Luke 13:22-30


Luke 13:22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

This is a continuation of the action begun at 9:51. Jesus was going through one town and village after another. This was probably in Perea. He was visiting the towns and places where the seventy had been sent, 10:1. We are left with the impression that Jesus is journeying without haste toward Jerusalem.

Luke 13:23 Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them,

There are various opinions about who this "someone" was. We simply don't know. Very likely "Lord" means "sir."

"Are there few who are saved?" The verb is in the present tense. He is asking in the present tense, just as Jesus answers in the present tense in verse 24.

Formula of Concord, Tappert 621.33: We should concern ourselves with this revealed will of God, follow it, and be diligent about it because the Holy Spirit gives grace, power, and ability through the Word by which He has called us. We should not explore the abyss of the hidden foreknowledge of God, even as Christ answered the question, 'Lord, will those who are saved be few?' by saying 'Strive to enter by the narrow door.'
Arndt: The question had its origin in curiosity, and Jesus never manifests sympathy for people coming with such purely speculative problems.
Stoeckhardt: He who is serious about his salvation does not ask such a question.
Fahling: This was an idle question. Jesus had not come into the world to gratify men's curiosity, but to save their souls.
Lenski: The question is dangerous when put abstractly or academically.

Jesus answers the individual by speaking to the crowd.

Luke 13:24 "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.

The same verb "every effort" is used at 1 Timothy 6:12 which is an athletic metaphor, denoting the strenuous efforts of the athlete. Of course, here, the struggle is limited to the spiritual struggle of the believer.

"Narrow" denotes the way of Law and Gospel, repentance and faith, self-denial and fighting against sin. Look at Philippians 3:12-14; Galatians 5:13-18; Romans 6:1-14. It reminds us of the first of the 95 thesis of Luther: "When our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said 'Repent ye' He meant that the whole life of the Christian be one of repentance."

The verse implies that the door is constantly open and invites people to enter. Note the authority with which the God-man speaks. He means the final judgment. Many will absolutely lack the ability to enter.

Luke 13:25 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.'

The metaphor in this verse is that of a feast going on. It is the final judgment. The door has been open all this time. Now the master of the house closes the door. The time of grace has ended.

Some will stand outside, shocked to find out that they were mistaken about their own entrance. "Sir" is not used by repentant sinners, they would say "Lord."

Note that in verse 25 Jesus has changed from the third to the second person. He is applying starkest Law.

The point is not that the Lord is not omniscient but, rather, that they have nothing in common so far as salvation is concerned. Look at Matthew 7:22-23, a similar thought spoken on a different occasion.

Luke 13:26 "Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.'

They begin to argue with the Lord. They are desperate. "Then you will begin to say," means that they are shocked to find matters thus. Note that they do not say "You taught US." Their only contact was physical proximity. They thought that was enough.

Luke 13:27 "But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'

"He will say again, He will repeat." They didn't listen in this life and Jesus must repeat for them at Judgment because they aren't listening. His reply is shorter than the first time, but it is final. And He adds a sentence quoted from Psalm 6:9.

"Workers of unrighteousness." Look at Philippians 3:6-7. After he became a Christian Paul considered his former law-righteousness as dung. Look at John 3:20. The works of the unregenerate are dead works, Hebrews 6:1, unrighteousness.

Luke 13:28 "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.

"There you will weep and gnash your teeth." What they will be like is clear by contrast with the remainder of the verse. The impenitent will not have changed on the Day of Judgment. They will wail, gnash their teeth, and be in a rage. And the words denote the despair, anguish, and punishment of the damned.

The only indefinite item is the time. That is unknown. But the seeing is definite. The damned will be aware of the bliss of the redeemed. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the three names often associated with the name of the Covenant God. Look at Exodus 3:6 and Luke 20:37. They are alive, in everlasting life. Compare Hebrews 11:13 and 12:1. There is a great host of Old Testament saints around the throne of the Lamb now already. ALL the Old Testament prophets, rejected by the people in their time, are now in heaven.

Arndt: It is emphasized that being DESCENDENTS of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will not entitle these worldlings to entrance in the heavenly mansions.

Correct. On this point look at John 8:33-59. Abraham was a true believer. Many of Jesus' hearers were not. They thought that mere physical descent from Abraham was sufficient. And concerning the prophets Bengel remarks:

Bengel: The Jews used to boast themselves of these prophets, though their fathers had rejected them.

"Kingdom" is used in its eschatological sense, heaven. Look at Luke 22:16-18 and 21-31. In the latter passage it does not denote the "delayed parousia" as say the higher critics, but everlasting life.

Luke 13:29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

In the Greek we have the word "furthermore." Jesus is obviously speaking about Gentiles. This was prophesied in Isaiah 49:12 and 59:19, the conversion of the Gentiles. This thought was very repugnant to the unbelieving Jews in Jesus' day. Look at Luke 4:25-27. That God would be gracious to Gentiles enraged Jesus' hearers. Luke 4:28.

Lenski: To see also hosts of Gentiles there, the people whom they utterly scorned, and themselves, the very children of Abraham, shut out, this would be the climax of their astonishment.
Bengel: (Wrote in the nineteenth century) It was almost in this order, east, west, north, south, that the several people were converted to the faith. It is especially in the South that as yet the Gospel has to be preached.

Since Bengel's time the evangelization of Africa, Bengel's south, has taken place.

Luke 13:30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last."

"And note this," or "you see." Jesus is drawing their attention to an important principle. This is called an enigmatic statement.

"You see, some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last," translates the AAT. Is this translation warranted? Yes. Because Jesus is not saying "all-all." There were Jewish believers who inherited eternal life. And there were Gentile unbelievers who lost their souls. Jesus is telling His hearers not to judge by THEIR standards, but by HIS standards.

Arndt: Jesus adds a solemn word of warning, reminding all who have great spiritual advantages and are His disciples not to be proud but to seek their salvation with fear and trembling, realizing at the same time that God can convert those who are still His enemies.

He then compares Judas, a man of advantage who lost his soul, and the penitent malefactor who appeared to be an unlikely candidate for conversion. But here the comparison between Jew and Gentile is prominent.

Lenski: 'First' means men close to the kingdom, means of grace, etc, etc, like the Jews, Romans 9:4, etc. As compared with the condition of the Gentiles the Jews were certainly first. 'First' is more favored, 'last' less favored. . . . Some people have all the means of salvation but fail to use them and are lost, others are destitute of these means in the beginning, yet the moment they get them they make full use of them and thus obtain salvation.

Jesus used this saying repeatedly. Look at Matthew 19:30 and 20:16. It is for serious self-examination. Luther said: "It is to frighten the greatest saints."

Thoughts parallel to this pericope are found in Matthew 7:31ff; Matthew 25:11ff; Matthew 7:22ff; Matthew 8:11ff.

Marshall: No certain answer to the problem of priority can be given.

This denotes the despair of the source and redaction critics. They are oblivious to the simple principle that a good teacher often repeats himself. "Repetitio est mater studiorum." Repetition is the mother of studies.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Gospel Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 41-43. Used with permission.

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