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Pentecost 11 2019, Proper 16
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 25, 2019
Isaiah 66:18-23, Hebrews 12:4-24, Luke 13:22-30

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It is an ancient wall; the oldest wall.  The stones are worn and weathered and moss and lichen grow in the pits and grooves.  The wall is impossibly high and thick.  The ancient stone wall is impenetrable.

It is impenetrable except for a narrow door which stands open for anyone to enter to the other side.

On one side of the wall there is eternal life with God.  The side of the righteous.  The other side of the wall is eternal death in Hell, separation from God forever.  The side of the unrighteous.  The side of evil.

Who is on this side of the wall and who is on that side of the wall?  Am I in or out?  What about others?  Who is with the righteous?  Who is with the unrighteous?

Jesus is journeying to Jerusalem to offer Himself as the sacrificial Lamb of God on the altar of the cross.  He is going there to pay the price for the sins of the world.  On his journey someone asks Jesus, Luke 13:23 (ESV) 23 … “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” …[1]  We all would like to know that answer.  But Jesus does not answer the question.  Instead He replies, Luke 13:24 (ESV) 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.[2]

Strive…struggle…The struggle is repentance and trust.  Entrance through the door comes with sorrow over sin and repentance which is God’s work in your heart.  The struggle is the Word of God calling you to repent and trust in Christ, but sinful human nature warring in you against God’s Word.

Going through the doorway is humbling.  The doorway is Jesus and to enter through the door you submit to Jesus as your Lord and Master.  You kneel in repentant faith.  The side of righteousness is a side of humble submission to God’s will.

Many of the folks on the unrighteous side of the doorway appear to have it all together.  These are self-sufficient people who are all about doing the best for themselves because they deserve it; they have earned it.  These are independent people; people who don’t need anyone’s help; people who are good enough all on their own.  These are people who know what they want and how to get it.  They make their own rules and live by those rules.  Life on the side of the unrighteous has all the promise of individuality and freedom and pleasure.

On the righteous side of the doorway is a collection of people from all walks of life who know they are not good enough; who know they cannot do it on their own.  These are people who publicly and privately confess that they are sinners who need a savior.  They are dependent on the Lord Jesus.  They submit their will to the will of God and repent when they fail to do so.  On the righteous side of the door the people delight in God’s will and walk in God’s ways.  Life on the righteous side of the door is not a life lived serving self, but a life lived serving others.  It is a life lived doing the right thing because it is the right thing even when doing the right thing is very difficult.

On the righteous side of the doorway it is not about you.  It is about Jesus for you.  In this world success is often determined by who you know.  On the righteous side of the wall it is about who knows you.  Jesus knows you.  The old children’s hymn tells us the truth, Jesus loves me, this I know.  There is another truth on the righteous side of the wall.  Jesus knows me.  This I love.

You are on the side of the righteous.  You came through that doorway in God’s sacrament of Baptism; many of you as a tiny baby.  You did nothing to save yourself.  You were there and had God’s name and promise watered onto your head.  You did nothing to bring yourself through the doorway.

You did not bring yourself through the doorway and that is such a great relief because it is all about God’s gift to you and God’s promise to you.  You do not need to wonder if you have done enough.  You do not have to trust in yourself.  You trust in Christ.  You trust in Jesus’ promise to save you.

On the righteous side of the doorway it is not about you.  It is about Jesus for you.  In this world success is often determined by who you know.  On the righteous side of the wall it is about who knows you.  Jesus knows you.  The old children’s hymn tells us the truth, Jesus loves me, this I know.  There is another truth on the righteous side of the wall.  Jesus knows me.  This I love.

Jesus calls you by name and you have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  You are an adopted child of the Master.  You are with Jesus on the Kingdom of Heaven side of the door waiting for the great wedding feast of the Lamb to begin.  You are on the righteous side of the doorway because Jesus has declared you to be righteous.  You live in Jesus’ righteousness.

For now the door is open, but at some point Jesus is going to close the door and the people who are on the side of the unrighteous will be lost forever.  Without warning, Jesus is going to close the door and permanently lock it.  There will be a lot of people who know Jesus; who know about Jesus; of whom Jesus will say, Luke 13:25 (ESV) 25 …‘I do not know where you come from.’[3]  So many who think they are good enough will discover they are wrong and have been locked out of the great wedding feast of the Lamb.  They will be cast out where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  There are people who know about Jesus, but they think they still have time.  They think they can stay on the side of the unrighteous and put off repenting and submitting to God’s will until later; until they are older and more settled down.  They think they have time, but they do not know when the door will close.  So many people have been lied to, and led astray, and even though the door is open they don’t believe the doorway is open for them; they think there is another way.  So many are on the wrong side of the door.  We are called to let our light shine and give glory to God and to speak the truth in love and to spread the Good News of Jesus.  We are called to reach out to those on the unrighteous side of the door so that they will hear the Good News about Jesus, and believe and repent and be brought to faith by the Holy Spirit.  Pray that all will enter through the narrow door to the side of righteousness before it is too late.

While the door is open there is a danger that you can be lured to walk through the door and leave the side of the righteous.  Life on the side of the unrighteous can seem so attractive.  So much freedom.  So much fun.  It is all so rational.  It is so much common sense.  You get what you pay for.  If you want something you have to earn it.  There is a grave danger that the attractiveness of the side of unrighteousness will draw you away from the Word of God and the Sacraments of God.  There is a constant danger that you can be drawn to exit through the doorway where you will be lost forever when Jesus closes the door.  You cannot choose to be saved, but you can choose to leave the faith.

Life on the side of the unrighteous can look so cool and attractive; so slick and together.  It is the latest and greatest; the newest ideas and trends, so much fun and excitement.

The side of righteousness, on the other hand, can often look like a tired, old soul broken down by a lifetime of struggle.  Life on the righteous side looks so strange and powerless.  People gathering each week in an old building to kneel in confession, to stand and sit, to confess faith in something they cannot see, to pray to a God who does not talk back, to sing about this God, and to eat a wafer of bread and drink a sip of wine and believe that it is the body and blood of God in flesh.  How strange?  How foolish this must appear to those on the other side of the door.

Life on the righteous side of the door is not an easy life.  It is a life of striving for repentance and trust in Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit.  It is a life of loving and serving others; even your enemies.  It is a life of getting a foretaste of the feast to come while continuing to wait for the wedding feast of the Lamb to begin.  It is a life of praying, “Come, Lord Jesus,” but also praying that the door remains open a little longer so more can be saved.

You are on the right side of the wall; the side of eternal life.  Give thanks for all God has done for you in Jesus.  Rejoice in the Lord and do what He has given you to do.  Rejoice knowing, Jesus knows me, this I love.

Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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