The Parables of Jesus
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira

The Parable of the Embarrassed Host

Luke 11:5-10:

Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’
“Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me.  The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed.  I can’t get up and give you anything.’  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
“So I say to you:  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

One of the joys of attending a General Conference session [of the Seventh-day Adventist Church] is that you meet friends, friends that you may not have seen for years.  At one General Conference I came across one of my old, old friends that I had when we were together at Newbold [College in England].  He is now the pastor of the Istanbul church in Turkey.  The moment I saw him I immediately remembered him for a very special incident.

During our third year the college built a new dormitory for the boys and the girl’s club wanted to donate a special gift in remembrance of the opening ceremony for this special occasion.  They asked me to design a flowerpot for the main living room.  This man from Turkey was a carpenter so they asked him to construct it.  The college loaned me its van and I took this man to the lumber yard to buy the lumber for this ornate flowerpot.

We arrived at the lumber yard and he chose the wood.  He decided how much he wanted and the salesman, after he had calculated the price, said to him, “That will be six Pounds.”  (Pounds is an English currency).  This Turkish man from the Middle East said, “I will give you four Pounds.”  This Englishman didn’t know what this man was up to and so he said, “I don’t think you understood me correctly.  I said six Pounds.”  This Turkish man said, “Yes, I know, but I will give you four Pounds.”  So I spoke to him and used a few of my Arabic words and I said to him, “In England, we do not bargain.”

He totally ignored my statement and he kept on bargaining.  This poor Englishman explained to him that in England they sell wood by the foot and that he had bought so many feet at so much per foot and it comes to six Pounds.  He said, “If you don’t have that much money I would be happy to remove some of the wood so that you could buy four Pounds worth.”  He said, “No.  That’s not the issue.  I want all this wood but I will give you four Pounds.”

I felt like crawling under the table but this Turkish man insisted and this poor Englishman was getting frustrated.  He said, “I can’t reduce the price because I am simply working here.  I am the foreman.  The company sets the price.”  He was trying to explain to him and after he explained to him at great length that he could not reduce the price, this man said, “I appreciate all the explanation but I will still give you four Pounds.”  I tried to kick him under the table.  I said, “Let’s go.  Give him the six Pounds.”  We had the money but he wouldn’t.  He ignored me; he insisted.  Finally the Englishman said, “Take it for four Pounds.”  As we left he said, “You see, it even works in England.”

This parable is very strongly flavored with Middle Eastern culture.  Let me give you the background if you have never lived there.  Number one, in the Middle East you never telephoned or told people that you were coming to visit.  You just arrived at their home and it was against their culture to say, “No.”  You always had to take them in.  No matter how crowded you were or how little you had, you had to take them in and provide them with food and shelter.  It was a part of their culture.

In this parable, a man arrives at midnight and he simply says, “Here I am.”  Of course, this poor fellow had no choice but to let him in.  The next thing that you must be aware of is that the women get up very early in the morning and cook the bread.  Now their bread is very much like the bread we have here called pocket bread or pita bread.  That’s the typical bread and she will bake enough bread for the family for that one day.

The average man ate about three loaves a day.  The standard procedure was three pita bread for the male, two for the female, and one or two for the children depending on how old they were.  Since this was a male visitor, they required at least three loaves and, remember, the request was for three loaves of bread.

Now comes the next problem and this is pretty hard.  The peasant Jewish farmer lived in a one-room apartment.  That one room was his bedroom, his living room, his kitchen, his everything.  But that room was on a split level.  Two-thirds of the room was on what they called the ground floor — we would probably call it the first floor — then the other part, the one-third, was on a platform.  On the platform was a mat and the whole family slept on that one mat.

When a Jewish family woke up, they would open the door to let in the sunshine and the air because you can imagine that the air must be stuffy.  Not only did the family sleep on the platform but they allowed all their livestock to sleep in the lower two-thirds because of stealing.  Then there was another problem.  I don’t know where this came from.  The Jews believed in the days of Christ that when the Jewish people reached a certain population, a certain figure, then the Messiah would come.  Of course, they were like good Adventists; they wanted to hasten the coming of the Lord.  To us, the message must go all around the world; to them, they must have as many children as possible.  So the Jewish family was quite large in the days of Jesus Christ primarily so that the Messiah would come soon.

