Enter While You Can

Scripture Focus: Luke 13.23-24; 31-34
23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” 
He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ 
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 

31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” 
32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! 
34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

Reflection: Enter While You Can
By John Tillman

The Pharisees’ warning about Herod was a lie. They wanted to kill Jesus. Herod didn’t.

Herod was trying to see Jesus, not kill him. (Luke 9.9) Yet, so far as we know, Herod never saw Jesus until Pilate sent him to Herod. (Luke 23.7-11) Jesus, however, knew he was on the way to see Herod.

Jesus told the Pharisees to report to Herod that miraculous things were happening and that he was coming to Jerusalem, just like other prophets. The door was open for them to see and believe. Just prior to this, Jesus warned the Pharisees and the following crowds that the opportunity to enter the kingdom was narrowing. The door, now open, would close. (Luke 13.24-25) Warning everyone, Jesus said, “make every effort” to enter while they had the opportunity.

But Jesus also knew that powerful kings and self-righteous religious leaders often killed prophets who told the truth. You can’t tell some people the truth without them wanting to destroy you. When sin is pointed out two things often prevent repentance: power and self-righteousness.

Many reject repentance which requires losing face, power, or position. This is why leaders (and pastors) caught in scandals often refuse to step down or stay out of power. But we don’t have to be in a position of great power to refuse to repent when it costs us.

We are familiar with religious self-righteousness in scripture and in our lives. We recognize those who reject or minimize their need for repentance based on scriptural knowledge or by comparing themselves to “real sinners.”

But self-righteousness isn’t exclusive to the religious. Our culture strongly believes that humans are innately good, innately “righteous.” It is self-righteousness that explains evil as an aberration or excuses it as being caused, not by choices, but by situations or systems.

We recognize these failures in others but do we recognize them in ourselves?
How often do we stand, like the Pharisees pointing at Herod, with sin in our hearts?
How often do we wait, like Herod demanding to be wooed by God with magic tricks and blessings?

Let us expect, like Jesus did, that our prophetic duty will cost us. The first thing it will cost us is repentance. Our own repentance is the first step toward calling others to repentance. The open door will close. Make every effort to enter and bring others with you.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. — Psalm 31.23

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Reading
Exodus 31(Listen 2:32)
Luke 12(Listen 5:02)

Read more about Suffering and Sin
Jesus taught his disciples that they were wrong about tragedy and wrong about sin. His words don’t at first seem comforting.

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Suffering and Sin

Luke 13.2-5
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Reflection: Suffering and Sin
By John Tillman

Jesus taught his disciples that they were wrong about tragedy and wrong about sin. His words don’t at first seem comforting. 

“Repent or perish,” he says. It’s not that “they” were sinful, it is that “all” are sinful.

We don’t suffer for sins. We suffer in sin.

The disciples had a hard time letting go of the cultural idea that people who suffered were suffering because of their own sin. So do we. 

We cling to this idea today because we feel less responsible for problems in the world when we can believe that only the lazy are poor, only the promiscuous are in danger of sexual assault or disease, only hedonists become addicts, and only nihilists suffer depression or have suicidal thoughts.

Our culture prefers to explain sin and suffering by pointing the finger at individuals. We prefer to believe that people are basically good and that evil is an aberration. Scripture offers a more realistic truth—that there is no one righteous. No not one. 

Our culture also is ill equipped to deal with suffering or death. When the only joys one acknowledges are limited to this life, anything that shortens life or even makes life less comfortable is evil. 

But Jesus wasn’t threatening earthly death or suffering. Earthly suffering or death holds no terror for those holding on to Christ and his cross. Our fear of death and suffering is directly related to how tightly we are clinging to things of this world for our hope.

When it comes to sin, we like to picture ourselves occasionally getting splashed with it as if we were on the shore of the ocean. But a better analogy is that we are drowning, forty fathoms deep in sin. Every part of us is soaked and our lungs are being crushed by the pressure of sin’s weight.

Our hope is not that others more sinful than us will attract God’s wrath and allow us to live comfortably in this life. Rather, there is a sinless one who chose to suffer on our behalf and who grants us his righteousness. He lifts us from the depths and no matter our sufferings in this life, offers us a new and restored life in him. 

Whatever tragedies we face, we can do so with a partner in Christ, setting our face toward our Jerusalem of suffering, knowing that Christ will walk with us every step.

Prayer: A Reading
He was telling them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the power of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him. — Mark 9.30-32

Today’s Readings
Exodus10 (Listen – 4:44) 
Luke 13 (Listen – 5:02)

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Read more about Meaning In Suffering
In secular culture the meaning of life is to be free to choose what makes you happy in this life. Suffering destroys that meaning. — Tim Keller

Read more about Light and Dark and Joy :: Joy of Advent
When the disciples and religious leaders saw the man born blind, they saw only sin. Jesus saw God’s glory.