Preachers and writers are generally intelligent people. Much of what they say or write is more or less original. Sometimes we borrow things from other people, and sometimes even give them credit. It is not a new thing. William Shakspere, for instance, doesn’t have an original plot in any of his plays. Even within the plays he borrowed phrases and thoughts extensively. Tolstoy even argued that he was not a great writer because he was unoriginal and immoral. The thoughts that follow I am borrowing from a former college roommate of mine, Steve Singleton. If you agree with it, I will take the credit. If you disagree, give him the blame.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to such a one, and will sup with such a one, and such a one with me. (Rev 3:20, with the gender bias removed from the indefinite articles)
Many people have seen the picture that has Jesus standing at a door knocking, and the door has no outer knob. The point, they say, is that Jesus is not going to force himself on anyone, and each person must open the door from the inside. Then he will come into your life and you will begin life as a Christian. Thus we each must “invite Jesus into your heart.” But taken in context, is that what the verse says?
This verse is part of one of the letters to the seven churches of Asia in the early part of the Revelation; specifically it is to the backsliding church at Laodicea. This is a church that is called lukewarm, and spiritually “poor, blind, and naked.” That is important context.
In an even broader context, verses 14 to 22 as we have the book divided are written to a church, a body of followers of Christ. Thus the verse is not written to unbelievers telling them to open the door, but rather to those who have believed.
Here is the picture then. The church at Laodicea was a group of Christ-followers who had lost their zeal for Christ. They were going through the motions of worshiping. In modern terms, these people showed up regularly every Sunday, sang all the songs, bowed their heads during the prayers, took the Lord’s Supper, and tried to stay awake during the sermon; then they went home and lived like the world around them. Sound familiar? I hope not.
So Jesus comes and knocks on the door. What door? The door to the church. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house.” (1 Pet 2:5)
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22)
God has built us up into his house, the church. We are the house of Jesus. But in the case of Laodicea, the church had kicked Jesus out of his own house. He had to knock on the door of his own house and ask to be allowed back in. In the words of Sylvester the Cat, “What a revolting thituathion.”
Jesus does seek those unbelievers who need to follow him. In this case, though, he is saying that he wants back into his own house. If a church, or individuals in the church, kicks him out, he is going to stand at the door and knock. He may even have the key to the door, but he is knocking, asking to be let back in. And when he is allowed back in, then it’s party time.