LUKE 11:5-8: “The friend at midnight”.
Importance of context- Bible passages eg “Judas hung himself”-“Go and do likewise”.
To understand what Jesus is telling us in this parable we need to know about the culture of the times. Some times in our haste to apply Jesus’ teaching we skim through the story and fail to understand what Jesus really means. Consequently our understanding-application of the story is not always accurate.
Overview of the gospel.
11:1-4: when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray he teaches them what we call the Lord’s prayer.
11:5-8: J tells a parable to assure his hearers that when they pray, they pray to a loving Heavenly Father who is more than ready/willing to hear their prayer.
11:9-13, J assures them that when they pray for the HSP they will be given what they asj for.
Jesus begins this parable with the scenario that expects a very clear NO-Never answer.
The situation that J poses is as follows. Suppose a friend from a distant village comes to you home just before midnight and you need to provide him with food/accommodation.
Finding a bed is fine but you don’t have sufficient food to feed him. So you go to your neighbour to borrow some bread. And your neighbour offers some weak excuses about a locked door and sleeping children. Can you imagine that happening?
And J’s listeners will respond with an emphatic NO! They could not imagine such a thing happening. We need to have a closer look at this parable in the context of the culture of the time.
Frame 2 vs 5-6:A Man has a friend who arrives at his home in the late hours of the night. Isn’t that inconsiderate of the friend? NO. IN the summer it was often wiser to travel at night to escape the heat of the day. Now the friend’s arrival creates a challenge for the host. Cultural custom requires that the host must provide some food for the guest and the guest must eat- whether he is hungry or not. The problem is that the host has no bread. He might have some leftovers but he can’t give that because it would be an insult. He must provide a whole loaf-more than the guest can eat.
Frame 3-vs 7: So the host goes to his neighbour and calls out that he needs 3 loaves of bread to feed his guest. The neighbour (naturally enough) is not too pleased to be woken up and hopes he will go away. After all it is very late. He wants to sleep. He tells the host that the door is bolted and the children are asleep. Weak excuses. The door can be unbolted and if the children stir, they will soon go back to sleep. The excuses are so weak that they are quite ridiculous. That is what J’s hearers would think.
Frame 4-11:8. At this point we need to understand that according to the culture –in village life a guest of one person is considered a guest of the whole community- not just the individual host. A guest would be told that he had ”honoured our village” by coming to stay. So the whole community is also considered responsible for hosting the guest. What this means is that the man who is woken up in the middle of the night and asked to provide some bread for his neighbour who has an unexpected visitor, provides the bread, not because he is friends with the neighbour, but for the sake of his reputation. He knows that his neighbour is obliged to provide food for his unexpected
Guest. He also knows that if refuses to give his neighbour the bread he needs to feed his guest, the story will be all over the village by morning. His reputation will be trashed. He will be met with cries of “shame” everywhere he goes.
SO it is to avoid his reputation from being trashed – to avoid being “shamed” that he gets up and provides what the borrower wants. And by doing this he fulfils his duty to the guest of the village. As long as the request is reasonable –which it was-to refuse the request was unthinkable.
Frame 4: The traveler goes on his way next morning and everyone in the village is there to say goodbye. The Host is there- the neighbour who was woken up and provided the food is there- the whole village is there to say farewell. And so the village has honoured its obligation to the traveler. The host’s reputation for hospitality is intake. The neighbor’s reputation is preserved.
What is the point of the story? What is J teaching us? The point is quite simple. Just as the man who asks his friend to provide some bread for the unexpected visitor has his request granted, so those who pray –those who ASK-SEEK-KNOCK will be heard by God.
Is there anything about this story that bothers/troubles you? Isn’t the somewhat reluctant response of the neighbour a rather unfortunate picture of how God responds to prayer? Doesn’t it portray God as being somewhat reluctant to hear our prayers? Wouldn’t the story be better if the neighbour responded on the basis of friendship rather than because he felt obliged to respond in order to protect his reputation?
The answer to that is we need to understand what kind of parable Jesus has given us. This particular parable IS NOT one that works by saying, “God is or God acts like the man in the parable eg, “ The Kingdom of Heaven is like” etc. But this particular parable
Is one that says “ IF PEOPLE ARE LIKE OR ACT LIKE THIS, HOW MUCH MORE..” CF Luke 18’ The unjust judge”.
In this case the argument is:” If a friend who is a rather reluctant friend( at least at midnight) is willing to get out of bed and give some bread, HOW MUCH MORE will God your loving Father give you the things that you need if you ask him?
That that this is the meaning is shown by what Jesus says in vs 11-13 (frame 5). Fish and eggs are good/nutritious while the snake and scorpion are two of the greatest dangers to children living in Palestine. If human fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, HOW MUCH MORE , Jesus concludes will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.
The Point: Jesus teaches us that just as parents will give their children good things those who ask God can be assured that God will give them even better gifts than those a parent gives their children. He also teaches that God is a God of Honour- that he honours his Word. So we can have complete assurance that our prayers to God will be heard. After all the God who invites us to pray is more than willing to listen to our prayers and to grant us the power/guidance of the HSP. SO it is on this basis that are encouraged to persist in prayer- ASK-SEEK-KNOCK- This is not a once only action-but rather a continuous action. Illustration- visiting a friend-sprinkler on lawn-front door open-radio going- do you only knock once?
Why should we persist in praying? Because God invites us-integrity-promise. That is why we are to persist in praying?
May this teaching of Jesus be an encouragement’ “not to give up” but to persist in Prayer to our Heavenly father who has our best interests at heart.