© November 2, 2018 | Schulter Etyang
It is a common thread in my posts to read these words – Jesus’ ministry was under the law and his ministry was primarily to the Jews, first. Occasionally, he would be interrupted by a gentile woman or officer, but his audience was primarily the Jews.
When you get these two things mixed up, you will misinterpret who Jesus is and what he did. In misinterpreting who Jesus is and what he did, two things happen. Firstly, we become proud and self-righteous because we believe we are living in obedience to everything Jesus said. Alternatively, we are overwhelmed with guilt and condemnation, if we have failed to live up to his words.
Which brings me to this story
In Luke 11 are recorded Jesus’ stories and sayings that he told his disciples and then later religious leaders. His audience, however, was not able to get the gist of his stories because they were under the Law. The Holy Spirit had not been poured out yet. We, of the New Covenant, have the privilege of peeping behind the veil, as it were, to see Jesus hidden behind the stories and sayings because we have the Holy Spirit.
In Luke 11: 5-13, Jesus tells this story about two friends. A late-night visitor showed up at the home of one of these friends. Upon realizing he had no food for his late-night visitor, he decided to go and ask for help from his friend. On reaching his house, his friend refused to open his door, citing that it was late, and his children were in bed. Nonetheless, his friend kept on knocking and asking until his friend caved in, and opened his door. He then gave his friend as many loaves as he wants.
This is what I have learned from listening to sermons from this story
- You have to be a good neighbor to your friend who is in need. Don’t be selfish. Open your door to the needy around you. Be a good neighbor. Be a mister Rodgers.
- Be persistent in prayer. Ask, seek, and knock until you get your prayers answered.
To my self-righteous self, this was doable. I’d pound my chest and say, “See, I am a good neighbor because I helped my friend. See, I persisted in prayer until I got my answers. Look at me. This is how it’s done.” On the flip side, my sinning self would be floored with guilt and condemnation because I was not such a good neighbor to my friends, and like the disciples, in the Garden of Gethsemane, I couldn’t keep my eyes open for an hour.
If the Bible is about Jesus, which it is, then in this story, Jesus is hidden and has to be unveiled. Let’s pull the veil and reveal him.
In ancient Jewish culture, the norm was, you opened the doors of your home to your friend, no matter what. This act was done out of a sense of duty and honor. You had to help when your friend was in need.
In this story, Jesus highlights a misnomer of sorts. A friend is in need but his dear friend refuses to help him. The misnomer is obvious. The one friend was selfish and narcissistic, and his selfishness and narcissistic behaviors are brought to light when he has to inconvenience himself and his family, to meet his friend’s need.
If you were a Jew in Jesus’ day, you instinctively knew he was doing two things. Jesus was raising the bar so high that made you pound your chest in pride because you were the good friend, or leave you feeling guilty and condemned because you knew you there were instances in your life when you didn’t help those in need.
Who is this selfish and narcissistic friend? Here’s the bad news. It is you and I. All of us.
Here’s the good news, though. Jesus still comes to us, as a friend. The Greek word used for a friend is philos. It was a term used for endearment or fondness to someone close to you but not a family member.
Why did Jesus use this word? Jesus was pointing to a relationship that he has with us. He is one of us. He is fond of us. He is dear to us. He is our friend. Yes, he is God almighty and King, but to us humans, he is the friend.
That’s what grace does. Jesus is not repelled by our selfishness and narcissistic tendencies. Jesus still comes to us and persists. Jesus identifies with us. The Greek word used for persists is anaideia, which means no shame, without embarrassment, shameless persistence. Jesus, shamelessly, without embarrassment and persistently, comes to us, time and time again.
Jesus, shamelessly, without embarrassment and persistently, comes to us, time and time again.
Jesus then pivoted to tell the gist of the story. When you ask, you will receive, when you seek you will find, and when you knock the door will be opened to you. Was Jesus prescribing to us what we need to do in order to be good neighbors, or get answers to our prayers? Nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus asks, seeks and knocks
In this story, Jesus reveals to us the kind of friend he is and the gift he gives to us.
He is the friend that shamelessly persists even when we are selfish and narcissistic. Even when we hide behind a “good motive” that it’s about our family, Jesus knows we are being selfish, yet Jesus still comes to us. Grace still comes to us. And then grace asks, seeks, and knocks on our doors.
Even today, Jesus still asks, seeks, and knocks. He really is the friend that won’t give up on us. He is philos. He is one of us. And when we finally relent and open the door, instead of us giving to Jesus, he gives us much more than we had hoped or even imagined.
In a strange twist, which the gospel is, strange, Jesus also becomes the friend who opens his door to us when we come to him for help. Jesus doesn’t need us to shamelessly persist, ask, seek and knock at his door. Without hesitation, he opens his home to us, and meets our needs. Wow
Do you see how liberating it is to see this story from the lens of the gospel? Oh, how free I am when I know that it’s not all up to me. It doesn’t hinge on my performance – asking, seeking and knocking. It all hinges on Jesus’ performance – he asks, seeks and knocks.
Oh, what joy and freedom.
That’s what grace looks like