Jesus, salvation, and The Walking Dead

I'm a big fan of the TV series The Walking Dead. Actually I am a charter watcher, having followed the show from its first episode. This morning as I am meditating on a story Jesus tells in Luke 13, it stirs up my end-of-the-world imagination. That's right, I'm about to connect Jesus with The Walking Dead.

Imagine the zombie apocalypse is just breaking out, and the realization is settling over people that the world they have known is falling apart. Grocery stores have been looted. Gas stations are shut down. Law enforcement is failing. Large cities declare martial law, but the epidemic sweeps through the armed forces. With growing desperation, citizens begin seeking safe places. (So far I think I'm on roughly the same plot line as the series that begins this coming Sunday, Fear the Walking Dead. It chronicles the outbreak of the virus in Los Angeles.)

There is a very rich man in this city who lives on a sprawling, walled-in estate. In his benevolence, he issues an open invitation for people who are not infected to come and live on his property. He has tasked his well armed security guards with overseeing the influx of people. In order to control the situation, they plan to leave the main gates of the estate locked but open up a narrow door on the side of the property.

Morning dawns on the designated day, and hundreds of people have already gathered outside. Many of them have slept near the door for days. Tension is building, and a few fistfights have already broken out.

Finally at the owner's orders, the security guards open the narrow door. The crowd rushes forward, but the guards painstakingly let people through one at a time. After a doctor has looked over individuals for signs of infection, they are released to explore the grounds inside.

The crowd outside the door quickly separates itself between the rabble who are elbowing and shoving their way toward the door, and a large number of less violent citizens who stand off to the side.  Some of them are hesitant and prefer to watch things develop. Others aren't worried about getting in. They are well connected and have talked with the rich man before. He has even eaten in some of their homes. They stand by waiting for the security guard to call their names, separate the crowd, and let them through.

Only the invitation never comes. At one point, without any warning, the rich man orders his security guards to close the door and lock it. Within seconds the people on the outside realize they will not be getting in. Chaotic violence erupts and spreads. People pound on the door, and throw bottles and rocks. Even the reserved and wealthy begin to scream in protest when they realize what has happened.

Believe it or not, Jesus paints a similar picture of salvation in Luke 13:22-29. I encourage you to read it. Here's something I find striking in Jesus' story. You know what separates those who are saved from those who aren't saved? The saved "struggle and fight" to get through the door (Greek verb agonizomai, root of our verb 'agonize'). The not-going-to-get-saved "seek" to get in, but they don't reduce themselves to fighting. They want to retain their dignity and lifestyle. In everyday terms, these are people who come to church and do lots of good things. While the rabble humble themselves in tearful confession and messy repentance, the dignified ones stand by, assuming that because they show interest in Jesus, he will of course count them in. It is a fatal mistake.

If disaster suddenly struck and society completely broke down, I can't even imagine how desperate I would be to get my family into a place of safety. Jesus wants us to be no less desperate to do whatever it takes to respond to his invitation to live in his kingdom.


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