My last post centered on Jesus telling his disciples that the way to life is narrow and few find it. He said this in the midst of the multitudes that were responding to his ministry. I shared this at a church meeting recently and a brother made the comment that he had never thought of Jesus as being exclusionary.
So I wanted to offer a few more thoughts on this thread, and it isn't about whether or not Jesus is ever exclusionary. It is simply to look at some scripture. Sometimes scriptures give us teachings and doctrines. Sometimes they just minister truth to us. These are to just minister truth, not to say anything specific.
God often gathers. We are in a time of gathering. Jesus called it "the acceptable year of the Lord," or "the year of the Lord's favor."
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
When Jesus said this he was quoting Isaiah 61 but he left out a phrase "and the day of vengeance of our God." He did this because he was proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor, not a day of vengeance. We are in a time of great favor from our Father in Heaven. It is a time of openness and invitation. Here are some examples.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Jesus still has compassion on the crowds, knowing our weaknesses and infirmities. He understands what we are going through and he intercedes for us before our Father in Heaven. We are still in the year of the Lord's favor. We are still in a time of gathering.
But there will come a time of sorting and sometimes this message gets forgotten in the process of showing mercy and gathering unto the Lord.
47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.
A part of the work and manifestation of the kingdom is a great gathering. But all who are gathered are not a part of the kingdom. If we don't share all of the message like Jesus did we end up keeping the truth from people who need to hear it.
Here are some examples of sorting.
Matthew 25:31-46 - These scriptures recount the story of a time of judgement where God separates everyone into one of two groups; "sheep" or "goats." The sheep are those who feed the hungry and thirsty, gave clothing away, looked after the sick and visited those in prison. The goats are those who didn't do these things. Living faith expresses itself in our actions in caring for others.
Matthew 22:2-14 - These scriptures recount the story of a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son and the invited guests were too busy to attend. So the king had his servants gather everyone they could find, both good and bad. When the king saw the guests in the wedding hall he noticed that there was a man who did not have the right clothes on and that man was thrown out. Then Jesus sais "for many are invited, but few are chosen."
Matthew 25:1-13 - These scriptures recount the story of the ten virgins. They took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five were wise and had extra oil, five were foolish and did not. When the bridegroom finally arrived the five wise virgins had enough oil for their lamps to work, the five foolish ones had to leave to find more oil and when they got back they were not allowed in with the others. In fact, the Lord refused to let them in and said "I don't know you."
None of this is to say we shouldn't be full of faith is God's mercy to us, his forgiveness of our sins, his grace, or his hand on us for good. But is does show that we are in a time when many are being gathered to the kingdom. That's great. But there will come a time when all that are gathered will be sorted. We have to make sure that our faith is a living faith, a faith that expresses itself in our actions and how we treat people, in how we prepare ourselves for service and in how we wait upon the Lord.