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Praying in the name of Jesus

John 16:23-33

Pastor David Ernst

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, May 22, 2022 

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

On Holy Thursday night, just before He suffered and died, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with the disciples and spoke His last words to them as a group. Our text is the final section of what He told them. Jesus speaks primarily of Pentecost, the leading of the Spirit in the book of Acts, and the giving of the New Testament. That is what He means by "in that day."

We have an advantage over the disciples because we live after Pentecost, when these words of Jesus were first fulfilled. But often we are like the disciples who need to hear His warnings and comfort.

In verses 23 and 26, the original Greek uses two distinctly different words that can be translated "ask." The verb used in 23b is used again in 26a.

In verse 23a, the word means "to ask questions of doctrine." In 23a Jesus means that there will be no more revelation after the New Testament is written. When we have a question about what God says, we simply go to the Bible and look up the answer. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit who gave us the Holy Scriptures. They guide us into all truth. We do not ask nor should we ask for more revelation because the Triune God has given us all the truth in the New Testament, which is the fulfillment of the Truth.

The verbs used in 23b and 26a have the same meaning, making a request for particular spiritual or physical needs. Although in the synoptic gospels, Jesus had given His disciples instructions as to how to pray, He had not yet authorized the disciples to pray in His name, because Jesus had not yet offered His life as a sacrifice for men, nor had He ascended to the right hand of the Father to be mediator between God and men. He assures them that in "that day" His relationship with the Father will be of a nature that will allow them to go directly to Him with all of his wants and needs, because all of their prayers will be in Jesus' name. Because the atonement of Jesus has made peace with the Father, and has restored believers to their position as children of God, they need only refer to Jesus and his work, appeal for His redemption, to be sure that their prayers they will be heard.

Now everything that believers ask God in the name of Jesus, by faith in His merit, He will give it to them. Because they pray as children of God, who have the nature and manner of their Father. It is evident, therefore, that they pray only for things that please the Father. That includes, above all, leaving both the timing and manner of the audience to His fatherly wisdom. We pray in the name of Jesus when we come before God with the confidence that Jesus Christ is our mediator and that we will be taken care of because of what Jesus did on the cross. If we believe that God will answer our prayers because they are many, long or very devout, we deceive ourselves. If we pray to other mediators, we show that we lack faith in the promise and redemptive work of Jesus. In our epistle (James 1:22-27), the apostle encourages Christians to return to the Word that is a mirror to show them their sins, but also to take comfort in the gospel when the Word is preached and taught.

In verses 29-30, although the disciples believe, they are mistaken in thinking that what Jesus promised has already been fulfilled. These statements of Jesus had been so clear that the disciples thought they understood Him perfectly. But the enthusiasm of the disciples was premature; the time of Pentecost had not yet come; they must first experience sadness and suffering. Jesus tells them that the test of their faith, of which they now seemed so sure, would come very soon. And the result would be most disappointing. They would scatter, flee from His side, leaving him alone in His great Passion.

“Now do you believe?” Jesus' response served to deflate the claims of the disciples. We too must remember that we are sinners saved by grace and that whatever we accomplish in the church is due, not to our faith, courage, or virtue, but to what Christ has done on the cross and continues to do in us through the Holy Spirit.

In the world, in the midst of the unbelievers, the disciples of all times have tribulation; from them they can only expect persecution. That is the inevitable fate of the confessors of Christ. And yet they must feel happy and in good spirits. Because in Jesus they have peace. In the midst of all the turmoil, hatred, and persecution of these last days, Christians have peace with God, peace in Christ the Savior. And therefore He will make the necessary provisions so that his disciples are not overcome by enmity and persecution.

Our psalm for today, Psalm 107, recounts the difficulties and dangers that the Jews who ruled had to face. They returned to the Promised Land by decree of Cyrus the Great, Emperor of Persia, after the fall of the Babylonian empire. It is very likely that the caravan in the desert is a caravan of exiles from Babylon headed for Judea. The Lord is the God who rescues his children from the dangers of the desert and brings them to his holy city, to feed them and quench their thirst. The lost in the desert in their anguish cried out to the Lord and He delivered them from their afflictions.

Also in our reading of the Old Testament (Numbers 21:4-9), the ransom from death that God granted through the brazen serpent was a type of what He purposed to do when His Son was raised in the wood of the cross. The Israelites who repented received God's salvation by looking with faith at the sign of his mercy.

We too are pilgrims in the desert of this world. Our lives also persist in the pattern of rebellion, repentance, and restoration. Those who look to the cross in faith receive salvation.

Almighty God, who has given us your only-begotten Son to be the sacrifice for sin and the perfect example of holy living, give us grace to gratefully receive the priceless benefits obtained by Him and to strive daily to follow in the footsteps of His most holy lifetime. Amen.

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