Knock Knock. Who’s There?-sermon text version

Knock, Knock jokes have been part of American culture since the 1920s/30s. It started off as a children’s game and became a favorite parlor game. In 1934, the standard knock-knock joke format was used in a newspaper humor column.  That joke was:

  • Knock, knock!
  • Who’s there?
  • Rufus.
  • Rufus who?
  • Rufus the most important part of your house.

Laughter at knock-knock jokes is something children develop and carry into adulthood with increasing complexity. As adults, knock knock jokes are groaners, but we still enjoy clever language twists. But for kids, humor actually reflects a child’s increasing intellectual grasp of language and the world around him/her. The same type of thing that would elicit much laughter from a 1-year-old child (a game like peekaboo) would not be comprehended at all by a 6-month-old and a 6-year-old would find it really stupid. Knock-knock jokes, likewise, go from not being perceived to being funny to becoming “corny” humor, not meriting an LOL but maybe a temporary smile and then moving on.

  • Knock knock!
  • Who’s there?
  • Wendy.
  • Wendy who?
  • Wendy wind blows de cradle will rock.

knocking on door.jpgKnock Knock. Who’s there?  Today’s Message. There are several different Who’s There? parts to today’s passage, but none of them are really a laughing matter.

  • Knock Knock.
  • Who’s there?
  • Percy.
  • Percy, who?

Percy-cution is ongoing and now it’s happened to James, the brother of John, who was put to death by the sword. He’s the second identified Christian martyr (you’ll remember that Stephen was the first back in Acts 7).  When Herod and his soldiers, come knocking, you can be sure that if you’re a Christian, persecution is at the door.

Acts 12:1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When [Herod] saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Peter’s good friend James, one of the original disciples, the brother of the beloved disciple John…the sons of Zebedee, the sons of Thunder was put to death with the sword. Now, it seemed inescapable that after the Passover, Peter was next in line.

4 After arresting him, [Herod] put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

The suspense in our story builds. Locked up with 4×4 soldiers to guard him.  Could death be imminent?

Kind of like with the Vaudeville star, Harry Houdini. Harry Houdini was born as Erik Weisz in Budapest and arrived in the United States as a 4-year old with his mother.  The family changed the Hungarian spelling of their surname to Weiss (the German spelling) and Erik’s name was changed to Ehrich. Friends called him “Ehrie” or “Harry”.

The family moved to Milwaukee when Ehrich was eight years old and they settled in Appleton, Wisconsin, where his father served as Rabbi of the Zion Reform Jewish Congregation. For the rest of his life, Houdini (aka Erich) would consider Appleton his hometown.

During his early years, Ehrich sold newspapers and shined shoes to help support the family. At the age of nine he appeared for the first time on stage, performing a trapeze act as “Ehrich, the Prince of the Air.” When he was 12, he hopped a freight car and ran away from home. A year later he returned to New York and continued to help support his family. What happened during his year away from his family, no one knows, and apparently, DCFS hasn’t investigated.

The caption reads: "Stone walls and chains do not make a prison--for Houdini"

Houdini initially relied on traditional card tricks but his big break came when he began experimenting with escape acts and became a household name.

By the age of 39, Houdini began performing his signature act which required that he hold his breath for more than three minutes under water. This escape from the Chinese Water Torture Cell would be performed for the remainder of his professional career.

These escapes from seemingly impossible predicaments were popular with the public. Why? Because they formed an interesting metaphor for the lives of people in his audience, giving encouragement regarding the innate human capacity, desire, and drive to overcome adversity. To get out of bad situations.   People saw his escapes and felt their own sense of escape from their problems.

In the 2014 History Channel mini-series about Houdini’s life, Houdini—having refused early medical treatment for his appendix after being punched in the abdomen by a university student—comes to the end of his human escapes. At the age of 52, he sorrowfully realizes that he is finally in a situation in which no magic trick or death-defying skill can help him. His fate—mortality—is one from which even The Great Houdini will not escape.

Houdini was punched in the abdomen and died. Peter, in today’s passage on the other hand, would be punched in the abdomen and live because there would be a Great Escape!

  • Knock Knock
  • Who’s There?
  • D’Angelo Rex
  • D’Angelo Rex, who?
  • D’Angelo Rex Herod’s plans by freeing Peter.

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

This reminds me of that scene in Star Wars “These are not the droids we’re looking for” and “Move along” and so the heroes just keep moving along.

  • Knock Knock.
  • Who’s there?
  • Wyatt.
  • Wyatt, who?
  • Wyatt happened, Peter understands now.

11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.” 12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door.

  • Knock Knock.
  • Who’s There?
  • Rhea.
  • Rhea, who?
  • Rhealize it’s actually Peter.

 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” 15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” 16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James [Jesus’ brother, not the one who was put to death] and the brothers about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.

  • Knock Knock.
  • Who’s There?
  • Frank Lee.
  • Frank Lee, who?
  • Frank Lee, the soldiers have no idea how Peter got away, but Frank Lee, it doesn’t matter to Herod.

18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.

  • Knock Knock.
  • Who’s There?
  • Gloria.
  • Gloria, who?
  • Gloria belongs to God and no one else.

Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. 20 He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply. 21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.”

  • Knock Knock.
  • Who’s There?
  • Andy.
  • Andy, who?
  • Andy died

Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that his “royal robes” were actually solid silver so Herod shone in the sunlight and people would shield their eyes from the brilliant glare.

23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

What a way to go. The Jewish historian Josephus even tells us that’s how Herod died. Ugh. Shiny silver on the outside.  Eaten by worms at the core.  That’s bad.

Even worse than the song by Paul McCartney and Wings, Someone’s Knockin’ at the Door. There’s a stand-up comedian who makes a habit of making fun of bad songs, and claimed that McCartney was listening to a metronome ticking one day and said to himself, “Wow! That thing’s got a really good beat!” Then he threw in the names of some relatives and the rest is history.  (There are a million theories out there about these names.)

  • Someone’s knockin’ at the door
  • Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
  • Someone’s knockin’ at the door
  • Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
  • Do me a favor,
  • Open the door and let ’em in
  • Sister Suzie, Brother John,
  • Martin Luther, Phil and Don,
  • Brother Michael, Auntie Gin,
  • Open the door and let ’em in.
  • Someone’s knockin’ at the door
  • Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
  • Someone’s knockin’ at the door
  • Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
  • Do me a favor,
  • Open the door and let ’em in.

What does that mean? One astute person said the lyrics are about a really lazy person who refuses to get off his rear and answer his own door. Laziness was not the case with Rhoda and all the people at Mary’s house, though . They were afraid for what was behind the door and who was coming to get them. Candy Gram or Herod’s soldiers. The dangers were very real.

So what kinds of things can we take home from today’s message about who comes knocking?

  1. Persecution is very real.  James died.  Peter escaped.  Yet both were the will of God.
  2. But God can miraculously deliver and is not thwarted by anything humans dish out.
  3. Prayer …earnest prayer….is always a good thing. A church that prays is a church that lives.  The Gospel goes forward.
  4. God takes His church and His holiness seriously.
  5. No one gets the glory but God.
  • Knock Knock.
  • Who’s There.
  • Theodore.
  • Theodore, who?
  • Theodore stands before you.  And in Revelation 3, we are told that Jesus is at that door.  He is knocking.  Give him the glory and do yourself a favor.  Open the door.  And let Him in.

Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on June 8, 2015

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