So here you have this man and his wife with a whole lot of children — we don’t know how many — sleeping on this one mat, all squashed together.  When they woke up, they opened the door, as I mentioned.  That door was left open all day long; they never shut it even if they went to the market or they left the house.  It was part of their culture that they never stepped in to steal because their neighbors who lived close by watched each other’s homes.  But when night came and that door was shut and bolted, it meant that everybody had gone to bed.  This is the situation.

Jesus takes this typical Middle East incident and He uses it to bring out more than one very important lesson to the disciples.  To understand what He is trying to get across, we first have to begin with the context, so please turn to Luke 11:1:

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.  When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

The first thing you must take note of is that when Jesus prayed, His prayer was very different from the typical Jewish prayer.  The Jews used formal prayers; they had certain words that they would use.  Jesus prayed to God as if He was His loving benevolent Father.  He prayed crying out His needs and they had never seen anyone pray in this method or form.  So one of the disciples said, “Lord, teach us how to pray” and you will notice in verses 2-4 Jesus introduces to them the Lord’s prayer:

He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread.  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.  And lead us not into temptation.’”

This was very unique to them because Jesus said, “When you pray, don’t address your God with fear.”  The Jews were very afraid to use the name of God.  They were afraid of God but here Jesus tells His disciples, “You address God as ‘our Father.’ Empty your hearts to Him.  Tell Him all your needs.  Ask Him for your daily bread.  Ask Him for forgiveness of all your sins because He is a God that is concerned about you.”  Then after introducing them to the Lord’s prayer, he gives this parable.  The application is in Luke 11:9-13.

First we will look at what He was trying to teach through this parable.  Now the parable begins:

Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend....”

When you look at this statement in the original, it is very interesting.  Jesus put it this way, “How many of you would think of pushing your friend away?”  He knew that in their culture they would never do this.  He is saying, “It is unthinkable when somebody comes to visit you that you would push him away.  But instead, if you have no bread, you will go to your friend and ask him for some help.”

This is the case we find here.

Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’”

This man arrives at midnight; the host has nothing in the cupboard, which is a little box with a kind of a mosquito net thing made of linen cloth to keep the flies away.  He had no bread; they had all eaten the bread.  He knows that his friend next door has some bread because they get together in the evening and they gossip and one wife will say, “You know, I have some bread left.”  So, obviously, he knew that this man — his neighbor — had some bread.  So he goes to him at midnight and he pleads with him, “Please, friend, I have a man who has come on a long journey.  I have nothing to feed him.”  You see, it is very impolite to let your visitor go to bed without any food — with an empty stomach — so he’s pleading for some bread.

Verse 7 says:

“Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me.  The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed [which means I have gone to bed with my family].  I can’t get up and give you anything.’”

But verse 8 goes on to say:

“I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”

The “boldness” (“importunity,” an old English word, in the King James Version) in the original language means “shameless persistence.”  When I read the word it reminds me of this Turkish brother.  He was “shamelessly persisting” to buy that wood for four Pounds.  He would not take “no” for an answer and I was very ashamed.  I felt like crawling under the table because I knew in England you don’t bargain.

But here was this man who shamelessly persisted.  “I will not stop knocking on your door until you give me the bread.”  The man did not give him the bread even though he was his friend but he finally gave it to him because he was shamelessly persistent.  Now this is the situation.  Jesus is trying to teach three things.  First, our prayers must be earnest.  Please remember the context.  Jesus is using this parable in the context of praying to God.  Jesus says our prayers must be earnest.  They must come from desperate needs.

The trouble is we are living in a materialistic world.  We don’t see our needs but we must constantly remind ourselves what Jesus said in Matthew 5:3 in the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

No matter how rich we are, no matter how educated we are, we must constantly remember that, spiritually, we are bankrupt.  When we come to God, we must remember that we must come to Him in earnestness.  We must pray to Him as one who earnestly seeks His help.

In John 5:30, Jesus, who identified Himself with us, said,

By myself I can do nothing....

In John 6:57 He says,

...I live because of the Father....

In other words, Jesus had learned that He could do nothing, as a man, without His Father.  And that is why you will notice He prayed earnestly not only in Gethsemane but all His life.  Sometimes He would spend all night long praying earnestly because He recognized that He could not fulfill His mission apart from the grace of God.  Jesus tells us in John 15:4-5:

Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

“Without me you can do nothing.”  And when we come to God we must come earnestly as this young man came to this friend of his.  He was not willing to take “no” for an answer.  He came earnestly.

