I’ve always been fascinated with the song “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” for some reason. Come to find out, the chords to this song just sort of keep the music hanging in the air. This may be one of the most important reasons why this song has been revered by so many (more soon). Eric Clapton, Guns N’ Roses, and countless others have covered this song over the years. I happen to prefer the GNR version. Those gun click sounds put you into the scene yourself.
Bob Dylan wrote this song in 1973 for the soundtrack of the movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. It’s used in the scene where Sheriff Baker is literally dying of gun shot wounds. According to the #1 top rated anonymous interpreter on LyricInterpretations.com, “The song simply deals with the concept of blindfolded thinking and the conflict within oneself when the person’s conscience rises to make him realize the true meaning of his deeds.” Talk about being conflicted by the reality that you’ve used guns your whole life but have just been shot by a gun and will die soon!
[Insert why this song is so memorable] So music is all about building tension and then providing resolve to that tension. This song however never fully resolves. The chords of the verses and chorus are called by musicians an “acceptable resolve.” What that means is that it feels sort of like the tension in the song has been resolved but just barely. It means that the feeling of tension just hangs around. This is completely artistic genius on Bob Dylan’s part. It subconsciously links with the reality that Sheriff Baker currently faces in the song and movie – perhaps relieved that he’ll die soon by now, yet holding onto the tension always there on the back-burner of his mind and now more than ever at the fore of his consciousness – while he’s used guns in his profession, he’s so conflicted by the effects of a gun on his life that he no longer sees ANY use for them now.
Consider also a new reality surfacing in Sheriff Baker’s life: What would life without guns and fighting with criminals look like? I could be facing life now instead of death. How could I have been so blind to think that using guns on gun users would work? Oh, the tension is so real now: I’ve been pointing the gun at myself this entire time.
[Now, here’s what fascinates me even more] On a mountainside long ago, before guns even existed, Jesus taught his disciples to pray when they have tension in their lives, going on in the background or boldly and currently in your face. Furthermore, he teaches them that even when there’s still tension, and perhaps even when God doesn’t answer your prayers or open doors in your life when you knock, knock, knock away, you can trust that God wants nothing but good for you.
Sheriff Baker probably sensed this when he began Knocking on Heaven’s Door, realizing that there’s a reality much bigger than he’s seen up till now.
I preaching on Jesus’ teaching of this Sunday. It comes from the Gospel of Matthew, found in chapter 7, specifically verses 7-11.
Ask, Seek, Knock! This is what Jesus taught his disciples and is still teaching them today. The way he says it though is lost in most Greek-to-English translations of Bibles. Essentially, Jesus is saying here “Go on! ask.” & “Go on! seek.” & “Go on! knock.” Do you read the intensity and encouragement here? It’s as though Jesus is saying, “You’ve got tension in your life right now, I know and God knows and possibly everyone else knows. Go on! and pray about it. God desires to resolve that tension.” (more on the importance of knocking at the end)
Jesus continues to help this sink in. Bread and fish were essentially the Galilean diet to the folks Jesus was teaching to then and even there on that mountainside off the Sea of Galilee. Making the most easily understood comparison, Jesus is saying this: “Your parents growing up knew you needed food, especially when you asked. How much more does God knows what you need now!?”
So, Go on! asking, seeking, knocking.
By the way, there were stones that looked like bread and snakes with scales that looked like fish if you were to prepare it right back then. Jesus is basically saying here: Parents aren’t cruel enough to trick or mock you; they will give you what you really need and not look for an opportunity to make you the butt of their joke. (Sadly, there are some parents and people out there that ARE like this.) They care for and truly love you, and God does even more so. Trust that.”
You may be facing tension in your life with work, kids, broken family relationships, scars still fresh from abuse, and so much more. Here’s what Jesus wants you to know: you can trust God’s goodness in helping you resolve the mess of your life. All you have to do is pray. Oh yeah, and God already knows what you need better than anyone else and even yourself. Aren’t you tired of living with the pain? Pray for God to give you what you need, for God knows what you need like a loving parent.
[What’s up with Knocking?] There’s an expression the Jews have about prayer. They call it “Knocking on the Doors of Mercy.” I’ll take it one further: you can knock on the doors of God’s heart knowing, that like a caring Father, God wants nothing but good for you. In the services I’m preaching in, the response will be for people to come up and literally knock on a door as an expression that they want God to answer their prayers, relieve their life tensions, and give them good gifts.
I’d encourage you to do the same. Find a door in your house and make it your prayer door. Talk with God as you approach it, pray standing there as you knock. May God give to you what you need as you ask, seek, and knock, knock, knock on heaven’s door, hey, hey, hey, hey, yeah (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Until next time, live on!