Last Place Finishers Place First

I recently read a story about a man who was carrying a 50 pound sack of sand on his back. He also carried a very small sack of sand in the front of his body.

Forgetting the weight of the 50 pounds on his back, he focused his attention on the tiny sack in the front.

The application of this story is how humans often fail to notice the weight of their sins, while they turn their attention to the sins of others.

As we consider today’s Bible passage from Luke, let’s be sure to focus our attention on our sin problems and let the Lord judge the others.

New Location

The setting for the first 21 verses of Luke 13 takes place in a synagogue. Jesus healed a crippled woman on the sabbath and explained his actions with two parables.

The setting has now changed to undisclosed towns and villages on his journey to Jerusalem. As you read the Gospel of Luke, pay attention to the people who follow Jesus to Jerusalem.

It is quite possible that they witnessed the triumphal entry, the crucifixion, resurrection, and day of Pentecost. If I am correct in that assumption, they were given the opportunity of a lifetime.

A Question about Eternal Salvation

In the new location, a question was posed to Jesus.

Luke 13.22-23 Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”

Various religious groups in the first century discussed what people needed to do to qualify for eternal life. Some of their beliefs were as follows:

— Gentiles and Jewish people who had no religious inclinations would be excluded from the life to come.

— Among devout Jewish people, the Essenes had stricter standards than the Pharisees.

— Some believed that being descended from Abraham was enough to qualify for eternal life.

What Jesus Taught

Jesus responded to the question with a parable.

Luke 13.23-29 He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.

“When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’

“Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

“But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’

“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out.

“Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God.”

(1) While religious groups were interested in who would be excluded from the life to come, they failed to look at their own spiritual condition.

They needed to remove the backpack of their own sin and examine their spiritual condition.

The same is true for us. We need to prayerfully conduct a spiritual inventory and make sure that we are responding to God’s agenda through Jesus.

(2) They called on the Lord too late.

There is a story of a man who decided to live a life apart from God until the last moment. He planned to repent at the end of his life and qualify for heaven.

As he was riding his horse on a narrow passage, the horse bucked him into a deep ravine. His last words were, “I’ll be damned.”

Not only do we miss eternity when we choose to believe in Jesus but not follow him; we also miss the abundant life he has for us.

(3) Many in the crowd had heard Jesus teach. Some of them may have eaten the banquet he served to 5000 in the wilderness. They were still not prepared for eternal life.

In the first church I served I had a friend whose wife and daughter were lovers of Jesus. He believed in Jesus, but was unwilling to surrender his life to him.

I recall a service where the Holy Spirit was drawing him to a relationship with Jesus in a very powerful way. Instead of coming to Jesus, he refused and apparently never had that opportunity again.

Just because you get near Jesus, doesn’t mean that you are one of his followers.

(4) Jesus made it clear that human heritage did not qualify for eternal life.

When he spoke of people coming from the East and the West, he was including every human who chose to follow Jesus.

The Bible makes it plain that following Jesus includes hearing his words and following them in obedience.

Last Place Finishers Can Be First

Jesus ended his message and said, “Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13.30).

Jesus was anointed to bring “good news to the poor” (Luke 4.18).

He said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6.20).

How are the poor blessed? How do they experience the good news?

They are very aware of the heavy weight of sin that they carry. They are willing to surrender their sin problem to Jesus.

Once forgiven, they love Jesus and joyfully follow him.

May this be our story this Christmas Day.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I have produced a YouTube video on this passage. Rudy has insights into the passage that will enhance your understanding of the verses.

The video can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.

Please email your prayer request to or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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