He Knocks

Behold I stand at the door, and knock — Rev_3:20

We are all familiar with the picture by a well-known artist which portrays Christ standing at the door. It is one of the few pictures on a text of Scripture which has caught the imagination of the people. We see the door hanging on rusty hinges and covered with the trailing growth of years. And we see Christ, clad in His kingly robes, out in the dew and darkness of the night. And in the one hand He bears a lighted lamp whose rays are penetrating through the chinks and crevices, and with the other He is knocking at the door. You know the title the artist gave that picture. He did not call it “Christ knocking at the door.” He called it—and there is spiritual genius in the title—”I am the light of the world.” For him the wonder of it all was that the light which is life and blessedness and victory should be so near the door of every heart.

And after all, when you come to think of it, that is the most wonderful thing about this text. It is not the knocking at the closed door; it is the overwhelming thought of Him who knocks. Were it some emperor whose word is law to millions, it would be sufficiently awful and impressive. Were it some angel as he who came to Abraham, it would be a very memorable visitor. But when a man goes apart into some silent place and dwells upon the fact that knocking at his heart is CHRIST, I tell you it thrills him to the very depths. Not Jesus, who walked amid the fields of Galilee. He is no longer walking amid the fields of Galilee. He is no longer rejected and despised, homeless, with no shelter for His head. He is the risen Christ, exalted to the heavens, invested with all the authority of glory and yet, behold He stands at the door and knocks. At the door of your heart, my brother and my sister. You know what passions and what sins are knocking there, clamorous rabble—Christ is standing, the living, glorious Christ, and in infinite mercy He is knocking too.

Christ Is Not Far From Any Man

And that just means, stripped of its metaphor, that Christ is not far away from any man. Wherever on earth there is a beating heart, there is a yearning Savior. The best is never far away from men. That is one of the joys of this strange life. God has not hidden what is true and beautiful in inaccessible and distant places. Sunshine and summer and the little children, and duty and chivalry and faith and love, are nearer than breathing and closer than hands and feet. The highest and holiest are never inaccessible. And so do not think of it as a thing incredible that Christ should be very near to you. He is not hidden in the light of heaven beyond the shining of the farthest star. Life is mysterious, and God is wonderful, and the infinite is round about us everywhere, and Christ is not far away from any man. But, Lord, I am a bad man—Behold I stand at the door and knock. But, Lord, Thou knowest that secret sin of mine, and what a wretched, hollow life I have been living. Yes, my brother, He understands all that, and for all that He shed His blood for thee, and now He is standing knocking at thy door. Thy door—thy life—thine everlasting being. He wants to save it into life and victory.

And in what way does Christ knock? I answer, in a hundred different ways. He has a knock that is very imperious sometimes, and sometimes one that is infinitely gentle. He knocks in all the mercies you enjoy, in health and strength and happiness and home. He knocks in the tender memories of childhood of a father’s character and a mother’s love. He knocks in the thought of all that has been done for you, and of the love that has girdled you from infancy, and of the mercy that has never yet forsaken you from the hour of your birth until today. Sometimes He knocks in the strange sense of loneliness that steals upon the heart on busiest days. Sometimes He knocks in all that deep unrest that craves it knows not what, and never finds it. Sometimes He knocks in bitter disappointments and in bitter regrets over the might have been and in love baffled till the heart is breaking. He is knocking when a man has sinned and hates his sin and loathes himself as vile. He is knocking in the despairing sense that our vices and habits are mightier than we. He is knocking in every business in the hopeless tangle we have made of things, in the sickness that lays us prostrate for a season. He is knocking in the gift of little children, in the worries and trials and gladnesses of home. He is knocking when two lives are joined together. He is knocking when two lives are separated—in the last parting when the grave is dug, and the heart is empty and the coffin full. Lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world; always at the door and always knocking. And that is our hope—that Christ is not far away, but that He is here in infinite grace to save. For when He ceases knocking we are lost.

Indeed, I have often thought in quiet moments that that is the truest interpretation of all life. When I think of all that life has meant for me, it seems like someone knocking all the time. You remember that famous moment in Macbeth when the murderers hear the knocking at the door. And you recall how De Quincey in his so subtle essay has shown us the dramatic significance of that—how into a room reeking of blood and murder, self-absorbed, oblivious of environment, the knocking came, and with it in a flash the thought of the great world that lay beyond. Shakespeare did not summon any calling voices. He was too consummate a master to do that. Your inferior dramatist who knew not life would have given you shouting and the trampling of men’s feet. But Shakespeare gives a knocking at the door—some hand, unknown, knocking—that is all, and the murderers, who had forgotten everything, waken to realize the world again. My brother and sister, if we were left alone we should be always in danger of forgetting everything—we should forget, if left alone, that God hates sin, that death is coming, and that heaven is real. And so, as I look back over my life, it seems to me there has never been a providence that has not been meant by God to be interpreted like that knocking at the door in Shakespeare. In every triumph someone has been knocking; in every failure someone has been knocking—in every hour of pain and call of duty and baffled effort and yearning for the beautiful. Until at last there grows upon a man the sense that life is deep and rich and wonderful; a little chamber red with blood and sin, but round it a spiritual unseen environment. Infinite love is pressing in upon us; infinite grace that can save unto the uttermost; infinite power that can redeem the weakest and cleanse him and set him on his feet. And to all that, out of the selfishness which is our birthmark and our heritage, we are awakened by the knocking of the Christ.

The Door Must Be Opened From the Inside

To come back to that picture of which I spoke in starting, I remember somewhere reading a story about it, and the story was that when the picture was finished a friend came into the studio to inspect it. And he looked at it and admired its exquisite grace and saw at once its spiritual significance. And then he turned to the artist and said to him, “It is very beautiful, but there is one mistake. You have forgotten to put a handle on the door.” And the story told how Holman Hunt explained to his visitor that that was no mistake. Had there been any handle on the outside, he told him, Christ would have turned it and would have entered in. But this was a door that had no handle there—a door that could only be opened from the inside. If any man will open to Me, I will come in to him and sup with him.

And that just means, stripped of its imagery, that to the knocking of Jesus Christ each one must individually respond. We must open our hearts to the living, present Christ, and say, “Come in, thou blessed of the Lord.” No man has a more profound faith than I have in the absolute sovereignty of Almighty God. I should not be a Scotsman if I disbelieved it, and I should be untrue to all that God has shown me. And yet so intricate are earth and heaven, and so respectful of His children’s liberty is God, that till a man lift up his voice and cries “I will,” Jesus Christ will never cross the door sill. That is just where so many are making a mistake. They are always waiting for something irresistible. They are waiting for the moment when some power divine will shatter the door and enter in, in spite of them. My brother, I want to tell you quite plainly, that hour will never come. “If any man will open the door”—it is the one condition of all blessing. You must respond. You must open wide your being. You must say to the living Lord and Christ “Come in.” And the wonder of the Christian Gospel is just this, that all you have striven and struggled for and failed in becomes a thrilling power and possibility the moment with all your heart you have invited Christ in. That was the message that rang through a dying world and made it hope again and live again. It is no scheme of social reform. We could have that and more without a Christ. It is peace with God and victory for you. The sunshine is a very marvelous creation, but it will never open any blinds for you. You must open them—a very simple thing—and all the mystery of the light will flood the room. And so with Christ—more glorious than sunshine—Christ the living, reigning, mighty Lord—if any man will open, I will come in.

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