Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. (NASB)
Why does Jesus want to come in and dine with the person who opens the door?
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The image of Jesus standing at the door has been made famous by Holman Hunt’s painting ‘The light of the world’, where a crowned and robed Jesus holds a lamp and stands outside a closed door, covered in ivy, with the handle on the inside so that it can only be opened by the person within. Although the messages are written to the assemblies as whole communities, there is a striking individual focus here: if anyone hears my voice reflecting practice in the ancient world of both knocking on the door and calling out to announce one’s presence and ask for hospitality. After the powerful assertion of Jesus’ authority to ‘open doors’ in the previous message, it is striking that here Jesus waits patiently for the door to be opened for him. There is no need to see any specific allusion in coming in and eating, either to the Old Testament (Songs 5:2), Jesus’ parables (Luke 12:36–37), Roman meals or even early Christian celebration of the Lord’s supper. All derive from the common significance of sharing a meal as expressing friendship and enjoying mutual fellowship.
The ethos of a city (Laodicea) which was proud, satisfied and self-sufficient has infected the followers of Jesus there who exhibit the same qualities. The risen Jesus comes to them in his authority and with his example to reveal to them their true state, which is quite the opposite of what they think. In the only message without specific affirmation, the rebuke is stern. But with the rebuke come three remarkable things. The first is the fresh invitation to receive his offer of grace anew – to discover in him true riches that will stand the test of time, right clothing that will cover their shame, and the restoration of real vision. The second is the affirmation of Jesus’ love for his people; it is only because he cares for them that he longs that they should see themselves as they truly are and act accordingly. And the third is his remarkable patience; he stands and waits for them to respond, and will not force himself on them. And if they do respond, they will not only know his friendship and fellowship in the present; they will come to share in his victory and authority as they learn to be faithful as he was.
Among other things, the image of dining with the Lord calls to mind descriptions of the Kingdom of God as a banquet. For example:
Matthew 8:11 (NASB)
I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast ... Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guest ...
And just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ ” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”
Some commentators (e.g. Oikoumenious, Origen) allegorize Revelation 3:20 to have some sort of sacramental meaning, to represent acquiring spiritual understanding, etc., but I think the above Scriptures offer the most straightforward interpretation. Andrew of Caesarea (6th c.) paraphrases:
I knock at the door of the heart and rejoice with those who open over their salvation. For I consider this as food and supper: being fed with these things with which they feed themselves and (through which) they will escape the famine of hearing the Divine Word and the darkness of error.*
Andrew may have had Amos 8:9-11 in mind here in contrasting a possible banquet with the Lord to famine without Him:
“It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “That I will make the sun go down at noon And make the earth dark in broad daylight. “Then I will turn your festivals into mourning And all your songs into lamentation; And I will bring sackcloth on everyone’s loins And baldness on every head. And I will make it like a time of mourning for an only son, And the end of it will be like a bitter day. “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD."
* tr. from the Greek in E. Constantinou, Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse in the Ancient Church of the East: Studies and Translation (Ph.D. thesis, Universite Laval, 2008), pp.53-54
It appear that Jesus is alluding to when YHVH visited Abraham. Abraham was inside his tent attempting to escape the heat of the day:
Gen 18:1-10 NASB - 1 Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. 2 When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, 3 and said, "My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. 4 "Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; 5 and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant." And they said, "So do, as you have said." 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes." 7 Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. 8 He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate. 9 Then they said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?" And he said, "There, in the tent." 10 He said, "I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him.
For more information see Dr. Heiser's post.
Another allusion seems to be to Jesus' assurance that his servants were to "bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ":
Mat 25:31-46 NASB - 31 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 40 "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' 41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' 44 "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' 45 "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' 46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Heb 13:1-3 NKJV - 1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. 3 Remember the prisoners as if chained with them--those who are mistreated--since you yourselves are in the body also.
Jesus is the Creator of everything that is created (John 1:3) together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and as the Creator he is a Poet (in Greek "creator" is ποιήτης), a Poet of the world, for He created the entire perceptible world not just for perception, but also as a poetical metaphor the higher intellectual faculties of us, His most beloved creatures (the creatures whom He bestowed by His grace also the honor of partaking of His own uncreated life in His uncreated Kingdom) in order that we crack those perceptible metaphors, and rise from their coarse material shell, to that immaterial reality they signify for eternal salvation of our souls. For instance, when we see that a deer repels a wolf from her fawn with her mighty antlers, of course it is a beautiful and inspiring picture by itself, but also and more importantly, it is a metaphor of a spiritual reality: rock-solid antlers - signifying presence of eternal Logos and divine unfailing grace in us; a fawn - our soul; a wolf - sinful desires and drives that can wound and "kill" our soul, that is to say, deprive it of communion with God, unless we repel them by the acting of God's grace in us. Thus, an intellectual and poetical beholder of the nature, can discern great metaphors put by God's Word in it, for aid of our inner life in the road towards eternal salvation.
Similarly should be understood the metaphoric words of the Poet Jesus in this instance as well: He is God, and will come in our hearts as if a guest to a house of a host, and "dine" means that He will "eat" that is to say, receive something from us, and also will "talk" with us, giving and communicating something of His to us. Therefore, the "dining" is a poetical metaphor for God's taking from us and giving to us.
Now, what He wishes to take from us? - Everything! For unless we give to Him everything, unless we lose our very lives and souls for Him and take our cross and follow Him, we are not worthy of receiving such a Guest (Matt. 10:39); but what He wishes to give to us? - Eternal salvation, eternal life, that is to say, such life and glory, that He eternally shared with the Father (for that is the meaning of His words that He and the Father had this common glory before creation of the world (John 17:5), for time came together with the world, and, thus, before the creation of the world there was only the unbreached and changeless eternity) and the Spirit of glory (1 Peter 4:14).
In a more specified way, we can say that we give Him, who is the Consuming Fire (Hebrews 12:29) to "eat" our sins, as fire eats and consumes timber, so that our souls may glow with that divine and divinizing fire, for which glowing, for which eternal glory we were created, for our sins is that ὁλοκαύτωμα, the burnt offering to be consumed entirely (Psalm 51:19); thus, we give Him "eat" our sins, and He gives us the sanctifying "fire" of His grace that divinizes or deifies us; for He is the infinitely loving "Fire" that enflames us with but does not destroy us, as that burning bush that burned through Lord's presence, but was not destroyed (cf. Exodus 3:1-4:17).
One can use also the passage from Galatians 2:20, as suggested to me by an intelligent member of this site, in the sense that we deny, give up, or even crucify our old sinful self in order to let Christ live in us, that we may become living temples of His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), and the presence of both of Them is always together and inseparably with their co-eternal Source the Father (cf. John 14:23).
Therefore, to "dine" means that if we lose ourselves and our lives for the sake of the gospel of Christ (Mark 8:35) - i.e. offer this "meal" to Christ - then He will "entertain" us by His eternal presence in our hearts - for all other "guests" in our heart, the sinful desires, egotistic drives and demons, who all dine on our soul "eating up" so to say fruits of our contemplation of the beauty "always old and always new" (pulchritudo - tam antiqua et tam nova /Augustine/) do not remain in us eternally, and they come frequently as tyrants and intruders, without our consent, but the Son enters only through our conscious, free and loving consent and decision, and having come, remains forever (John 8:35), together with His Father and the Holy Life-giving Spirit, giving us the bliss of eternal and uncreated Trinitarian life and happiness in communion with all others who like us have become the hosts of the Poet, the Lord Jesus Christ.