October 26, 2016
Jesus told a parable about salvation into God’s kingdom:
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
He concluded His lesson saying, “people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Lk_13:22-30
This Gospel passage always scared me, because I would put myself in the place of that person who thought he knew God, but when God and I finally came face to face, He would chase me away, and I’d never know why.
So we have to put a little perspective on Luke’s account before we go jumping to any incorrect conclusions.
To begin with, we hear that Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem. You see, in Jerusalem, Jesus had already been rejected by many of the Jews, especially the religious leaders, and they were trying to kill him. So these might be the first group of believers in God, but non-believers in Jesus who would be rejected in that final judgment.
Next, there were the Samaritans, who also believed in God, but hated the Jews. And since Jesus was going to Jerusalem, they knew that He must have been a Jew too, and so they disliked Him as well. And since they also believed in God, but rejected Jesus, they too would be rejected in their final judgment.
Then there were those who dined with Jesus, like the Pharisee Simon, who liked to listen to Jesus, but in his heart of hearts, he did not believe strong enough to actually follow Jesus’ teachings. He would be the one who raved about knowing Jesus, but God would reject him as well, because He didn’t really believe in Jesus either.
And that’s the scary one.
Now, I myself, am pretty far from perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. But when I see someone wearing a crucifix around their neck and cursing like a sailor, or gossiping about how bad their neighbor is, or supporting abortion or capital punishment, I just have to wonder what they really know about Jesus, what they really know about their Faith.
You see, Jesus is looking for relationships. And the best way to build relationships is to learn all we can about what the other person stands for. And the best relationships are those in which we share beliefs.
When Jesus said – “the first will be last and the last will be first,” what He was implying was that the Jews, who were the first to really know God through all their experiences in the desert with Moses, and the Kings, and the Prophets, those Jews, actually never understood anything that God had tried to teach them, since they refused to believe in Jesus. So, because of their unbelief, they would wind up being last.
And the Gentiles who didn’t know God through any of those experiences, but DID come to respect and believe in Jesus and follow his teaching; they, who were the “last,” would be the first to gain entrance into God’s Kingdom.
They are us, brothers and sisters!
And yet, lest we get too comfortable in thinking that we have any preference in getting to God’s Kingdom, we must always remember to keep following the Way of Love and Life that Jesus taught. When we can keep Jesus, and Love and Life as the center of all of our thoughts, and words, and actions, we will BE those people “from the east and the west who
are welcomed to recline at table in the Kingdom of God.”
And that’s not scary at all.
But it sure is wonderful!
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