UPDATE: This is an old article. An updated and expanded commentary on this passage can be found in Paul’s book Letters from Jesus.
Why did Jesus send a message to the Laodiceans telling them they were in danger of being spewed out? What was his motive? This is an easy question. Why does Jesus do anything for us? Because he loves us.
Perhaps the Laodiceans were sitting there on Sunday morning listening in terror as their letter was being read out and wondering, “Why is Jesus rebuking us?” Anticipating this, Jesus provides the answer: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline” (v.19). He rebuked the sinning Laodiceans because he loved them. True, in their godless state they’re wretched and pitiful. But red and yellow, black and white, they’re still precious in his sight.
The Bible tells me so
We must never lose sight of the fact that Jesus loves us. Don’t believe it just because I said so. Believe it because of what Jesus has done. It was aggressive, militant agape love that sent Jesus to the cross on your behalf. Amazing love, how can it be, that you my King should die for me. Never question that. We can go off the rails when we forget that we are his beloved.
Even though their self-righteousness made him nauseous, Jesus loved the Laodiceans. Because he loved them he warned them and challenged them to repent. Then in verse 20 Jesus paints a beautiful word picture:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock: If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me.
The image we get is of Jesus waiting to be gracious. He has called out to the sinner and now he waits for a response.
I’ve heard sinners say, “show me Jesus, then I will believe.” Well here’s the thing – you can’t see him while the door of your unbelieving heart is shut. If you want to know him, you’ve got to open the door and invite him in. Do that, and he will come in and be with you. He promised.
I recall something Camilla said after she got saved. “Once you see Jesus, he’s irresistible.” And he is! He is Grace and Beauty personified. He is the Treasure of the universe and after nearly 40 years of walking with him he still amazes me with his love.
Jesus doesn’t play hard to get
No doubt you are familiar with the well-known painting that goes with Revelations 3:20. It shows a feminine Jesus in a glowing bathrobe tapping on an old door and looking sad.
There is something wrong with this picture. Jesus did not suffer the indignities of the cross just so he could put on a bathrobe and walk around looking glum. No, he did it because he passionately loves us. And for 2000 years unworthy sinners and prostitutes and tax collectors and people like Camilla and me have been throwing the door open and saying “come in Jesus!”
We need to look at this badly painted scripture with fresh eyes and old memories. A proper response is one of amazement. We ought to be amazed that Jesus is knocking on the Laodicean’s door. Afterall, they’re scum and he’s altogether lovely. They’re faithless and false and yet, right outside their unworthy door, stands the one called Faithful and True.
Someone needs to paint another picture of this doorway scene, one that captures Jesus the instant before he amazes yet another undeserving sinner.
The reason for the Laodicean letter
Jesus always says what he means and means what he says. So there is little danger of us stretching the metaphor when we say that the most significant moment in any person’s life involves a door.
On one side is a hopeless and filthy wretch. On the other side is a mighty Savior. The wretch is blind and lost, but the Savior is knocking. The wretch wonders, “What’s the point? Why am I here?” But the Holy Spirit is prompting, “Open the door.” The wretch reaches for the door handle and in one holy moment, everything changes.
A talented hymn-writer once captured this moment with the following lyric:
How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.
Grace is not only precious and amazing the hour we first believed, but every hour we believe. In fact, the state of being amazed is a normal for a follower of Jesus. The disciples who spent every day with Jesus were often amazed at the things he said and did because Jesus is inherently amazing. He just does what is normal for him and our little human minds are overwhelmed with wonder.
He heals all the sick. That’s amazing. He stops a storm in its tracks. That’s amazing. He resurrects a little dead girl. That’s amazing. He says nothing while being falsely accused and scourged because he plans to ransom us with his death. That’s amazing. He rises from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us because he wants us to reign in life. That’s amazing!
Grace only stops being amazing if we start thinking we don’t need it or if we take our eyes off the One who daily supplies it.
Jesus the Wonder-King
Here’s my point: Jesus is amazing; we read the Bible to discover Jesus; if we read the Bible and come away unamazed, we’ve missed him.
If someone preaches Revelations 3:14-21 and says you need to do more stuff for Jesus, that’s not amazing. But if they read it and say:
Look who’s standing outside the Laodiceans door! They’re wretched and self-righteous, yet he’s come to be with them anyway. They’re unlovely, yet Jesus says he loves them.
…then that’s amazing. Because if Jesus loved the Laodiceans, he surely loves you!
If you’re reading this and you don’t know Jesus, understand that even now he’s knocking on the door of your heart waiting for your invitation. Why is that amazing? Because even though you’re a godless little wretch doing what is right in your own eyes, the true Ruler of creation has come to visit you. And even though he could atomize your little door with a mere thought, he knocks and waits for you to respond. That’s amazing! Now don’t leave him standing there. Open the door! Invite him in.
And if you’re reading this and you already know this Jesus, and this wonder-working King of kings calls you his friend, well that’s amazing too!
Aren’t you amazed?