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In the Villages: Luke 13

In Summary:

We return to Luke’s Gospel and see familiar themes. We see another “healing on the Sabbath” controversy, this one intensified by the presence of a crowd seeking healing. There is something to the idea that we should not be angered when our worship traditions are interrupted by those seeking the healing of the Lord God Almighty. People may show up at church in the middle of our themed-out parties and need something. Let us not be so obsessed with our orders and structures that we cannot meet the obvious needs.

We also see a pair of parables that bracket the Sabbath healing. The first is about an unfruitful tree, the second provides clear illustrations of what faith is like. Taken on their own, these are good illustrations: be fruitful, be faithful. If you put them alongside the healing then you see something additional: the Kingdom of God brings life and growth wherever it goes. If there is no life, then it is not the Kingdom. The tree? If it responds, then it stays. The mustard plant? The loaves that grow? Life. Death and uninformed repetition are not. What characterizes our lives as Christians? Or in our churches?

In Focus:

Let us tighten a little focus on Luke 13:22. Jesus is traveling through villages and cities on His way to Jerusalem, and teaching as He goes. Luke does not record exactly which cities and villages are visited, or even the specific people He encounters. We do have specific teachings, though, and they are not all comforting.

For example, we have the question “Are just a few being saved?” and Jesus’ response that says, basically, “Yep.” Here He uses the image of the narrow door and the eventual locked door to illustrate that salvation is not always available. This is extended by pointing out that people will come from east, west, north, and south and dine with the prophets and Abraham in the Kingdom.

Overall, the narrow door that Jesus speaks of is complete trust in Him. Surrendering to Jesus as Lord, rather than trusting in our own righteousness or seeking another savior elsewhere, is the only path back to God. And why shouldn’t He know that? Let’s keep in mind what John brings up in John 1: Jesus is the only one who can truly explain God, since He is God.

In Practice:

Where this gets practical is twofold:

First, we need a relationship with Jesus. This starts with knowing that we’re not Jesus. That means our hearts surrender to Him, and our lives are His to command. It also means that we don’t get to be the judge of who comes through that narrow door. There are evidences, to be sure, of who is headed toward it, but the final decision is not mine…or yours.

Second, we need to share His message with the world. Guess what? Jesus came to seek and save. We don’t have to do the save part, but we should seek those He came to save. It is of far greater value to proclaim where the door is than to make people act like they’ve found it.

In Nerdiness: 

The opening verses of this chapter should inform our response to tragedy. Jesus declines to label those killed by the wicked Pilate as either righteous or unrighteous. Instead, He highlights that death comes to all of us, and it behooves us to be ready for that reality.


This counters our typical Americanized response to tragedy, where tragic death means “They all went to heaven.” Nonsense, says Jesus in this passage: they went wherever they were headed in the first place. If they were not repentant toward God, then tragedy did not save them. Only the Cross saves. It’s how Jesus died that matters, not how you do.

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