Second, from this parable Christ tells us that we must also be persistent in our prayers.  This man was persistent.  This is typical in Middle East culture.  They bargain and they bargain and they bargain until they get what they want and this Turkish man paid four Pounds for wood that was worth six Pounds.  Unfortunately, they sometimes project this also on tithe paying.  They will say, “God, I thank You that You are such a wonderful, loving God but I am a poor fellow.  I have ten children that you have blessed me with.”  They always blame God for their large families!  “And Lord, I don’t earn such great money like these foreigners” (meaning Americans).  “Can You please forgive me if I don’t pay ten percent?  Here is fifty cents.”  They’ll give a fraction of their income and say, “Thank you God for still giving me the ticket to heaven.”

But Jesus is saying that our prayers must be persistent because our faith must be unshakable.  The man did not take “no” for an answer.  He knew that even though his friend may not give him bread out of kindness, he would give it to him because of persistence.  Now God is not holding back because He wants to hold back but because He wants to develop in each one of us a faith that is unshakable.

I want to give you an example of this.  Turn to Matthew 15.  Jesus was trying to teach this to His disciples.  It is very interesting that Jesus could not find anyone in Israel who had faith that was great and persistent.  So what did He do?  In Matthew 15 Jesus was preaching by the Sea of Galilee at Capernaum and it tells us that a large crowd was drawn towards Him.  They were listening to Him and He was having tremendous success.  Then suddenly He tells the disciples, “Let’s leave this place and go to Tyre and Sidon.”  Matthew 15:21:

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.

From Capernaum to Tyre and Sidon is approximately sixty miles.  There was no way they could travel by cart or by horseback because they were poor; they belonged to the poorer class.  They walked, probably three to four days.  They walked sixty miles, Jesus performed only one miracle — that’s all — and then they walked back another sixty miles.  One hundred and twenty miles just for one lesson.  But it was a very important lesson.

Here is the lesson.  Matthew 15:22:

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity [a Gentile, a person whom the Jews looked upon as a dog] came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!  My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”

Here is a woman who comes and prays to Jesus, calls Him the Messiah (because the term “Son of David” is a Messianic term), and she says, “Please, I have a daughter who is devil-possessed.  I know; I have heard about You; I know You can heal; I believe it.  Will you please answer my prayer?”

Listen to what Jesus did.  It sounds horrible but He did it for a purpose.  Look at verse 23:

Jesus did not answer a word....

He ignored her just like that Turkish man ignored me.  I pleaded; I did my best to stop that bargaining; he just ignored me and here was Jesus ignoring this woman.  In their culture, when somebody great like Jesus, somebody who is a rabbi, is ignoring someone, then the person will go through his friends or through his disciples.  So, obviously, this woman went to the disciples and said, “Please, can you please convince your Master to heal my daughter?”

But the disciples were still victims of Judaism.  Here’s the rest of verse 23:

...So his disciples came to him and urged him [not to help her, but to], “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

“Please get rid of her; she’s a nuisance.  She’s bothering us.”  And to make matters worse, Jesus listens to the disciples.  Look at verse 24:

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

This was the typical mentality of the disciples, who were still victims to Judaism.  In other words, what He was saying to her was:  “I am sent to help the Jews not you Gentiles, so I am sorry, I cannot answer your prayers.”

Now I don’t know what you would have done if you were in her shoes, but I know what she did.  Look at verse 25:

The woman came and knelt before him.  “Lord, help me!” she said.

Can you imagine?  He ignores her, He tells her, “I’m sorry, you don’t belong to our group.  You’re not a Seventh-day Adventist.  I can’t help you.”  He ignores her; He listens to His disciples and, instead of getting angry, she comes and kneels before — worships — Him.  And she says, “Lord, help me.”  In other words, “I am not letting You go.  You can do what You like but I am not letting You go.  I know that You are the only One that can answer (fulfill) my request.”

Now He adds insult to injury.  Verse 26:

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread [that is, that which belongs to the Jews] and toss it to their dogs.”

You know, I have seen people leave this [Seventh-day Adventist] church for less reason than this — much less — and that’s an evidence of weak faith.  But here was a woman who was ignored, who was asked to leave, who was given no promise of help, and now who is insulted.

