The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Love of God, and The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you All. Amen.
John 16:23 “‘And on that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. 25 These things I have spoken to you in figures of speech; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 On that day you will ask in My name, and I am not saying to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.’ 29 His disciples *said, ‘See, now You are speaking plainly and are not using any figure of speech. 30 Now we know that You know all things, and that You have no need for anyone to question You; this is why we believe that You came forth from God.’ 31 Jesus replied to them, ‘Do you now believe? 32 Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.’” (NASB)
The Christian Faith is a religion filled with mysteries. The Trinity is a mystery. God in flesh is a mystery. The two natures in one person who is the Son of God– fully human and fully divine is a mystery. The Sacraments are a mystery. Baptism is the Gospel in liquid form wherein a person is washed clean from sin, a new nature is created, and the baptized is sealed as a child of God the Father.
The Lord’s Supper- “Take eat this is My body. Take drink this is My blood given and shed for you for the remission of sin” is a mystery. The doctrine of election is a mystery. Prayer is a mystery. That is why St. Paul said of pastors in 1 Corinthians 4:1 “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
This morning’s Gospel speaks to the mystery of prayer and our relationship to the God the Father. This exchange over prayer between Jesus and His disciples took place in the Upper Room on the night in which Jesus was betrayed, just before Jesus prayed His High Priestly Prayer. That makes this conversation on prayer and our relationship to God the Father the last recorded conversation between Jesus and the disciples before Jesus’s arrest, trial, and death.
Add to this bit of background information, that Jesus had previously given the disciples a fivefold promise of the Holy Spirit and the various ways in which the Holy Spirit would work in us and for us and our salvation.
The Gospel of John uses the word “Paraclete” to describe the role the Holy Spirit plays in the life of a Christian. The term generally means (1) a legal advocate, or counsel for defense, (2) an intercessor, or (3) a helper, generally. The word is used in five different places in the Gospel of John (John 14:16–17, 25–26; 15:26–27; 16:7–11, 13–15).
These background facts are important because in this conversation Jesus is establishing a contrast between how things worked before the Passion of Christ and how they would work in the time of the Holy Spirit after Jesus’s death and resurrection.
Keep in mind that Jesus was speaking directly to His disciples. We are recipients of the promises, but we were not the original audience. Their context and our context is different. The disciples only knew a Jesus in the flesh. He was locally present among them– face to face, walking, talking, touching, crying, laughing, and eating. Not so with us.
In the immediate context Jesus introduces the topic of prayer in the middle of warning them that He was going away. They would no longer see Him as they were accustom to so they would be filled with sorrow on account of His absence.
Jesus began this part of the conversation with a common idiom of the day. Its use signaled that something important was about to be said. The Greek phrase is translated this way. “And on/in that day.” As in “in that day you will not question Me about anything.” The phrase “in that day” was used in the Old Testament and usually denotes the time of God’s final coming for judgment and redemption. It’s a reference to Judgment Day.
The disciples had spent the better part of three years with Jesus. They had heard a lot of sermons and seen a lot of things. They had had the privilege of being able to ask Jesus questions when they didn’t understand something and that happened a lot.
Now in the Upper Room, just hours before Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified that they were being told Jesus was going to be leaving them. They would no long have the opportunity to directly ask Jesus questions. Instead, they would be communicating directly to God the Father in the form of prayer.
What they didn’t understand at the time is that Jesus was telling them that after His departure they were going to enjoy the same relationship the He had with God the Father. He was giving them good news, although it did not feel like it at the time. Whatever they needed, God the Father would provide.
Jesus even made the point that He wasn’t going to have to intercede with the Father on their behalf in order for them to get what they needed. The Father Himself would listen and answer their prayers because He loved them. 26 On that day you will ask in My name, and I am not saying to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you…”
Things were going to be a little different “On that day . . .” In the Gospel of John “the end,” the day that really matters (God’s judgment and redemption) comes in the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross. So the phrase Jesus uses here, “in/on that day” in the Gospel of John refers to the new era which was made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus; and made real for all Christians through the gift and work of the Holy Spirit.
