The Parable Project: The Friend At Midnight


The parable of the friend at midnight is reported in the Gospel of Luke at 11:5-8. It reads as follows:

"Then he [Jesus] 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."

This parable, too, seems steeped in a sense of immanence or urgency. Yet it is not wakefulness that is counseled here. There is no servant awaiting the master's return well past midnight. Instead, a man goes to sleep; his family is in bed. There is a knock at the door and a simple request. "Go away," the awoken man says. But his friend is persistent. The sleeper awakes and gives aid. The focus here is on those already awake. Persistence, boldness, is required to get folks to hear.

It makes sense, but, for the life of me , I am not persuaded there is anything really to hear.

Once again, a person in the dead of night needs must remain alert, attentive, wakeful. The good friend does not let him slumber. The polite response, the conventional response, would be to let the man sleep and not to disturb his children, snuggled abed with him. But convention is defied.

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