Folks love to imagine Jesus turning on a huge neon “Vacancy” sign on a cloud in the sweet by and by and throwing open the pearly gates welcoming anyone and everyone to their eternal reward. When asked most people will say, “I’m going to a better place when I die.” But are they? Jesus said many people will NOT– presumably including some of those convinced their “heaven ticket” has been punched. These surprised people include:
Wide Road Travelers
Plenty of people travel on the wide road. It’s popular. There are many opportunities and distractions on the wide road. But no worries on the wide road, even when your attention is diverted and you swerve too far right or too far left. The road is wide enough for all sorts of deviations. It’s easy too. Easy to get on and easy to find. The wide road can be so enjoyable. No speed limits. No limits of any kind (Think: a spiritual autobahn). Switching gears (do you see what I did there?), traversing the narrow road is hard. Travelers must remain focused and aware of the tight surroundings. There are only few on the narrow road. It can be lonely. Jesus said “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
One handed Camel Squeezers.
I’ve known a lot of rich people who think it’s easy to get a camel through the eye of a needle. Have you tried it lately? It’s hard. Camels are big. Needles are small. In fact, it’s impossible. Shockingly, I’ve known a few rich folks who have done it. Their generosity has opened their wallets and also opened a huge hole in the needle’s eye. Wide enough that miracle of miracles, a camel can pass through. The impossible is made possible by God. Sadly, I’ve known more rich folks who have flaunted their wealth as poor college students were in reality more generous. Squeezing a giant camel (or fancy sports car) through the eye of a needle is a two-handed job You can’t hold onto your money in one hand and squeeze the camel through the needle with the other. It’s easier to appear to be “a camel squeezer” (read: Generous) than to actually be generous. By the way, before you sneer at those “evil, greedy rich folks,” BREAKING NEWS: most of us are considered rich by the world standards. Jesus said: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:25
Most of us have never seen Jesus thirsty. A few women and the Roman guards on Golgotha did. They saw him naked too. I have never seen Jesus hungry and homeless. I’m not sure when he was sick, I’ve never seen it. I haven’t noticed Jesus in prison. But here’s the rub, we’ve passed by others whose names aren’t Jesus who were hungry, sick and lonely. Passed right by them and maybe even muttered, “Get a job” under our breath. Jesus said, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me… Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Matthew 25:41-43, 45
Childish? Most likely. Child-like? Not even close.
There are plenty of boisterous, me-first (Jesus second, maybe third, certainly not lower than twelfth) church goers who are mentally drawing up their heavenly mansion blueprints. Like a bully on the playground, their chests are puffed out, arrogant, and hungry for control and power. They may have more Bible knowledge, theological swagger, and church-life experiences, but humility, gentleness, and child-likeness is missing. To all of us, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. Matthew 18:3-5
Are you travelling the narrow road? Do you have open hands, heart and wallet? Do you look for opportunities to help the troubled? Are you humble, gentle and childlike?
It’s a fun greeting for a birthday party. It’s a terrible bon voyage on Judgement day.