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 in that day you will ask Me no question. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you shall ask the Father for anything, He will give it to you in My name. 24 Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full. 25 These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will speak no more to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father and I do not say to you that I will request 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; I am leaving the world again, and going to the Father.’ 29 His disciples said, ‘Lo, now You are speaking plainly, and are not using a figure of speech. 30 Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.’ 31 Jesus answered 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, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.’” (NASB)
The Gospel lesson assigned for this morning is known for a particular Bible verse that is often invoked. If you were listening you know the verse I am talking about. It’s verse 23: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if you shall ask the Father for anything, He will give it to you in My name.” Again this is part of the sermon Jesus preached in the Upper Room on the night in which He was betrayed. And in this section of the sermon, it is verse 23 that stands out. And indeed, Jesus is teaching us something about prayer. But there’s more here than just a verse and a lesson about prayer.
Now in preparation for this morning’s sermon and in customary fashion I read several sermons from some fine Lutheran preachers. One of those sermons mentioned an article written by Don Knopp. The article is titled, “Are We Too Comfortable With God?” For a guy like me, that’s an irresistible title. So I read it. The author began by quoting Deuteronomy 10:17, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome….” Knopp’s point is that the Old Testament addresses and treats God in a very different way that does the modern American Evangelical. There is an reverence and awe toward the Holy One of Israel.
The author followed that verse up by telling the reader of a t-shirt he had recently seen. On the t-shirt the slogan “Jesus is my homeboy.” He also reported that there is an action figure named “Buddy Jesus” that depicts the Savior with both of his thumbs up in a “Fonzie from Happy Days” like pose. Thus the name of the article. “Are We Too Comfortable With God?” And the answer, is yes too many Christians, Lutherans among them have all become too casual, even irreverent in their disposition toward God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
In contrast to the disrespect of modernity, in the Old and New Testament periods the Jews held the God of the Old Testament in such a high esteem they didn’t speak His name out loud. When the scrolls of the Old Testament were read it was the practice for the reader to substitute name of God, “Yahweh” with the word Adonai, which also means “Lord.”
The custom of honor the name of the Lord God in this way, while well intentioned created the perception of distance between God the Creator and His people. So God was approached with more trepidation than affection. So when Jesus taught His disciples to pray by saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” He was introducing the disciples to a radical departure from what they had always known and had always spoken.
By calling God “Father” and instructing all Christians to do likewise Jesus was teaching us all that while God is indeed the Creator of heavens and earth, “God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome,” He was to be known by Christians as first and foremost as their heavenly Father.
St. Paul was given to go even a further in Romans 8:15, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” In Galatians 4:6 Paul wrote, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” By adding the Abba to the God name “Father” Pau is signaling an even more intimate relationship between God the Father and His sons and daughters.
But personal affection and the relationship between a father and his children does not (as is practiced by so many today) mean a casual, disrespectful, or trite approach to parental authority and love.
In the Gospel lesson this morning Jesus does more than simply urge us to pray and to pray in His name. Jesus goes on to further explain the new relationship we have to God in Christ, namely we are His dear children and He is our dear Father and we ought to relate to Him in this way.
The Old Testament does not use the image of “Father” very often. The God of the Old Testament is the Creator, the Holy One, the Righteous One. The Delivering One. But in Jesus Christ the full revelation of God as Father is brought to the Christian church in Jesus’s teaching. God is referred to as “Father” only 11 times in the Old Testament. Jesus, in startling contrast to the Old Testament uses the title 170 times, and, listen carefully, with the exception for the cry of on the cross “My God, My God why has Thou forsaken Me,” Jesus always uses the form of “Father” when He speaks of the first person of the Trinity. He uses only “Father” and no other when addressing His heavenly Father. Imagine what the disciples must have thought when they heard how Jesus spoke of the Holy One of Israel.
The naming of God as Father and of Jesus as His Son is more than just a way of speaking. It is descriptive of the actual personalities and relationship between the two. It is the Son of God who reveals God’s fatherly relationship to the children He creates for Himself in the water and the Word.
