By Paul Koch –
We all are familiar with Robert Frost’s famous poem “The Road Not Taken.” It is about a traveler who comes upon a fork in the road. One way is clear and beautiful and well-travelled and the other showing no sign of foot traffic at all. The point reflected in the poem is the beauty and adventure of living a life that takes the road least travelled. We like that image. Whether we see ourselves as the one taking the road least traveled or the one playing it safe and going with the flow, we like to imagine our life as one made of forks in the road, choices that you make to decide your life. And this image of choices is not contained in your temporal life only, in how your conduct yourself to advance in your career, or what physical adventure you take on. No, you like this image about your eternal life as well. You like to imagine that you must navigate carefully through the forks in the road in your quest to enter into eternal life, to come into the kingdom of God.
And in that regard, I want you to try a little thought exercise with me. Instead of a fork in the road on your path to eternity, I want you to imagine that you’ve entered into a large circular room that is lined completely around with doors. The number of doors isn’t crucial, but there are a lot of them and they all stand wide open. Well, except for one on the far end, it is already closed. Now each of these doors promises a pathway to eternal life, including the closed one. You look them over and find that they are not all equal. Some seem open to a path that is easier than others, some more promising than others. In your walk around the room, considering the doors, what do you see? Do you see the way through self-sacrifice and generosity? It promises that if you gave more of yourself, more of your time and treasure that you might find assurance of life everlasting? Do you see the through the door down the path of wisdom, that you might increase your understanding and knowledge and move closer to the things of God? Or perhaps it is the way of devotion and discipleship that draws your eye. By a fervent prayer life and proper worship, you might find eternity itself. There are other doors of course, doors marked by all the tings that Christians ought to do, a way of living that leads to eternal life.
Now someone else comes into this room of doors with you. He wasn’t necessarily invited, but he stands there as if he belongs. And of course, he does belong because he is your Lord Jesus Christ. He looks at the doors, and he looks at your wandering eye, the way you think that you can go through them and get to eternal life. And just as you begin to make your step, just as you move toward the threshold of the door of devotion, BAM! He slams it shut in your face. See, he knows that way will be disastrous for you. Oh sure, it looks good at the beginning. It will impress your friends and maybe even make you feel good about your choices. But it will end ugly, it will end in failure and confusion and hopelessness. So, your Lord closes it off from you. The thing is, he begins to do this with each and every door that you approach, the door of self-sacrifice, bam! The door of wisdom, bam! The door of humility, bam!
This is what our Lord has been doing throughout his ministry, shutting the doors of mankind’s quest for salvation. Jesus looks at his disciples and says, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” That’s a bit unnerving to hear. I mean those who have wealth are those who have the means to make greater sacrifices, to seek out wisdom, to dedicate time to devotion and worship. But our Lord doesn’t back down, he doesn’t leave one door open for you to walk through. No, he says, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10:24-26)
Did you catch that? He calls them children. For that is what they are reduced to. Those who cannot do it, those who do not have the means to accomplish even the most basic navigation down a path to their own salvation. They are the receivers, not the producers of life eternal. They are children and you, you are children. Those doors our Lord shuts before you are shut because you, like children, would wander out into the street and get hit by a car if they are left open. They may seem like paths of glory and prestige and honorable Christian accomplishments, but they will spell your doom if left open to you. You may want to do it on your own. In fact, I’m sure you do. You want to dig deep and make a success of your salvation, but You Lord knows that you cannot pull it off.
As the doors all around you are shut, the lingering question remains. The same question the disciples pondered before our Lord. Who then can be saved? The answer, of course, is that with man it is impossible. But not with God. No, with God all things are possible. Especially your salvation. Which brings us back to that one door that was shut at the beginning of our story. For it is that door that holds the one possibility of salvation. When you approach and grasp ahold of the handle, you take a deep breath and pull. When you do, you find something terrifying. It’s not what you see on the other side. It’s not blinding light or even a path barely visible in the midst brambles. It’s not a mountain too high to climb. No, what is so terrifying is that the door is locked. It is a locked door and the key isn’t something you possess. It isn’t your wealth, or our creativity or your wisdom your pious works or your selfless acts. The last door, the only door that matters, you cannot open.
Did you think he wasn’t serious when he declared that salvation is impossible with man? You cannot do it, you have not done it, you will not do it. Pull with all of your might and the door will stay closed.
But remember that you weren’t in that room alone. There is one there who belongs there, who stands with you. He didn’t come at your invitation but still he is there. He is there to shut all the doors and to open one. At your failure to open the last door he grabs ahold of the handle and gently pulls it wide open for you. He opens that door for you at this very moment. He does what is impossible for you to do. When every other path is closed off, when there is no hope left within yourself, when you despair that you are but children that cannot save yourselves, he declares that you are his children. You are loved by him, washed by him, clothed by him and fed by him. He is your King, your Lord, our Father: and he will not lose his children.
He opens wide the door of eternal life outside of your work or effort or wisdom. He opens it with a shout of hope and joy as he declares for all to hear that you are forgiven! You are forgiven for clinging to your wealth or your devotion or your works. You are forgiven for believing that the glorious things you’ve done would gain eternal life. You are forgiven for the good you wanted to do but never did. You are forgiven for the evil that you did though you knew you shouldn’t have done it. You are forgiven for trying to open the door on your own. You are forgiven in Christ alone, and now the door stands open wide!