Jesus told a lot of parables. Sometimes when I am reading through the gospels, I get lost in the analogies: Am I a coin? a sheep? a vineyard? the prodigal son? his begrudging brother? There is a lot to sort through with parables, figuring out what represents what, and that can make them hard to read. Recently, while I was reading through the Gospel of Luke, I was particularly struck by the parable of the persistent friend, a parable that has always puzzled me.
In Luke 11, following on the heels of the Lord’s prayer, Jesus tells the parable of a man knocking on his friend’s door in the middle of the night because he needs provisions. The friend isn’t interested in getting out of bed to help, not when he can wait a few hours until morning anyway. Eventually, because of the persistence of the knocking neighbor, not because of a willingness of heart, the friend gets up and gets what his neighbor needs.
If one stops reading at this point, it seems really muddled. Am I the friend or the neighbor? To assume that I am one of those characters means I have not finished reading the passage. The parable doesn’t make much sense when read in isolation, but if you continue to read, you will see that Jesus goes on to say that whoever asks will receive, whoever seeks will find, and whoever knocks to him it will be opened. The parallels to the persistent neighbor are quite clear. He asked, he sought, he knocked, and the friend finally answered, gave, and opened the door.
It is easy to draw conclusions here. I am the neighbor who must ask, seek, knock. But, and this is the part where the parallel ends, the Lord is not the bothered friend who doesn’t want to get out of bed. On the contrary, the Lord is the father who will not give his son a snake when he asks for a fish.
So we have confidence to ask, seek, and knock for two reasons. First, Jesus said to do so, and we must obey. Second, our good heavenly Father will not withhold good gifts from his children. Asking can be hard. Praying, much like reading the parables, is hard work to do it well, or at all sometimes. I must be persistent (faithful) like the neighbor. God is my good heavenly Father. He will not withhold and he will not slight me. He will not give me a scorpion when I ask for eggs.