Saturday, March 18, 2023

Who's At My Door? Do You Know What Time is It? (Luke 11)

Let's set the stage for this parable:

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:1-4)

We all know the Lord's Prayer--a beautiful example of how we should approach God.  First, reverentially:  His name is sacred, His Kingdom is eternal and He is the One to whom all blessing and honor should go.  Then, we approach Him humbly: Seeking His merciful hand to be extended yet another day, for our sustenance, so that we may go out and be a witness of His love and grace.  But, wait!  Before we go out and share Jesus, we must make sure that His living water may flow out of us unimpeded.  What restricts or hinders altogether the flow?  Sin, unconfessed and hidden away out of shame and conceit.  So, we ask Him to forgive us.  Lovely first step.  

But, in His light, we see light and now we recall those who have sinned against us:  all the ugliness, unkindness, soul-wrenching unloveliness that raged out of someone and knocked us off our feet. But with His Spirit released into our souls, and with sin's ugly stain washed white, we are able to forgive in His power alone. But as we go out, hearts ablaze and mercifully reaching out to others, help us to resist the temptation/testing (same word in the Greek) and keep our eyes on Him.  He will deliver us from evil with His love for us.  We affirm who God and who we are in Him by affirming He is still at work in the world, and in us. 

But once Jesus taught these God-fearing Jewish lads how to pray (they knew how, but not like they witnessed Jesus praying!), He moved into a parable to see how wide their sails were open to catch His wind.  Or were they just listening, and not really understanding?  So Jesus goes into parable-mode, where they have to dig deeper and seek harder His meaning.  In other words, after the teaching comes the final!

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity [yet to preserve his good name]* he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. (Luke 11:5-8)

I have never really understood this parable.  Isn't it odd that someone has a friend, who just shows up, and he goes to another friend, and asks for three loaves of bread, because he doesn't have any to feed his guest. 


Let me get this straight.  You have no food in your home; you've got a friend who shows up at midnight (!) and you have to ask your other friend for not just one loaf but three.  Hmmm.  Seems like Chaos Central to me.

Now, to add insult to injury, this supposed other friend won't even answer the door.  It's locked, and he's all snuggled down in bed and his kids are asleep.  In other words, back off boogaloo--your problem is not my problem.  Then we come to find out that the friendship isn't so important to him--he's not going to help this needy friend and get up.

Hmmm.  There is one and only reason for this man to get up and help his needy friend:  his reputation.  His needy friend knew exactly where to go to find (lots of) bread at an odd hour; he didn't go knocking on random doors in the neighborhood. This needy friend knew this man had a bounty of bread, and could spare the loaves no matter what.  

So, even though the friendship is not motive enough, how others will think of of this man matters.

The needy friend also had the gumption, the chutzpah, the boldness to come pounding on the door.  Why?  He knew his friend had bread to share, so he left his house, pounded on the door, and then explained his circumstance.  He then stood, and listened patiently while his friend groused.  Did Mr. Needy leave?  No.  He kept standing there.  Mr. Needy knew his friend cared about his reputation, and would, after some delay, rally to his cause. Mr. Needy wouldn't relent until his need had been met. 

So here's the equation:  Bold Request + To the One With Resources
                                      = Request Granted Based on the Giver's Character

Why?  Because the Giver wants those around Him to know Him as a Provider, a Resource, One whose Name is to be known throughout the earth.  Let's "fit" the Lord's Prayer into this parable:

Our Father in Heaven                            
The man is at his house, with a reputation of bounty 
Hallowed by Thy Name   
The man's reputation is of the utmost importance 
Thy Kingdom Come          
The man's home is available, right here, right now
Give us our daily bread                         
This man has resources:  enough bread to give away 3 loaves!
Forgive us our sins                                
The needy man is seeking forgiveness for the imposition
We forgive those who sin against us     
Mr. Needy needs to forgive his friend showing up so late and inconveniencing him 
Lead us not into temptation                   
Mr. Needy would rather not face such dilemma of waking up one friend to help another again

No, it's not a perfect one to one correspondence, but Jesus is making an important point:  Even here on earth are those whose name, whose reputation, means something and that person will act, even if the person would rather not.  

The person's name is tantamount to their character. 

Now, up the ante, and picture our Father. He is in heaven, His home, but He will hear the knock on His door as you offer Him a fervent prayer, any time, day or night. No one knows when catastrophe will just show up at your door, but now you hurry to your Heavenly Father's house and start pounding/praying for His mercy, His provision.  You are lovingly bold as you approach Him, not because of who you are, but because of who He is.  His name, His character is revealed throughout His word, and now it is being revealed in Jesus as He tells this story.   

Our Father is known for not ignoring knocks on His door, having plenty of bread, and has a willingness to hear our cries.  We don't enjoy unexpected "guests" to show up unannounced (a test!) but our Father is always at home and will give you what you need.  

Jesus pushes this a bit further:  "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13).

Wow!  We are fallen, yet when our children are in need, (in this case, asking for food) any loving father would not give his child the opposite--he will not give snakes and scorpions.  God will not give us venomous, harmful and cruel responses to our cry, our need, our pain.   

We may confuse want with need, but even then the Father is measuring and distributing kindness and mercy.  His Holy Spirit longs to come in and dwell within us, empowering us to walk in love with the Father and everyone else. 


*NIV text note 

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