After all His inflammatory statements in chapter 10[1], it is nice to see Jesus taking some time to reflect and pray. Perhaps Jesus will realize that He has been a bit harsh, and maybe, just maybe, He will make some key adjustments to His tone and style of communication so as to avoid grossly offending anyone else. Jesus’ friends approach Him and humbly ask for a lesson on meditation and prayer. Maybe today, Jesus will be complimentary, and operate according to the rules of etiquette. But straight away we find Jesus – yet again – refusing to conform to our demands and constructs of decorum. For instance, we have clearly demanded the ‘right’ to worship ourselves and obsess over our personal reputation and agenda …but Jesus tells us to say, “Hallowed be the Father’s reputation!” and “May the Father’s agenda prevail!” Jesus unapologetically steps all over our carefully constructed, and extremely fragile, egos; and then – adding insult to injury – He tells us that we are welfare cases (i.e. we must ask God to supply us with bread daily). And Jesus doesn’t stop there, He goes on to tell us that we are evil! He tells us that our most desperate need is for forgiveness! Jesus even has a history of telling handicapped strangers things like this. In Mark chapter 2 Jesus tells a disabled man, “Your sins are forgiven.” Pause, and really think about that! imagine you’re handicapped, you’ve suffered, you’ve been marginalized; you’re the victim …and then along comes this Jewish bumpkin from Nazareth, who fancies Himself an itinerant rabbi, with a rag-tag motley crew of former fisherman, terrorists, and tax collectors, and He says, “You’re forgiven.” For what!? What did you do wrong? How insensitive! How heartless! What an offensive thing to say to disabled person! Perhaps if Jesus went to visit prisoners on death row this would feel more appropriate; but even then, shouldn’t the family members of the victims be the ones to decide whether or not to extend forgiveness!? Who does Jesus think He is!?

Immediately following this “prayer lesson” Jesus launches into a story about you and your best friend. You’re hopeful that this story will be uplifting, because you are extremely confident about your loyalty and love for your best friend. You would do anything to help out your best friend, because you really, truly, love them! But Jesus says, “Your best friend comes to your house at midnight begging for three loaves of bread because they have an unexpected out-of-town guest staying with them and they need PBJ supplies! You will say to your best friend, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’” What in the world!? How can Jesus say this about you! He’s casting you in such a selfish light! He’s making it seem like you’re not willing to deal with a fairly minor inconvenience, even in the service of your best friend!” Jesus goes on to say, “I tell you the truth, you are not going to get up and give your BF anything because you’re ‘so loyal and loving toward your BF,’ however because of their nagging persistence you will eventually rise and give them what they want.” Why is Jesus telling you this story!? Believe or not, this is how Jesus chooses to underscore His lesson about prayer. Jesus says, “I’m telling you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Be persistent! Be impudent! Because nagging askers receive, and tenacious seekers find, and sedulous knockers eventually walk through open doors.” Persistent, nagging, asking feels pretty pathetic to you, but that seems to be the inescapable point of emphasis! And at the same time, the detail about your selfishness remains in focus because Jesus gratuitously caps off His prayer-tutorial with the declaration, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who 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!” Why must Jesus put the “if you who are evil” part in there! It certainly doesn’t sit well with you. You do not like being called ‘evil.’ And Jesus offers no nuance or caveat or anything. He just says it, matter-of-fact, as if it can’t be avoided or omitted (like closing your eyes when you sneeze). It seems that, if you are being mentioned, even if you’re mentioned for doing something positive – like giving your kids fish and eggs – the fact that you’re evil must also be mentioned.

Aye Yai Yai. The day has only just begun! What’s the rest of this day gonna be like? We’ve gone up through verse 13 so far …I’ll leave you to journey through verses 14-54 on your own. But before signing off, I’ll say this …If Jesus keeps this up, I imagine that the people in prestigious positions of religious decorum, and folks with elite social status aren’t going to tolerate this kind of inflammatory talk much longer. Bottom line, if Jesus doesn’t knock it off, He’s liable to get Himself crucified.   

[1] Inflammatory promulgation #1: “Whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you.’”

Inflammatory promulgation #2: “Woe to all who don’t believe Me and repent! You shall be brought down to Hades.”

Inflammatory promulgation #3: “Do not rejoice in power, rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Inflammatory promulgation #4: “I thank you, Father, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

Inflammatory promulgation #5: “Once upon a time a venerable Jewish priest and a respected Jewish Levite behaved shamefully and wretchedly; and conversely a much hated Samaritan [John 8:48] was an indisputable hero!”

Inflammatory promulgation #6: “I will not agree with you. You are wrong, and the person you are accusing is right!” (Jesus’ response to an angry woman claiming to be “a victim”).