3 min Read
And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; or a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.
Luke 11:5-8 (NKJV)
The first time I listened to this narrative, the premise of it was on persistent prayer. This story comes after Jesus had taught his disciples how to pray because they had requested him to teach them how to pray. Therefore, it is a logical progression for bible commentators and teachers to follow, assuming that Jesus was keen to have his disciples persist in prayer. Even the NLT added this line to make the connection… Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story…
But is this story really about persistent prayer? Did Jesus mean that if you persisted in prayer, what we commonly have known as the Lord’s Prayer, God will eventually cave in and answer your prayers? The Lord’s prayer is merely ten lines long. You mean if you pray these ten lines persistently, God will move on your behalf? Notice how ludicrous and illogical it sounds?
If we assert that Jesus taught on persistent prayer, then Jesus suggests that his father is an egotistical, narcissistic being who needs cajoling to answer our prayers. Nothing could be further from the truth!
This story about this man and his friend is not about persisting in prayer. It is about how grace works.
What is grace? The most common definition of grace is unmerited favor. I will lean in on Paul Zahl’s definition of grace. In his book, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life, Paul Zahl defines grace as, “A love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is one-way love.”
Grace is a love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is one-way love.
Let me explain this story considering Paul Zahl’s definition of grace
Who is this friend who does not want to be troubled at midnight? You and I. Yes, you and I.
Jesus in this narrative points out our selfishness. He explains to us how our convenience can sometimes impede helping others. And for certain, we use legitimate reasons why we cannot help others. This man said, “Hey, it’s too late, I got young kids and they are asleep.” Don’t we use legitimate reasons to back off from helping others? I have. I have used my wife as an excuse. “Let me talk with Jenny first and then get back to you.” We use our spouses as a get-away car. Some of us use work, kids, gym, traffic jams, etc.
At the core of our being is selfishness. We only think about ourselves and those close to us. It’s all about us. At the drop of a hat, we are capable of not helping even close friends. This friend who refuses initially to open his doors is you and I.
But there is this other friend. Who is this friend that showed up at night and persisted until his friend rose and met his need?
This friend is Jesus. Jesus portrays himself as a friend who persisted.
The Greek word used for a friend is philos, which means friend or him who associates familiarly with one. Jesus, the son of God identifies with us – humans. He is like us. God became flesh and dwelt among us. But more than just dwelling among us, he is our friend. Jesus does not come to us as a master or even king and yet he is all that. He comes to us as a friend. This is the friendly nature of grace.
Jesus came to his friend on behalf of his friend. Notice it points to Jesus as the mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). He goes in place of his friend and pleads for his friend (Romans 8:34). Suddenly this narrative is about Jesus.
Jesus persisted until his friend caved in and opened his doors. The Greek word for persisting is anaídeia, which means shameless persistence or literally shamelessness or unembarrassed boldness. Jesus used this Greek word only once in Luke 11:8
Jesus, in this narrative, teaches us how grace works. Grace shamelessly persists. Grace is incessant. Grace persists until it gets what it is after. Grace comes back again and again and again. Grace loves again and again. Grace sought after until it found the lost sheep, lost coin and the lost son (Luke 15). Grace pursues us and will pursue us until the end of time. Grace does not give up. Grace is one-way love that seeks us out.
Your selfishness is no match for his grace. Your sin is no match for his shameless persistence and unembarrassed boldness. Jesus patiently and persistently waits until you let him in, in areas of your life where you have locked him out because you are afraid he will ask you to do or leave something or someone you think is precious to you. Guess what? He might even offer you something better than what you have right now. He is not going away.
Hey non-christian, Christians are people who caved in and opened the door because of Jesus’ persistence. We could not hold out for too long. We gave in to his unconditional love. The truth is this – that in spite of our own sins, Jesus still came back again and again and again, and that broke us. Our sins did not deter him. It almost seems like he relished the challenge and won at the end. We were defeated and surrendered to his unconditional love. That’s who we are.
See, it’s possible to read the bible and find yourself or read the bible and find Jesus and in finding Jesus, find yourself. The Bible from Genesis to Revelation to the maps is all about Jesus and his lavish grace for sinners.
This story is all about Jesus.
This story is all about grace
Grace shamelessly persists
That’s what grace looks like