May I speak very softly of another side of this knocking at our door? Who is it that is knocking? Aye, Who?
Do you remember Jesus' words in Matthew, chapter twenty-five? He is speaking of the settling-up time that is to come at the close of things. And He does something there that is startling. He identifies Himself with the hungry and cold and poor. That is, He puts Himself in their place. They are reckoned as though they were He. He says that when they asked for some food and warm clothes it was really Himself asking for food and warmth! We have been really dealing with Him when we have met these needy ones. The one test question He makes for all is this—What did you do for these hungry people? Because what you did, or didn't do for them, was done or refused to Me. Jesus comes in the guise of the needy. Who is it knocking at our door so loudly today?
I suppose if you could think of Jesus actually coming today to New York, the human Jesus I mean, coming as a man just as He came to Jerusalem, but known to us as He is now—I suppose there is hardly a door that would not open to Him. He might not be any better understood in New York than He was in Jerusalem, but the doors of the wealthy would quickly open to Him. I mean the Christian wealthy, the Church wealthy; other doors, too, no doubt, but these surely. He would have a great welcome.
And I suppose, too, that if in some wealthy home on Fifth Avenue or Madison Avenue He were to ask His host to give some large sum, a million dollars or ten millions, for sending the Gospel to China or Japan His request would likely be granted. It seems to me rather probable that it would. Well, how can it be put plainly enough that He does come to our doors, rich, and less rich, and poor. He's at the front door now, knocking and asking our help.
In these heathen peoples of His, Jesus comes to us. And we have been giving Him—shall I say it very softly for sheer shame?—we have given, not all, but most of us, what is practically the loose change in our trousers' pocket; not actually, of course; sometimes even that. We have spent more on everything else. We have made up boxes of cast-off clothes and old shoes for—Jesus! This has been a large part of our answer. Is it any wonder the hot blood sends the color climbing into our cheeks at the thought, and that we instinctively seek for some explanation that will soften the hard rub of the truth!
I found a bit of a poem in a magazine some time ago that caught fire as I read it. It was written, I judge, in a personal sense; but it came to me at once with a wider meaning; and it persists in so coming at every reading of it.
In this poem there is some one knocking at a door for admission, and a voice without calls,
"'Friend, open to Me.' Who is this that calls?
Nay, I am deaf as are my walls;
Cease crying, for I will not hear
Thy cry of hope or fear.
What art thou indeed That I should heed
Thy lamentable need?
Hungry, should feed,
Or stranger, lodge thee here?
But the voice persists—
"'Friend, My feet bleed.
Open thy door to Me and comfort Me.'
'I will not open; trouble me no more.
Go on thy way footsore,
I will not arise and open unto thee.
And still the pleading,
"'Then is it nothing to thee? Open, see
Who stands to plead with thee.
Open, lest I should pass thee by, and thou
One day entreat My face
And cry for grace,
And I be deaf as thou art now;
Open to Me'
"Then I cried out upon him: Cease,
Leave me in peace;
Fear not that I should crave
Aught thou may'st have.
Leave me in peace, yea, trouble me no more,
Lest I arise and chase thee from my door.
What! shall I not be let
Alone, that thou dost vex me yet?
"But all night long that voice spake urgently—
'Open to Me.'
Still harping in mine ears—
'Rise, let Me in.'
Pleading with tears—
'Open to Me, that I may come to thee.' While the dew dropp'd, while the dark hours were cold—
'My feet bleed, see My Face, See My hands bleed that bring thee grace, My heart doth bleed for thee—
Open to Me.'
"So, till the break of day;
Then died away
That voice, in silence as of sorrow;
Then footsteps echoing like a sigh
Pass'd me by;
Lingering footsteps, slow to pass.
On the morrow
I saw upon the grass
Each footprint mark'd in blood,
and on my door The mark of blood forevermore." (Christina Rossetti, in The Outlook, slightly altered
That same voice still comes with a strangely gentle persistence—