Jesus knows us better than anybody. He speaks our language. He talks to us about things that nobody else cares about. He listens.
And he does all this because he loves us.
This was something I learned again and again while doing research for my book, Letters from Jesus. The letters from Jesus to the seven churches are full of idioms and local references that mean nothing to us. But they meant much to the people who heard them. Consider this well-known verse:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20)
This is Jesus speaking to the smug Laodiceans, and it is one of the most radical pictures of grace you will ever find. In my book it takes a whole chapter to unpack the grace found in this letter, but let me give you a taste by unpacking these few words: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” The following is extracted from my book…
Who’s knocking on the door?
Under Roman law, visiting officials had the power to requisition lodgings for themselves and their entourage. Even though it was an imposition to host, feed, and even pay hungry soldiers, nobody could shut their door. But the Laodiceans weren’t nobody. They were a proud people who, in 40BC, closed their doors to a Roman general called Labienus Parthicus.
On another occasion, a wealthy Laodicean called Polemo came home to find the future emperor Antoninus had billeted himself in his house. An angry Polemo kicked him out. His actions captured the independent Laodicean spirit. “Other, weaker Asian cities may roll out the welcome mat to the Roman oppressors, but we Laodiceans are having none of it.”
The Laodiceans were famous for their locked and closed doors, and this is one of their more appealing traits. Shutting one’s door to a hostile invader is admirable.
But Jesus is no Roman oppressor. Although he is the Ruler of All, he does not impose himself upon us. He does not demand that we open our doors and slay the fatted calf for his benefit. Instead, he gently asks us to open our door so that he may come in and dine with us.
Grace for Laodiceans
In the Gospels, Jesus promises that if we knock the door will be opened (Matt. 7:7). But the Laodiceans aren’t knocking. They’re not the sort of people who do.
“We have need of nothing,” they boasted. They won’t come to Jesus, so the Ruler of Creation comes to them. It is a stunning act of condescension.
The Laodiceans’ religion is offensive, yet Jesus is not offended. Their self-righteousness stinks to high heaven, yet Jesus does not withdraw in a holy huff. Nor does he call down fire from above. Instead, he speaks tenderly with lovingkindness.
Those unacquainted with the grace of God make much of the punishment that Jesus will supposedly inflict on underperforming churches. Yet here is Jesus outside the worst church in the Bible hoping to enter and dine with them.
Was there ever a more breathtaking picture of grace?
By seeking to justify themselves, the Laodiceans had rejected Christ. Yet here is Jesus offering undeserved acceptance. They had spat upon his good name and insulted the Spirit of Grace, and Jesus replies, “Let’s eat.”
Whose door is it?
It is the door of our hearts. The letter is for the church, but the invitation is universal and personal. Jesus said, “If anyone hears my voice.” His invitation is for you and me and everyone besides.
Jesus has not come to the marketplace to address the crowd; he has come to your door and mine to meet each of us where we are at. We all must choose what to do with the Savior outside our door.
In the letter to the Laodiceans we see a radical demonstration of the one-way love that flows from heaven to earth. The Laodiceans are not nice people, but Jesus says he loves them and wants to spend time with them. Jesus does the same for all of us.
He loves us just because. Of course, he wants us to respond to his love. There’s no point bringing the wine and bread if we’re not going to open the door.
How do we open the door?
By saying yes to Jesus. That’s it. There are no hoops to jump through, there is no fitness test, no entrance exam. Some worry that they have to believe right or muster sufficient faith to enter the kingdom, but your heavenly Father has made it as easy as possible for you to respond to his love.
What if I don’t have enough faith?
Faith is simply a positive response to Jesus. In the faith conversation, Jesus takes the initiative and we respond. He speaks, we listen. He knocks, we open the door. He enters, we feast.
What does it mean to dine with Jesus?
To dine is to enjoy one another’s company. It’s resting from your labor, leaving the kitchen, and sitting at the feet of Jesus.
It’s the ultimate happy meal.
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