St Luke 13: 22- 35 Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, ‘Lord, will only a few be saved?’ He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, “Lord, open to us”, then in reply he will say to you, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” But he will say, “I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!” 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, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.’
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.” Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”’
Reflection This reading led to the idea of deep love within costly grace. The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a classic book entitled ‘The Cost of Discipleship’. His life was an embodiment of that book in that his Christian convictions led him to fight against the Nazi regime; eventually costing him his life. Being a genuine Christian often requires bold sacrifices. Grace is free and yet very costly. Bonhoeffer said: ‘Costly grace… is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life’.
Jesus is clear that the true gate to the kingdom of God is narrow. Jesus bemoaned that many in Jerusalem would not let Him fully embrace them so that they could fully embrace God. Many could have been let down by other rabbis. Others may have been unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to follow Jesus. Many may have enjoyed the social side of discipleship while overlooking the depth of its relational and spiritual dimensions. Following Jesus was not that easy for early followers. It often involved being unpopular with religious and political authorities: this was a price many were not ready to pay. Hence, they preferred following Jesus superficially even if this amounted to nothing in the end. Some things in life can never be fully understood and appreciated until we fully commit to them. Many around us have many lovers but have never truly fallen in love. The deeper love relationship Jesus calls all of us to often requires humility, vulnerability and a degree of venturing.
May the Lord bless us with discomfort, calling us to a deeper relationship with Jesus and to a fresh wonder of the depth of His love within costly grace.
Prayer Lord, we survey your wondrous cross afresh today. Would You draw closer and reign over each and every area of our lives! Help us value the price You paid over our greatest achievements: may our worldly crowns bow to Your crown of thorns. Turn our pride into humility. Help us say yes afresh to the depth of Your amazing love, even when it demands our lives, our souls and our all. Amen.
The Rev’d Bachelard Kaze Yemtsa is a minister in the East Midlands Synod.