With all that as background, listen again to portions of the Gospel lesson. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if you shall ask the Father for anything, He will give it to you in My name. . . 25 an hour is coming when I will speak no more to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father and I do not say to you that I will request 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; I am leaving the world again, and going to the Father.’” Then further down in the reading. . . . 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.”
That’s eight times in this section alone Jesus calls God Father and makes it clear He is our Father too. That’s almost as many times as in the entire Old Testament!
Jesus is God’s Son. God is our Father and we are His children. Here Jesus teaches us that we are to pray and that our prayers are to be that of beloved children who love their Father and want what is pleasing to Him. We are to be children who know that the Father will listen to our prayers and will deal with them according to His good and gracious will toward us. This section is as much about our new relationship with God as it is about prayer. Here, as in other places in the New Testament, Jesus reveals God as our beloved and loving Father.
Now for an observation. In those rare moments when you actually speak about your faith, how often invoke the word “Father?” When you talk about your faith in “God,” or about how “God” loves you, or about how you love God do you limit yourself to the word God? You see when you speak about God and speak of Him primarily as “God,” instead of Father you’re talking about God in a way Jesus didn’t. You’re speaking rather generically. Jesus never did that. When He spoke about the first person of the Holy Trinity, He called Him “Father” because Jesus was and is the Son of God the Father.
Just as importantly, the First Person of the Holy Trinity is your Father, your heavenly Father. God the Father who loves you because you are in Christ and Christ, the Son of God the Father is in you. Christ has given us a new and unique relationship to God the Creator. God the Creator of heaven and earth is your Father, as He is the Father to Jesus Christ.
Now just think of all those New Testament Epistles that either open or close like this example in Romans 1:1 “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As to the lesson regarding prayer, Jesus teaches us here how we are to address God in prayer. God expects us to think of Him and to address Him as our “Father.” There in the Upper Room, shortly before Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, and crucified Jesus says three times. “Truly, truly, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you.”
Jesus is the one Who reconciled us to God the Father. He is the One Who created our relationships as sons and daughters of the Father. Remember your Small Catechism and the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father, Who art in heaven.” [With these words God] “tenderly urge 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.”
As for the part “whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you,” it means that we are to pray according to His will. Jesus’ promises to give us whatever we ask, but that assumes that we will ask for those things that are pleasing to God our Father.
Though Jesus is our intercessor before the Father, though He mediates for us, offering Himself in death for our sin, He says something interesting here. Did you hear it. Jesus said (26), “I do not say to you that I will request 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.” Here Jesus tells them to “ask their Father.”
The Greek construction of verse 26 is simple and clear. Jesus told them and He is telling you that because of the forgiveness of sins, the disciples and all Christians can now pray to their heavenly Father with confidence and boldness, just as you were taught in 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’s sake our prayers will be answered; [and] C. according to God’s revealed will.”
So how is it that we who are Christians came to be adopted as unique children of God the Father, brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and temples of the Holy Spirit? That’s the rest of the Gospel lesson this morning. All this happened to us because (v. 30) Christ “came from God”, gave His life as a ransom for many on the cross, rose from the dead, and “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” (Eph. 1:4-5).
Jesus tells us, 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.’”
In Holy Baptism you were united with Jesus, both in His death and in His resurrection. All that belongs to the Son now belongs to you. Romans 8:16-17 “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” United with Jesus in Holy Baptism, the Father loves you, even as He loves His own dear Son.
Think about this on the night in which our Lord was betrayed, Jesus taught the disciples concerning Baptism in the washing of the feet, where Jesus told Peter that if He Jesus washes Peter then Peter shall be clean indeed.
On night in which He was betrayed, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Altar: “Do this in remembrance of Me for the remission of sin.”
On the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus reminded them that His heavenly Father was just as much their Father as His.
On the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus taught them to approach God as their heavenly Father in confidence praying to Him as a young children approach their benevolent and loving earthly fathers for their sins have been forgiven.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.