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Good For You? | Is Christianity Intolerant?

April 14, 2024
Luke 13:22-30

22Jesus went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

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To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst

To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships

To participate in God’s mission to the world 

Opening Prayer

Almighty God, you show to those who are in error the light of your truth so that they may return into the way of righteousness: Grant to all who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s service that they may renounce those things that are contrary to their profession and follow all such things as are agreeable to it; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Responsive Prayer—Psalm 96

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;

Sing to the Lord, all the earth!

Sing to the Lord, bless his name;

Tell of his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the nations,

His marvelous works among all the peoples!

Summary and Connection

Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French mathematician and physicist who also, after a profound conversion experience, thought deeply about philosophy and the Christian faith. Among his writings, he left this observation about Christianity: “Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.” 

If we follow Pascal’s steps, we’ll note that, first, no one is neutral about Christianity. If Jesus is truly who he says he is, then we have to completely change our lives, and no one can be neutral about that. Second, Christianity can actually be respected if we respect our neighbors enough to give them good reasons for our hopes. Third, no one then, and no one now, is very interested in whether Christianity is true unless they are first interested in whether Christianity is good. That is why we’re in a sermon series called Good for You? and this week we are asking the question, “Is Christianity Intolerant?”

In Luke 13, as Jesus is journeying towards Jerusalem, a questioner asks him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” Passing over all the intermediate objections, this gets right to the heart of whether Christianity is intolerant: Is Christianity eternally narrow? Is heaven going to be exclusionary? If so, how do Christians relate to those who believe otherwise? And why would anyone want to believe something so constricting? 

Jesus answers the question, not with a yes-or-no statement, but with a command, saying to the crowd: “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” Paradoxically, as he explains it, the narrow door leads to the broad way of life in God’s kingdom, to the feast that diverse people from all over the world are called to attend, and to a stunning reversal where the last will be first and the first will be last. Jesus combines exclusivity, his authoritative command and knowledge of salvation, with inclusivity, inviting all without exception to come to God’s table while there is still time. Yet what is most attractive as we keep reading the Gospels is how, on the cross, Jesus executes the greatest reversal of all: God for man, the first for the last, him for us. If we understand that, we just might want to learn if it’s true.

Discussion Questions

1. Looking at the Bible

Observation: Read the passage privately. What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage? Do you notice keywords, parallels, or surprises?

  • See if Jesus answers the question. Does he answer the question? How does he answer it?

2. Looking at Jesus

At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.

  • Considering the whole Gospel of Luke, in what different ways will Jesus live out and finally execute the great reversal of the first becoming last, and the last becoming first? How will Jesus’ great reversal draw the world to himself?

3. Looking at Our Hearts

  • Do you consider Jesus’ teaching here to be narrow and exclusive, or broad and inclusive? Could it be both? How should the answer change us?

4. Looking at Our World

  • If Jesus is drawing people from all over the world, and he is, and if worldly orders are being reversed, and they are (incrementally now and finally in the new creation), what should that mean for our posture towards others in the church? What should that mean for our posture towards the world? In what ways should we be narrow, and in what other ways should we be broad?


God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.

  • View Study Guide Notes

    Question 1: At first glance it appears that Jesus is not answering the question. However, like any great teacher, Jesus answers a question with another question. What should matter to the questioner and to us is not so much the number of people saved, but whether we are concerned about salvation. If so, says Jesus, then “Strive to enter through the narrow door” (verse 24) while there is still time! Jesus says not to worry about how many people will ultimately be saved, but to worry about the fact that people are standing right outside the door and refuse to come in. Are we some of those who have been eating and drinking with Jesus and hearing him teach but have not responded? Jesus warns that the shame of that refusal will be made even worse by seeing the patriarchs and prophets and people from all over the world coming into the banquet. Yet, the judgment on the refusers contains the answer to the question. Many, many people, from all across the globe, will come to the free feast of God. We should take both comfort and urgency from the fact that, as one commentator says, “Neither here nor elsewhere is there any indication that genuine seekers find themselves excluded from the kingdom, but there is inevitably a time-limit on the offer of salvation. When the door of opportunity is finally shut it will be too late. People must strive to enter now.”

    Question 2: Luke’s gospel is famously concerned for the poor, the outcast, the lame, the widow, the alien, and the gentile. More than any other gospel, Luke pays special attention to the weak and unwanted, and Jesus defines himself as the Son of Man who “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). In contrast to life in his time and in ours, Jesus is completely other-centered. As one commentator writes, looking back to Jesus’ birth and then forward to the heavenly feast, “God ordained to recline with humanity in the manger of Bethlehem (2:7), and he ordains that humanity recline with him in the eternal banquet of heaven (13:29).” Jesus takes our place so that we can take his. This is the great reversal he lived out, from his birth in a manger to his death on a cross. He was God who became a baby, the healthy who healed the sick, the poor man who made others rich, the holy one who ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, the humble who threw down the proud, the sinless who became sin for us so that “in him we could become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21), and the eternal Son of God who died and was resurrected. Jesus said that this great reversal, finally consummated on the cross, would draw all people to himself (John 12:32). When we believe in Jesus, his sacrificial love draws us into the great reversal as well. Because he became last for us, we can lay down our lives and put others ahead of ourselves. We can love and give without expectation of return and we can even love enemies, because that is what Jesus did for us.

    Question 3: Jesus is narrow and exclusive because he is the only way (John 14:6). Yet, precisely by being narrow, Jesus is radically inclusive and broad, able to invite to any and all to be saved not by their works but by his (Matthew 11:28-30). This is why he urges us to enter through the narrow door. When considering salvation by works we can stand outside, so to speak, and compare requirements one to the other, because salvation by works depends on us. But a salvation that depends on Jesus is beyond comparison because there is nothing else like it. To understand salvation by grace we have to walk through the door. 

    So, of course, Christians have an exclusive, narrow truth claim. But so does everyone else. Relativists sound like they are broad and accepting with their belief that there is no truth, but the belief that there is no truth is itself an overriding truth claim that divides the world into those who are open-minded relativists and those who are close-minded absolutists. Similarly, religion says that the good people are in and the bad are out, and our culture says that the successful are in and the failures are out, but–and here’s where the truth claim of Christianity is unique–only Jesus can say that the poor and the humble are in and the proud are out, because he was cast out for them. The first will be last and the last will be first. Only by accepting that without Jesus we should be last, that we are guilty of excluding others with our own definitions of good and success, and that we don’t even meet our own standards, can we be humbled. And only by accepting the free grace of Jesus can we be loved with a love that overflows into loving others. That is the unique perspective, narrow and broad, that we receive when we walk through the door. 

    As Timothy Keller writes, “Through faith in the cross we get a new foundation for an identity that both humbles us out of our egoism yet is so infallibly secure in love that we are enabled to embrace rather than exclude those who are different.” Jesus died for his enemies, the ultimate “other.” If Christians truly understand that claim, they will be the most inclusive people the world has ever seen. 

    Question 4: This is a personal application question.