Parables as Imagination 4

Parables as Imagination 4 August 1, 2013

Imagine a world — at Jesus’ invitation — where God is good, where God’s people come to him with their requests, and where God responds to them. Imagine a world where God is good, where God is gracious, where God wants to respond to the needs of his people. Imagine a world where God trust God and so go to him with their needs.

The Parable of the Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-8; after the jump), which is sometimes read to mean that God answers in order to avoid his name being besmirched or at other times as one that teaches that persistence pays in prayers, but Klyne Snodgrass (Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus) is not alone in showing that the crucial word (anaideia) does not mean that. The meaning of this parable does not hinge on our being like the knocker or God being like the sleeper.

Instead, this parable is about a God who is dramatically unlike that sleeper who got up only because of the prayer’s boldness. The parable doesn’t teach us to be bolder and if we are God will eventually give in; it doesn’t teach rudeness. Nor does it teach that God is like that sleeper. Instead, it is clever Jewish irony and a fortiori logic: if fathers act like this and eventually give in to rude neighbors, how much more will the good God, the Father, respond in grace. That is why the next set of teachings, which in my view function as the nimshal (the interpretation), focus on God being so much better than human fathers.

So, let us learn to re-imagine our world and learn to re-imagine it as a world shaped and governed by a good God, the Father, who loves us, who cares for us, and wants to provide for us. Let us go to that God.

What does a world look like when this parable shapes us?

11:5 Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 11:6 because a friend of mine has stopped here while on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 11:7 Then he will reply from inside, ‘Do not bother me. The door is already shut, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 11:8 I tell you, even though the man inside will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of the first man’s sheer persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

11:9 “So I tell you: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 11:10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11:11 What father among you, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? 11:12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 11:13 If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

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