By Tyson Thorne

October 20, 2016

The Samarian Ministry at Various Cities (9.51-18.34), 13.22-14.6

As Jesus slowly made his way toward Jerusalem, teaching from town to town, an unnamed man in an unnamed village asked a startling question: “Lord, will only a few be saved?” I don’t know what prompted the question, but I remember hearing something similar a few months ago. A friend of mine observed, “It looks like Satan is winning; there are so many going to hell.” How many are going to heaven? 144,000? Everyone except the really bad – the Hitler’s of the world? Can anyone be certain of their own eternal fate, much less that of others?

The question might be startling, but the answer is downright scandalous. At this stage in Israel’s history it was believed that Hebrews were superior to the rest of the world because of their historical connection to God as a nation. This is likely what is behind the man’s question, “will only a few be saved?” In other words, “will only Israel be saved?” Surprise number one, Jesus tells the man to “make every effort,” that is “work hard,” “do your best,” “strive after it with all your might”. In other words, no Hebrew will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven from their lineage, it must be attained by each person according to their faith, just as it was for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Entry into the Kingdom isn’t something one should put off. No one knows when they will be called into account, or when the Lord will return, but on that day they had better have their faith in order. Surprise number two. Just because the Messiah came and taught in their streets and ate with them does not mean they belong to him. So nationality doesn’t save you, and neither does merely listening to the Messiah.

Surprise number three, many non-Israelites (those from the east and west, north and south) will enter the Kingdom. “Remember all those people you thought you were better than?” Jesus says. “Many of them are going to make it into the Kingdom.” They might be considered last, but they will be honored first. You might have been honored first with your rich heritage and first to see the Messiah, but you will be last in the Kingdom.

At this point (13.31) Jesus is approached by a group of Pharisees who warn him of Herod’s intent to kill him. Jesus cleverly responds, “It is unthinkable that a prophet be killed outside of Jerusalem.” The meaning is clear; Herod presents less of a threat than the capital of Jewish religion – at least if one is a prophet. And that is surprise number four. Jesus had more to fear from his own people than he did from a ruthless Roman ruler.

Surprise number five, the judgment Jerusalem is under will remain in place until the Messiah comes a second time. This is what is behind his statement, “you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’.” This is a quote from Psalm 118 about the Messiah’s return. If you want to be ready for his return, be sure to trust him today for both this life and the one to come.

Just as the section began with a healing on the Sabbath, so it ends with one. This time, instead of occurring in a synagogue this occurred in the home of a Pharisee. This time Jesus asked the religious leaders if it were appropriate to heal on the Sabbath before actually doing so. He took their silence for permission and healed a man with dropsy. Jesus offered them a similar justification as the last time, once again citing the greater importance of a human life over that of livestock.

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