The day of Jesus’s local presence was coming to an end. A new day was dawning. “In that day” the Holy Spirit will lead the disciples and the faithful into a right understanding of the Jesus Christ and Christian doctrine. The Holy Spirit is all about bringing and keeping people in Christ. God the Father is all about His only begotten Son in whom He is well pleased. And Jesus is all saving and bringing people God the Father, through His work and the work of the Holy Spirit.
As for “Truly, truly I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you” part of the reading here’s the thing about praying in Christ’s name.
God the Father hears your prayers only because of the person and work of Jesus Christ, in other words, “in Christ’s name.” God the Father does not listen to our prayers because we are good people who deserve to be heard and answered. God the Father looks upon us as His children rather than the devil’s children.
A prayer that is “in the name of Jesus” is a prayer that is offered on the basis of Jesus’s death and resurrection, our faith in Christ, and offered according to the will of God the Father. That we learned from the Bible and the Small Catechism.
We should pray A. in the name of Jesus, that is, with faith in Him as our Redeemer; B. with confidence, that is, with firm trust that for Jesus’ sake our prayers will be answered; [and] C. according to God’s revealed will.”
In hearing such a prayer, the Father gives to us all that the Son has won for us in His obedience, suffering, death, and resurrection.
In this hearing and praying we are united with the Father as Jesus, the Son, is united with the Father. Jesus prayed in the High Priestly Prayer (17:21-23) “just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 The glory which You have given Me I also have given to them, so that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and You loved them, just as You loved Me.” (John 17:21–23).
So when Jesus uses the phrase “in that day” it is a reference to Pentecost Sunday and the establishment of a modified way of doing the New Testament church’s way of doing business.
Through the Word and the out pouring of the Spirit the disciples will be given clarity and confidence in the Gospel truth. Essentially Jesus is saying here what He said in John 16:7. “But I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I am leaving; for if I do not leave, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”
So also for us. Jesus is describing for us what would become and what is the normal means of communication between the Christian and God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God speaks to us in His written and preached Word and where the Word of God is, there also is the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, and God the Father. This is how God speaks to us. He speaks in the external Word, the spoken and written Word. The Word that comes from outside of us to us and writes itself on our hearts and in our minds.
We on the other hand, we speak to God in prayer as true children of God. God “urges us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear father.” (Again the Small Catechism)
Faith includes certainty and confidence because of the Son’s own steadfast faithfulness. The problem for the disciples and the rest of us Christians is that we are not so certain and confident in times of trouble. The disciples themselves prove that out in their own context and Jesus speaks to this in verse 32. “Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” See the contrast here?
The disciples scatter in the face of the crucifixion and threats to their own lives. They leave Jesus to suffer all alone. They hide and live in fear. They see only death and call into question all that they had been taught. But Jesus and the Father remain faithful to their Word and to the work of salvation.
We do the same thing when we shy away from speaking the Word of God when given the opportunity or when we pass off the Word of God as merely a perspective or our opinion.
Think about everything that Jesus said and did in the Upper Room on the night in which He was betrayed. He washed His disciples feet as a symbol of Holy Baptism. John 13:8 “Peter said, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’”
Then the words about and to the betrayer. “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’” John 13:27
Jesus predicted Peter’s denial. “Truly, truly I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.” John 13:38
Finally the words of institution. “Take eat this is My Body. Take Drink this is my Blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins.”
Yet the final part of Jesus’s discourse on Maundy Thursday was about the “new day” that was coming and the place of prayer in it.
“In that day” the post crucifixion and resurrection day. Jesus returned to His Father and took His place in the heavenly realm. But He did not leave us alone. He sent the Helper, the Advocate, and gave us the gift of prayer and a heavenly Father who loves us and listens to our prayers. So God the Father deals with us, just as lovingly and just as intimately as He did Jesus and as Jesus did with His inner circle of disciples. “For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.”
“In that day,” that post crucifixion and resurrection day there would be suffering and hardship. 33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Christ has given us all that we need to endure the tribulations of this life.
Use the gift of God and call upon Him in every need, and never doubt that God desires your prayers. He listens to your prayers. He will answer with everything you need. Prayer is part of your birthright and inheritance as a child of God in Jesus Christ for Christ earned it for you.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.