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Three Loaves of Bread

Jesus is finishing an intimate conversation with his Father when His disciples ask if He’d teach them to pray. So he models for them how to pray, not necessarily what to pray (“This is how you should pray…”). Even so, we’ve turned His how into a what-formula we call The Lord’s Prayer—“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come…”

It’s important to remember that Jesus’ lesson on how to pray leads directly into a story I’ve nicknamed “The Parable of the Pushy Friend”—an extended teaching on how we’re to relate to God. He’s moving us from what is essentially a pagan practice—“When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Mt. 6:7)—to a relational practice that is driven by familiarity and passion.

In the story, a desperate man knocks on the door of his friend at an ungodly hour, asking to borrow three loaves of bread to feed unexpected guests. At first the friend, irritated, refuses to get out of bed. Finally, he grumpily opens the door and gives his friend what he’s asking for. What’s upending about this story is that Jesus puts Himself into it—He is the grumpy master of the house who won’t get out of bed. And metaphorically, we are the desperate friend in need of bread.

Jesus tells this story to encourage us to develop the kind of relationship with Him that is trusting enough to accommodate our persistent, inconvenient requests. He wants us to relate to Him as we would to our closest friends, trusting His generosity and love for us more than our circumstances say is appropriate. Who in your life, outside of your own home, would you feel comfortable enough to knock on their door at 3 a.m. in need of help? You can’t just knock on anyone’s door—it has to be a certain someone. That someone is a friend whose love for you, and commitment to you, can handle a middle-of-the-night interruption. Jesus wants us to knock and knock and knock on his door because we know His heart well enough to “shamelessly persist.”

So, what must we be sure about if we’re going to get our friend out of bed at a terrible time? Well, we must be sure of our friend’s heart—both that friend’s capability to help, and willingness to help. The needy friend in the story believes in the heart of his friend more than the circumstances say he should… Why? The only plausible explanation: He knows the heart of his friend so intimately that he feels comfortable “shamelessly persisting.” Coming out of this story, these are the important discipleship/faith formation questions that we put on the table for ourselves, and those we lead…

• Do you know Jesus well enough to inconvenience Him?

• Do you know Jesus well enough to expect Him to do what you have no right to expect?

Jesus wants intimacy, more than anything else—the kind of intimacy that is willing to inconvenience Him, to bother Him with our need… When we live in this kind of intimacy, and invite others to experience it as well, thriving is the fruit. That’s why relational intimacy is the primary theme of Jesus’s “good news.” In fact, John’s gospel is focused, through and through, on intimacy…

-John 1: John the Baptist paves way by proclaiming that our relational break with God is about to be bridged, and Jesus invites Peter and Andrew to “come and see” where He’s staying…
-John 2: Jesus performs His first miracle as a relational gift to his mom; and to His friends, the bride and groom…
-John 3: Tells Nicodemus he must be reborn into new family; and that God will sacrifice His son to give us chance to live intimately with Him forever…
-John 4: Jesus offers Himself as “living water” to be ingested by woman at well…
-John 5: Jesus tells people that His foundation is His Father’s love; and He says and does only what He sees His Father saying and doing…
-John 6: Jesus invites us to “eat and drink” Him, if we want any part of Him…
-John 7: At the climax of Jewish Festival of Shelters, Jesus invites: “If you’re thirsty, come to Me.”
-John 8: Rescues a woman caught in adultery—His message to her is simple: “You’re worth it, you’re wanted.”
-John 9: Heals a man born blind; but then offers Him more—a relationship restored.
-John 10: The Good Shepherd says His sheep know Him so well that they always know His voice and come to Him. He will lay down His life for them, and give “rich and satisfying life.”
-John 11: Jesus intends to give the crowds an indelible example of His power and authority, and He’s trusting that the intimate relationship He has with His best friends Lazarus, Martha, and Mary is deep enough to endure profound disappointment and even death.
-John 12: Jesus insists on receiving and celebrating Mary’s gift of intimacy-perfume: “If you trust Me, you trust God.”
-John 13: Jesus washes His disciples’ feet—a humble act of intimacy…
-John 14: Jesus assures His disciples He’s prepared a place for them so that they can always be with Him—He is the way, and promises the Holy Spirit will come to live in them…
-John 15: Jesus is the Vine, and we are the branches—intimate union.
-John 16: I’m sending you the Holy Spirit—now our relationship is really going to take off.
-John 17: Here’s how I talk to My Father—intimately. I in them, they in Me.
-John 18: Peter’s denial is a relational denial.
-John 19: On the cross, Jesus re-forms family for Mary and John.
-John 20: Jesus appears post-resurrection to women first, and lets Thomas touch Him.
-John 21: “Do you love me?” He asks Peter, three times… If you do, feed My sheep the relational food they need.

Jesus is much more interested in
how we pray and relate to Him than what we’re praying about. He wants intimacy, above all else, the kind of intimacy that a “three loaves of bread” friend expects…

Rick Lawrence is Executive Director of Vibrant Faith—he created the new curriculum Following JesusHe’s editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible and author of 40 books, including The Suicide Solution,The Jesus-Centered Life and Jesus-Centered Daily. He hosts the podcast Paying Ridiculous Attention to Jesus.

Rick Lawrence is Executive Director of Vibrant Faith—he created the new curriculum Following JesusHe’s editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible and author of 40 books, including The Suicide Solution,The Jesus-Centered Life and Jesus-Centered Daily. He hosts the podcast Paying Ridiculous Attention to Jesus.

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