to all the prophets. Jesus’ assertion
that it also belongs to those who come from far and wide, “from east and west
and north and south”, might be less than palatable to those who see themselves
as “first” in the schema of salvation.
Those who share
in the banquet in God’s kin-dom, the “saved”, have prevailed in the struggle to
enter through the “narrow door”. Entry is by no means restricted to Israel’s
forebears. It belongs to all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.
The inclusion or “salvation” of outsiders will cause grief among “evil-doers”.
These flawed individuals include those who have eaten with Jesus and who have heard
his teaching without effect and who, consequently, have failed to commit themselves
to the struggle to establish God’s reign of justice and peace and
reconciliation. There is no privileged access to salvation on the basis of
birth or race or any other contingency. While the “door” to salvation may be
“narrow”, the Lukan Jesus has already declared that it is open to all who hear
the word of God, to those who “hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and
bear fruit with patient endurance” (8:15).