I attended an Anglican service the other day, and caught myself looking at their vivid array of stained-glass windows. These windows used to be how the poor and illiterate were taught the stories of Christianity. And, in a lot of ways, they were more attuned to the symbols than we are. Someday in the future I plan on taking pictures of and detailing the stained-glass windows that are in the chapel I attend in Toronto. But, until that time, we will consider this one I saw previously, a similar image, though a painting, of which is depicted above.
So, anyways, one of these windows was a picture of Jesus knocking on the door, a vivid representation of Revelation 3, the last book of the Bible that ends with a wedding feast, the marriage of Christ and his Church, after the devil has been defeated and Christ has returned. But, the beginning of the book is a collection of seven evaluations of churches in Asia Minor, how faithful or not they have been to the Lord. This is the last one, to the church of Laodicea. John the Apostle is being told to write to them.
To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say,
‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’
But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Just realized, though I probably should have made the connection before, there is a conceptual parallel to Song of Songs, the book that represents the marriage of Israel and their Lord. The pinnacle moment comes in chapter five, the very middle of the book, where the beloved comes to the door and uses the latch (to knock), but for some reason, the woman refuses to come. And, she instantly regrets it, running down to open the door only to find that he has left. So, she roams the streets of Jerusalem looking for him.
This is funny because it is not a parallel of an exact phrase; in fact, no exact words that I know of are used; but, the verse is clearly referencing the other. Revelation is referring to Song of Songs to describe the intimacy and relationship one has with God by responding to his knocking at the door.
I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride;
I have gathered my myrrh with my spice.
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;
I have drunk my wine and my milk.
Eat, friends, and drink;
drink your fill of love.
I slept but my heart was awake.
Listen! My beloved is knocking:
“Open to me, my sister, my darling,
my dove, my flawless one.
My head is drenched with dew,
my hair with the dampness of the night.”
I have taken off my robe—
must I put it on again?
I have washed my feet—
must I soil them again?
My beloved thrust his hand through the latch-opening;
my heart began to pound for him.
I arose to open for my beloved,
and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with flowing myrrh,
on the handles of the bolt.
I opened for my beloved,
but my beloved had left; he was gone.
My heart sank at his departure.
I looked for him but did not find him.
I called him but he did not answer.
The watchmen found me
as they made their rounds in the city.
They beat me, they bruised me;
they took away my cloak,
those watchmen of the walls!
Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you—
if you find my beloved,
what will you tell him?
Tell him I am faint with love.
(Song of Songs 5)
Basically, these verses challenge us to think how we are responding to Christ’s call on our lives today. Are we living for self, or living for him? If he were at the door, have we opened it for him? To save our own families, communities, and selves?