Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
With Abraham in the kingdom
While all human beings die, going the “way of the flesh,” later Jewish belief holds that the just continue to have existence in the afterlife. The Book of Wisdom declares, “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them” (3:1). To the Sadducees who deny that there is a resurrection, Jesus says, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob… is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive” (Lk 20:37-38).
Of the patriarchs, Abraham is the most important. The Jews in Jesus’ time see him as the Father of the Jewish people, and the original source of blessings for the Jewish people. In many instances, God’s compassion towards the Israelites is invoked on the basis of God’s covenant with Abraham (cf Dt 9:27; Mi 7:18-20). It was Abraham’s obedience to God (cf Gn 26:4-5) that is the basis for the blessing of his descendants.
Jesus identifies Abraham as one who is alive in God. He teaches that Abraham presides at the eschatological banquet together with Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets (cf v 28). Jesus uses the heavenly Abraham as a figure to express what paradise is for the Jews: to be “carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham” (Lk 16:22).
Jesus, however, underlines that “to recline with Abraham” is not simply based on being Jewish by birth. In the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, the rich man addresses Abraham as “Father,” yet Abraham refuses to assist him and bring him relief (cf Lk 16:24-31). To recline with Abraham is the fruit of righteousness, and hence, Gentiles could be included, while certain Jews may find themselves excluded from the heavenly banquet. For this last consideration, Abraham is also an appropriate figure because he himself welcomed strangers in his lifetime (cf Gn 18).
SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2019,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: email@example.com; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.