Bethel Evangelical Lutheran worshiping Jesus at 8th and N. East Ave. in York, NE.402-363-0022

August 27, 2017 Sermon

Click HERE for an audio version posted on our Facebook page.

Luke 13:28-29

Dear Fellow Members of the Human Race,

Ken Ham, you might know him from Answers in Genesis, The Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter, does a great job of stressing that there are not many different races. There is only one race, the human race. This is a fact that any Bible believing Christian should know and confess, but unfortunately many choose to ignore or deny it. A Bible believing Christian knows that God created Adam and Eve and that Adam called Eve the mother of all the living. Every person born on earth traces their ancestry back through Noah, to Adam and Eve. This truth has theological implications. It is the basis of the teaching of original sin. We sang about it in our opening hymn, “In Adam we have all been one, one huge rebellious man.” But it also has implications in regard to the way we treat each other in society. It reminds us that the neighbor we are to love as ourselves is everyone. No matter what a person’s color, or language, or culture, or nation of origin, they are our neighbor, our brother or sister, a fellow descendant of Adam and Eve. And, it also means that they are someone for whom Jesus lived and died. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.

But, because we have a sinful nature, we humans have a tendency to want to judge ourselves better than others. In our day the standard of judgment seems to be economic success, color, culture, or country of origin. The more others match our standard of living, our color, our way of doing things, our language and country of origin, the more we judge them our equals. But the more others differ from our standard of living, our color, our way of doing things, our language or country of origin, the more we judge them beneath us. In the past, those with dark skin who were from Africa were not even considered part of the human race by some in our country. What a sinful, unchristian thought that was!

Discrimination is nothing new. In Jesus’ day, many Jewish people considered non-Jews to be the equivalent of dogs. And even within Israel we know how the Pharisees looked down on others who shared their same language, color and ancentry, but didn’t measure up to their standard of morality.

All this leads to the question that was put to Jesus. Lord, are only a few people going to be saved? Who is going to enter the Kingdom of God?

At first it might seem that Jesus is saying yes, there are only a few people who are going to be saved. He answers, Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. But his answer is really not about whether many or few will be saved. It’s a call to repentance, a call to confess sinful pride and judgmentalism.

We don’t know exactly what the person who asked the question was thinking, but from Jesus’ answer and from our own experience in fighting our sinful nature, we can venture a good guess. In my experience, when someone asks the question, “are only a few people going to be saved” they are first of all assuming that they are among the few. Very often they are thinking, or saying, “I know I’m going to be saved, but I’m wondering about those who aren’t living as moral a life as I am; or who aren’t in church as often as I am; or who aren’t as educated, especially in the Bible, as I am; or who don’t seem to have a very high IQ, aren’t the same color, don’t have the same politics, or speak the same language? Our sinful human nature is constantly looking for differences, especially ones that we can use to make ourselves look better than others. It wants to brag like the Pharisee in the temple and say, “I know I’m among the few who will be saved, but I’m not so sure about that person over there.”

Jesus wants to make it clear to the person who asked, are only a few people going to be saved, that if you think that your outward morality, your physical ancestry, your color, your education, your church attendance, your giving, your language, your politics, entitles you to conclude that you are one of the few who are being saved, and everyone who isn’t like you will not be, watch out! Thinking any of those things will make your head so big that you won’t be able to enter into God’s kingdom because the door is too narrow for such big heads. There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.

Jesus said that the door through which people gain entrance into the kingdom of God, through which people have access to eternal salvation, is narrow. What did he mean by that? The words of Jesus recorded for us by John make it very clear what he meant. Jesus said, Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep… I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. Jesus is the narrow door. He is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through him. There is only one way of salvation. There is only one way to enter the kingdom of God and be saved. It’s through faith in Jesus.

Faith in Jesus means humbly confessing what you have learned from Scripture; that you are by nature sinful, that you have sinned against God, not just by things you have done, but in your thoughts, and by your words, and by things you should have done and have failed to do. It means believing and confessing that no matter who you are, no matter how much money you have or don’t have, no matter what your social standing, no matter what color you are, or what language you speak, or what country you came from, you are no better than any other person on the face of the earth. You deserve to be excluded from God’s kingdom because of your sins just like everyone else.

Then, when you have been convinced that, like Paul, you are the chief of sinners, and the Holy Spirit holds Jesus before your eyes; points you to him as your substitute, as the one who did what you failed to do, who avoided every sin and defeated every temptation; who was better than everyone else yet never judged or looked down on anyone; who volunteered to be punished for your sins, and not only for yours, but for everyone else’s sins, including the sins of your enemies; you are moved to say, “Thank you Jesus. I see that you are the way, the truth and the life. I trust that it is only through you that I am saved and can enter into God’s kingdom. It is only because of you that I can sit at the banquet table with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets forever and ever.”

Yes, the door into the kingdom is narrow. The only way to enter is through Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that only a few will be saved. When Elijah thought that he might be the only believer left on earth God assured him that there were still seven thousand in Israel, not to mention Judah and other places, who were part of God’s kingdom through faith. Through Isaiah God said that he would gather all nations and tongues to come and see his glory, and some from those nations, foreigners to Israel, would serve him as priests and Levites. What a shocking prophecy that must have been to the Jews of Isaiah’s time! And he tells those who might have been thinking that the answer to the question “are only a few people going to be saved,” was yes, “because there aren’t very many who are faithful Jews like us,” people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God, but you will be shut out. God says repeatedly in Revelation that those who are saved will be from every tribe, people, nation and language. In fact, John sees that the multitude of those from every tribe, people, nation and language who are before the throne of God is greater than anyone can count.

Ken Ham is correct. The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one race, the human race, which is made up of people of many different colors from many different nations. We are all descendants of Adam and Eve and therefore we all deserve God’s eternal punishment. When Jesus came to earth to live and die he did it for the human race, for all people of all colors and nations. What a shame that Christians who confess these truths sometimes judge themselves better, or more likely to be saved than others, and even justify mistreating others who didn’t look like them!

In the culture in which we live today it’s important to emphasize again and again that we are all one race; all sinners descended from Adam and Eve, and that Jesus died for all. These may be the only things we have in common with others, but they are enough to remind us that we are all one, neighbors, brothers and sisters who are called upon by God to show love to each other.

At times it may seem to us that few will be saved because we tend to look at outward things; and because Jesus says the door into God’s kingdom is narrow. But salvation is offered for free, to all, regardless of color, or language, or education, or politics, or any other outward thing. Anyone and everyone who is humbled by the awareness of their sinfulness, and is moved by the Holy Spirit to trust in Jesus, is saved and will join people of every place, and time, and color at the great eternal feast in the kingdom of God.