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“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” –Luke 13:23
Isaiah and Jesus seem to be having an ideological fistfight this weekend! Isaiah says the way to salvation is wide and user-friendly. Jesus insists the gate of admission is narrow and “many” who expect to get in will find the door closed in their faces. We Christians suspect that in matters of doctrine, Jesus is a bigger authority than Isaiah. But the truth is, it makes us uneasy when the Bible apparently contradicts itself.
Yet both authorities are making the same claim to different audiences. In the sixth century BC, Isaiah’s community had just returned from the Babylonian exile and was understandably down on non-Israelites. Not so fast, the prophet says: Will you reject those whom God welcomes to share in divine blessings? Meanwhile, the crowd around Jesus was plenty sure they were God’s darlings and everyone else was an abomination. So Jesus points out that the gate will close on the self-righteous, even as it opens for folks in all four directions. Isaiah and Jesus are, despite their different Testaments, on the same page.
What’s required for entry into the Reign of God: amassing sacraments, keeping commandments, showing mercy, or —?
LET US PRAY… Lord, our generation seeks easy answers, shallow understanding, and quick fixes. Help us to discover in the sacred stories of our faith deep truths that require the greater investment of our whole lives. Inspire us with the example of holy people in this season of our lives, so that we catch a glimpse of what’s possible for us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Image credit: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons