The Sixth Sunday of Easter, 1 May 2016

JOHN 16:23-33:
The Rev. Jason D. Lane


GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.


CHRIST IS RISEN! 


Today is Rogate Sunday. It means “Pray!” Jesus told His disciples to ask the Father anything in His Name and the Father will give it all to us by grace. But not all asking is the same. Like so many accounts in the Gospel of John, the evangelist teaches the church through others’ confusion. Nicodemus didn’t know what Jesus meant by “being born again”. But Jesus spoke of heavenly things; He meant Holy Baptism and being born of Heaven BY WATER AND THE SPIRIT. The Jews didn’t understand what Jesus meant by those “hard words”: WHOEVER EATS MY FLESH AND DRINK MY BLOOD WILL NEVER DIE. But Jesus was saying that He is the BREAD OF LIFE, that His body and blood have life in them, and whoever feasts on Him, that is, whoever believes in Him and receives from Him will live forever. And here, Jesus speaks of asking. The disciples don’t understand. This is written for you. 


Jesus speaks of two kinds of asking. The first is for the twelve, who followed Him in His earthly life. All the evangelists portray the twelve as men groping for answers, students with requests and questions: “Lord, teach us to pray.” “Lord, what is the meaning of this parable?” “Lord, how often should I forgive my brother when He sins against me?” And Jesus instructed them and He asked them, as any good teacher, “DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” And His disciples answered like any eager-to-please students would: “Yes, we understand.” Jesus knew that after everything was accomplished they would understand.

The Sixth Sunday of Easter, 1 May 2016

JOHN 16:23-33:
The Rev. Jason D. Lane


GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.


CHRIST IS RISEN! 


Today is Rogate Sunday. It means “Pray!” Jesus told His disciples to ask the Father anything in His Name and the Father will give it all to us by grace. But not all asking is the same. Like so many accounts in the Gospel of John, the evangelist teaches the church through others’ confusion. Nicodemus didn’t know what Jesus meant by “being born again”. But Jesus spoke of heavenly things; He meant Holy Baptism and being born of Heaven BY WATER AND THE SPIRIT. The Jews didn’t understand what Jesus meant by those “hard words”: WHOEVER EATS MY FLESH AND DRINK MY BLOOD WILL NEVER DIE. But Jesus was saying that He is the BREAD OF LIFE, that His body and blood have life in them, and whoever feasts on Him, that is, whoever believes in Him and receives from Him will live forever. And here, Jesus speaks of asking. The disciples don’t understand. This is written for you. 


Jesus speaks of two kinds of asking. The first is for the twelve, who followed Him in His earthly life. All the evangelists portray the twelve as men groping for answers, students with requests and questions: “Lord, teach us to pray.” “Lord, what is the meaning of this parable?” “Lord, how often should I forgive my brother when He sins against me?” And Jesus instructed them and He asked them, as any good teacher, “DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” And His disciples answered like any eager-to-please students would: “Yes, we understand.” Jesus knew that after everything was accomplished they would understand.


There is an end to that kind of asking, student to teacher, when Jesus made disciples apostles, the sent ones, and poured out the Holy Spirit on them, to lead them in all truth. It’s a mysterious glimpse into the operation of the Holy Trinity for our salvation, where the Son’s work would be delivered by Another, and He would make a way for us to the Father in the heavenly places. 


Before it all happened, before His crucifixion, as trouble was drawing near and evil men surrounded Him, Jesus said to His disciples, “IN THAT DAY, YOU WILL ASK NOTHING OF ME.” It’s a strange statement, but He’s speaking of the Divine will: “You won’t need to ask Me what to say or to do as your Teacher. I’ll send you the Comforter who will bring into remembrance all that I’ve said to you. HE WILL TAKE WHAT IS MINE AND DELIVER IT TO YOU. He will take you to Me. And I will take you to the Father.”


The second kind of asking, which is at the heart of this Sunday’s Readings, is prayer, as in, “OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN, … GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD.” Or, “FATHER, FORGIVE THEM; THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING!” Or, verse 23, “WHATEVER YOU ASK OF THE FATHER IN MY NAME, HE WILL GIVE IT TO YOU.” This, too, is a mystery that we can never study enough. We can never exhaust the riches of prayer.


We’re taught in the Catechism that we should pray, first of all, because God commands us to. And that’s right and we should, because we’re often so sluggish to pray, whether due to poor spiritual discipline, or to frail faith. For some, it’s because they feel unworthy to pray, that God won’t hear them because of their many sins. For others, it’s because they’re too proud to pray, and think they can solve whatever they’re struggling with on their own. For others, their pride reveals itself as ingratitude. They receive blessing after blessing and gift after gift from the Lord and yet they don’t so much as give thanks or sing a hymn of praise or offer back to Him an offering of thanksgiving. Still for others, they don’t pray because they don’t really believe that God wants to give them all things. It’s not that they feel unworthy, it’s that they think of God like they think of fate, that things happen, good and bad, because some unknown force that Christians call God pushes this world forward and has already predestined the outcome of all. The Calvinists believe that, that God has already predestined all things, good and bad. They teach that your prayers can’t change God’s mind, because God has already made up His mind. The only thing prayer can do is help you understand, as if prayer were just a nice psychological exercise that God has commanded of us all: mandatory therapy for the masses.


But prayer is so much more than the command of God. Prayer is joined with the promise of God. Jesus says: “WHATEVER YOU ASK THE FATHER IN MY NAME, HE WILL GIVE IT TO YOU!” The Calvinist are wrong. Prayer is not about coming to terms with God’s will. It’s children demanding that their Father’s will be done to them and bending His ear to their voice. And impossibly, the Father is listening to you because of His Son; ASK AND IT WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU. As if we poor sinners could bend the will of God with our prayers. We can. Not because of anything in us, but because of the NAME OF JESUS and because of Him who intercedes for us and with us in the heavenly places.


When Jesus said these things, the Twelve were caught between impending sorrow and impending joy. They’d soon sing: “O sorrow dread, our God is dead.” And then before they were overcome with sorrow, they’d see Him again and sing, “This joyful Eastertide, away with sin and sorrow!” Both sorrow and joy, life and death, are promises of Christ. First death, then life. First, pick up your cross, and then pleasures forevermore. And all the while, in the midst of death, it’s ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE. You see, it’s not just the disciples. We, too, live in the tension of death and life, suffering and victory, despair and hope. One moment despair and the next, surprised by joy. In this tension, in which death seems nearer than life, we need to pray the most. When the hope of what’s to come is our joy, when we long for that CITY THAT CANNOT BE SHAKEN, Jerusalem the Golden, it’s then that He teaches us to pray, not on a fading chance that it may all be true, but to pray through Him, or as Pastor Wieting would say, to pray riding on Jesus’ back. What other way is there to pray? What other sure thing do we have in this life?


But there’s a lot of misconceptions about prayer among honest Christians. People think that if you really have faith you can pray with 20/20 vision of what’s to come, as if you could peer into heaven and see God’s will. But anyone who’s prayed in faith knows it doesn’t work like that. In this life, vision is never 20/20. It’s not the casual request of one reclining in the Heavenly Garden or, but it’s so often the shaky throat, the blood and tears and the groaning of Gethsemane, where the Son. We learn to pray from and with the Man of Sorrows, knowing that He, our Brother who suffered in our place and reconciled us to the Father, is now the One who now sits in the Heavenly Places as our Mediator. CHRIST IS RISEN! And ascended, PUTTING ALL ENEMIES UNDER HIS FEET, sending us the Holy Spirit, and making a way to the Father. But it’s not that He is there and you are here. It’s not like praying to saints and hoping that Jesus will put in a good word for you with the Father.


Notice what Jesus says here in verses 26-27. He says, IN THAT DAY, that is, in the day that I have reconciled you to the Father by My death and life…IN THAT DAY YOU WILL ASK IN MY NAME, AND I DO NOT SAY TO YOU THAT I WILL ASK THE FATHER ON YOUR BEHALF; FOR THE FATHER LOVES YOU, BECAUSE YOU HAVE LOVED ME AND HAVE BELIEVED THAT I CAME FROM GOD.


Beloved, THAT DAY has come. WE HAVE AN ADVOCATE WITH THE FATHER, JESUS CHRIST THE RIGHTEOUS ONE, and by believing in Him and bearing His Name, you have full access to the Father. Jesus is not an advocate who has you sit in the waiting room while He goes into court to see the Judge. He is not a mediator who listens to your concerns and then goes behind closed doors to plead your cause to a far off God. No, Jesus is the DOOR. He is the ACCESS to the Father. And anyone who believes in Him has the Father already.


Isn’t this just what the Scriptures say? THROUGH HIM WE HAVE OBTAINED ACCESS BY FAITH INTO THIS GRACE IN WHICH WE STAND, AND WE REJOICE IN HOPE OF THE GLORY OF GOD. It means that we don’t yet see what we will be. But this much we know: the Father has held nothing back from us. I mean, He sent us His Son. And the Son has held nothing back from us. He’s sent us the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit has held nothing back from us, because He’s brought us to the Son and taken us by faith to the right hand of the Father. So if you had the ear of the King, what would you ask? Then ask it in the name of His Son, and it will be given to you.


It’s not a magical formula. And God’s not a genie in a bottle. He’s the Father who loves you because you love His Son. He’s the Father whose good pleasure it is to give you the Kingdom of His Son. 

 

The disciples didn’t understand. They thought He was talking about some sort of test. They said: “AH, NOW WE KNOW THAT YOU KNOW ALL THINGS AND DO NOT NEED ANYONE TO QUESTION YOU; THIS IS WHY WE BELIEVE THAT YOU CAME FROM GOD.” As if Christ just wanted to show them that He was above reproach. And we can treat Him like that, too. We can pray as if the whole thing were just a test, God testing whether we’ll ask the right things and whether we’ll discover the hidden secret of His will for our lives. But beloved, it’s not a test. Christ passed the test! Now, it’s an invitation, to ask serious things and to ask frivolous things, but to ask them trusting that the Father will give us all things in Christ, that He’ll preserve us from our own foolishness and our own self-interest and deliver us. 


Prayer is about God’s interest in us, about a Father in Heaven who will give us all things because He has given all things to His Son, and whoever trusts in Him has all things already. Jesus says, “I HAVE SAID THESE THINGS TO YOU, THAT IN ME YOU MAY HAVE PEACE.” And in Him you have peace with God and access to the Father and the promise of the Holy Spirit, and the glory yet to be revealed. 


The disciples thought it was a test, as if they had to prove themselves to God in this world. But in Jesus it’s not a test; it’s grace upon grace in a world of tribulation. IN THIS WORLD YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE, BUT TAKE HEART; I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD. And I’m taking you out to the Father. Amen

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a