Knock, knock, open up!

January 10th, 2022

Luke 11:1-13

Tradition interprets this parable in the way it is set up. “Suppose one of you has a friend” (Luke 11:5). We, the listeners, are the one who approaches the door. However, what if Jesus was really saying something entirely different?

Suppose one of you has a friend who surprises you on a Thursday night. This friend says to you at the door, “Friend, let me in that I may watch Thursday night television, for my cable has just been shut off and I need to find out about Meredith and Dr. McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy.” You turn around and glance at the room and at yourself and see that you haven’t cleaned, papers and food wrappers are strewn about, and you are in your oldest pajamas. You respond, “Find another TV, for I am ready for bed and my house is a mess. I cannot open the door for you.”

What a nightmare. An unexpected guest demands entrance when you are too embarrassed to show your house and yourself. How do you deal with the dirty laundry on the floor or the bag of opened Doritos that have spilled onto the coffee table? How do you deal with yourself in old, torn pajamas and hair that is out of control?

Imagine the shame that you feel. You feel a pull to open the door for your friend, but you also feel ashamed of the conditions in which you live. How do you reconcile the two tensions?

This friend in the parable must have felt a similar pull when he refused to open the door at midnight. First-century society demanded hospitality. When a friend called, especially for bread, it was considered a shameful act to refuse such a request.

There were also societal responsibilities. Communities in those days were tightly knit. The women baked the bread together, and each family knew who would have bread left over from the night before. Because of this tightly knit community, the friend would have also been held responsible for hospitality to this man who had arrived on a journey.

But here was a friend who did not want to open the door. He had legitimate reasons. His children were in bed and he didn’t want to wake them up. In a one-room Palestinian home of the time those kids would have almost certainly heard the noise and stirred. This friend didn’t want to take the chance of disturbing his family.

It was even common for the animals to be kept inside overnight. Can you imagine the racket had the man agreed to open the door? Not only would the kids be crying and scared at this midnight interruption, but the animals would be roaming the house making sounds of their own. How long would it have taken for this man to get himself, his wife, his children, and his animals back to sleep?

He had a just reason to refuse to open that door. But what kind of shame would go with that refusal? He had refused the common courtesy and hospitality due in that ancient culture. I believe it was this shame that eventually caused him to open the door. Even the friend’s persistence added to the shameful feelings of the man behind the door.

It is interesting that the Greek word translated in the NRSV as “persistence” carries a connotation of shamelessness. While the man is shameless in his request, the man inside is shamed into eventually opening that door. What an amazing twist—this man doesn’t open because of social responsibility or a duty to friendship but because the man is shamelessly persistent in his knocking.

Imagine yourself on that Thursday evening trying to watch television with your friend standing at the door. Maybe you turn up the volume. Or maybe he isn’t knocking; maybe he is just standing there and you can still sense his presence. How shameful would you feel trying to snack on your Doritos knowing that you are turning away a friend?

What if God was knocking at our door? How often does God knock at our door and we are too ashamed and don’t want to respond? Talk about being ashamed. We don’t want God to know our deep, dark, awful mess that we carry behind that door. We say to ourselves, “God doesn’t want to know that,” or “God wouldn’t like me if God knew,” or even “I don’t want to tell, because then I would be responsible to God.”

This parable shows us that God is always there. God is persistently and shamelessly knocking on our door. What a love God has for us! This isn’t a love that will go away. Our God is persistent and acts in our lives at all times, despite the doors that we have between us and God. This parable highlights the importance of a relationship with God. The man knocking at the door isn’t just a stranger, or even a neighbor, but he is directly named as a friend. God is our friend who cares enough to stand at the door and continue to knock even when we are ashamed, or full of ourselves, or too busy watching television to get up out of the chair and open the door. God knows what kind of mess lies behind the door, but God continues to wait shamelessly and persistently for us to open up.

Despite the fact that we stand behind the door too ashamed to answer, God is our friend who longs and desires to be in relationship with us. It is our responsibility to open that door and allow the grace of God into our lives. God already knows that the house is a mess. God already knows that our pajamas are disgusting. God already knows that we are not worthy. God still loves us and is persistently and shamelessly waiting at that door. The beauty of the gospel in this parable is simply that we can open up, for God is knocking.

comments powered by Disqus