If you’ve ever been asked the question "Do I know you?" You know how devastating that can be. Whether it’s someone you’ve had several conversations with that you thought you had made a connection to or someone you haven’t seen in a while, it is tough when you find out your relationship isn’t what you thought it was.
In Luke 13:22-30, Jesus presents us with that scenario playing out on the Last Day. Imagine how scary it would be to hear that question then. Actually, he doesn’t even ask the question. He says there will be those who think they have a relationship with him that will hear, "I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, you evildoers."
Ouch! He even says that they’ll be protesting: "We ate and drank with you and you taught in our streets." In other words, they’ll think they are fine with God until it is too late and they find themselves, as our text puts it, where "there will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth."
Does that beg a question for you? Does he know you? Can you be sure that you’ll be entering through that "narrow door" Jesus talks about in this chapter? He named the ones he’s excluding evildoers. He might as well have said Jonathan Scharf. He might as well have said your name. Evildoer is a name our sin gives us. Sin makes me evil, period. One failure, and no matter how devoted we think we are, we can’t be in God’s holy (sinless) presence.
So if you are calling yourself a Christian and using that as an excuse to do what you want… If you are calling yourself a Christian and then admiring how good you were to choose Christ or taking credit for all the good things you do — Jesus will say to you at the end — "I never knew you." God created us humans perfect. Sin makes us unrecognizable to him. And so there will be many who don’t make it through that narrow door.
But what about you? Does he know you? Is that door open for you? Our text answers that. Verse 29: "People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last."
So it’s not impossible to get in. Even though all people have done some evil — there are people getting in. And it won’t be based on who we are or where we are from, right? "East, west, north, south" all entering. It won’t be based on our titles or positions: "Pastor, CEO, owner, employee, student, president, senator." The whole pecking-order thing is flip-flopped in this kingdom — last first, first last. So how do we know — are we going to get through that door?
The answer: Yes. Absolutely — because we know that door. Remember what Jesus said to his disciples the night he was betrayed: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." And in the Sermon on the Mount he said: "I am the Gate; whoever enters through me will be saved."
Our sin would have God blocking our entrance into his holiness — but Jesus is the one who removes that barrier and becomes the bridge between us and a holy God. His payment removes our title "Evildoer." His perfection gives us the name saint.
And if you still aren’t sure if he really knows you or if he’s talking to someone else — remember that wake-up splash of water as God called you his child in Holy Baptism — putting his name on you so that he couldn’t forget.
If you still aren’t sure, open up your Bibles and read his love to you. And if you still aren’t sure (and it’s just as important if you are sure) come to church and glory in the relationship you have with your Savior, where he says, "where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Does he know you? God knew you so well from all eternity that he determined to give his Son for you. And through faith in that Son, our Father looks forward to welcoming you to the feast in the kingdom of God, no matter who you were or where you were from. Now, you are residents of heaven. Now, God knows you... in Christ. Amen.
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.