Listen to how she responds, verse 27-28:

“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith!  Your request is granted.”  And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Why did Jesus put her through this terrible experience?  For the sake of the disciples.  He wanted to show them what it means to have faith that is unshakable, a faith that is persistent and this is exactly what He is teaching in the parable that we are looking at.  After the healing, we are told in verse 29:

Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee....

He traveled one hundred and twenty miles to demonstrate to His disciples what it means to have a faith that endures to the end.

Going back to the parable, we have a similar incident with this man.  He would not take “no” for an answer.  Just like this Turkish man, we were there for almost an hour and the longer he argued with him the smaller I felt.  But he was right.  He won in the end and he said, in no uncertain terms, “You see, it works.”  I told his wife.  He was not married at that time but years later I met his wife at the General Conference and I said, “Sister, if you see me without any hair on my head it is because of your husband.”  She said, “What happened?”  I had to tell her and she said to me, “He doesn’t do it any more.  He has lived in the West too long.”

Here is a man who was persistent and Jesus says that your prayers must not only be earnest but they must be persistent.  With this in mind, turn to James, where he gives us the same counsel in the context of endurance.  Let’s read the counsel first.  James 1:2-4:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

It is in this context we have the same Greek word, which means “perseverance,” or “patient endurance,” in the Three Angels’ Message of Revelation 14:12:

This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.

Here are people who will endure unto the end, who will not let go of God even though they may feel forsaken; they may feel insulted.

Then in James 1, verse 5 and 6:

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

That is why I spend so much time trying to establish you in the love of God.

Human love is fluctuating.  God’s love never fluctuates.  He loves us with an everlasting love.  Therefore, when you pray, pray persistently — not because He wants to hold back blessings from you but He wants you to develop a faith that is unshakable.  We are told that after 25 years of waiting, Abraham, against all hope, believed that God still would keep His promise and give him a son.  That is what Jesus is saying.

The third thing that I would like to bring to your attention through this parable is that true godly praying is not only asking God for a blessing but that that blessing may be shared with others.  Notice this man who persistently, shamelessly asked for that bread did not do it because his stomach was empty but because he did not want his guest to go to bed empty-handed.  We must ask God to bless us so that we may be a blessing to others.

In the same book of James, I read these words, in James 4:3:

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

In other words, you ask for your own personal blessing but here is a man who was earnest, he was persistent.  He insisted on a blessing not because he wanted something for himself but for his friend who had come from a long journey.

With this in mind, let’s go now to the application.  You will notice that the application is in harmony with what we have just studied.  Luke 11:9.  After giving the parable He says:

“So I say to you:  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Number one, this man asked.  Number two, he asked persistently, and that’s what the word “seek” means.  He kept knocking until the door opened.  What Jesus is doing here is presenting God in contrast to man.  If man, who can’t be bothered in the night, if man who in the beginning says “no” is able to give good things, how much more is God willing to give us?  That’s what Jesus ends up with.  Verse 10:

“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Now look at the illustration as He goes on.  Verses 11-12:

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?”

These are unthinkable things, says Jesus.  Verse 13:

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Notice our prayers must not be for our selfish gratification.  We must plead for the Holy Spirit that we may be a blessing to others.

When I take this parable and apply it to the application, number one, I discover especially from John 6:51 that Jesus is the bread of life:

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

That’s the kind of bread we should pray for.  Number two, that bread becomes mine through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He brings Christ into me, not that I may be full but that I may feed others.  We receive Christ that we may share Him with others.

That is why God will bless us if we are earnest; if we are persistent and, of course, for the sake of others, God will bless us that we might be a blessing to others.  Here in this parable, Jesus says to, number one, pray to God as if He is your benevolent Father.  Number two, pray earnestly, because God doesn’t look at your words; He listens to your heart.  That’s why, in Romans 8:26, Paul says we do not know what to pray for but the Holy Spirit makes our prayers meaningful:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Number three, we must pray persistently, not because God is slow in blessing us but because He wants us to develop our faith so that it is unshakable.  And finally, let us pray that we might be a blessing to others.  I want this church to be a blessing to others so that we may all grow and reflect Christ and so that our prayers will be a blessing to those around us.  May God bless us.

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