EXEGESIS: LUKE 16:14-17
Pamela Ayn Austen
Forcing Their Way
Into the Kingdom of God
Scene from the movie: World War Z
14. The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. 15. So Jesus said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God. 16. The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then, the good news of the Kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force. 17. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped."
These words by Jesus do not mean that we who believe in Jesus are still held under the Old Testament Law. To attempt to enter the Kingdom of God by pushing past Jesus, and demanding to prevail with God by your own goodness, is what Jesus means here.
The Jews, not realizing that their Messiah had come to fulfill the requirements of the Law, still believed that their good works and their obedience to the Law would ultimately prevail with God, and they would easily enter heaven and eternal life, entirely apart from Jesus. They wanted to thrust Jesus aside and do it themselves and force their way into heaven.
The Jews believed and taught that rigorous daily obedience to the strict Laws of Moses was the key to heaven. And they were forcefully pushing past Jesus to make their way into God's Kingdom by way of the Law. However, they could never fulfill the Law's requirements, because they could never be good enough. "There is no man who is always good and never transgresses." Ecclesiastes 7:20 And, "I was born in sin, and in sin did my mother conceive me." Psalm 51:5 And we're told, "He who keeps the whole Law but stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." James 2:10
Further, Jesus said that what people highly prize is detestable to God; so therefore, how could they even know what would please God? They thought what pleased them was what pleased God too. But what pleased them was money and pride, which was idolatry and abomination before God the Father.
When Jesus said, "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of the letter of the Law to be dropped," he was not telling us, who are sinners, to obey the Law better, more, faster. He was introducing this truth: The Law must be dealt with in a fashion that both satisfies its ultimate requirement that sinners perish, and that finally removes the Law from crushing people eternally under its demands. It had to be satisfied and removed, because no human being could satisfy it, and no human being could remove it. The Law would not just be dropped by God. The Law was righteous, and the Law was good, as long as people could obey it, but people could not obey it. All the same, the Law was permanent.
What to do?
We're told that the Law was given solely to show humanity that they could not obey God's righteous requirements, and therefore, they needed a Savior. That Savior is the one who came to satisfy the requirements of the Law once and for all, and to set us free from the Law's demands and final punishment of eternal hell. That Savior is Jesus.
Jesus was telling them that the Law had to be fulfilled, and Jesus came to fulfill the requirements of the Law for all sinners. Jesus was telling them that they must now have faith in him and his death on the cross for them, and we must believe that Jesus's death on the cross will both fulfill the Law and remove it from off of our eternal soul.
The people forcing their way into the Kingdom of God, (which won't work, by the way), are those who push past Jesus and demand to be accepted by their own goodness, and their own works, and their own beliefs. But they have a problem: they must actually satisfy the requirements of the Law, and they are entirely unable to do so. Jesus tells them that the Law isn't going anywhere, not even one stroke of a letter of the Law is going anywhere. And since they were born in sin, and they have already sinned, and they are already condemned by the Law, just exactly how are any of their so-called good-works going to save them? They are damned already! They were doomed from conception, in that they were formed from the bodies of sinners, who were born from the bodies of sinners, all the way to Adam and Eve, the original sinners.
Since Jesus came to the earth and fulfilled the requirements of the Law, the ultimate condemnation on mankind now is their refusal to believe in and trust the Savior who died for them. Disbelief in God's son, Jesus, is what condemns mankind. Jesus said, "Unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins." John 8:24
That means, for you who disbelieve, the Law is alive and active, and its requirements of eternal death for you is in full force. For those who refuse God's plan of salvation and what Jesus did for them on the cross, they will perish under the Law and by their own inability to save themselves, and by their own rejection of God's grace and free gift: Jesus.
If you're trying to force your way into the Kingdom of God by pushing past Jesus and relying on your own good works, let me say: wake up and just stop. You've failed and will forever fail. Turn to Jesus in peace and hope, and believe in God's plan of salvation, and then the door will be opened for you. For Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man comes to the Father but by me." John 14:6 But he also said, "Those whom the Father has given to me, I will in no wise cast out." John 6:37