St. John 16:23-30
In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 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 himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 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.”
This text is part of the same chapter from St. John’s Gospel that we’ve been looking at for the past couple of weeks. You’ll recall that Jesus is preparing to go away. The blind have received their sight, the lame have walked, the lepers have been cleansed, the deaf have been enabled to hear, the dead have been raised up, the poor have had the good news preached to them. Jesus had told John’s disciples to report this to him (Luke 7:22). The Messiah’s earthly ministry is coming to a close. God’s eternal Son - the Savior promised long - has nearly accomplished the salvific work that had been anticipated since God’s Words to Adam and Eve after they’d sinned in the garden.
Jesus is preparing His disciples for the sorrow that will be accompany His going away. He’s preparing them for the cross and grave. It will be disturbing to them. But, it will only be a little while that they won’t see Him after His death and before His Resurrection. And even in His ascending into heaven shortly thereafter, He’ll be sending the Holy Spirit to them as an even greater blessing than if He were to stay with them Himself. The Spirit will work though Word and Sacrament to give them peace and joy in this life, and faith’s assurance of eternal life.
That peace and that assurance is important for you as well, of course. You are sitting in front of your computer or your TV right now, or maybe watching this on your phone wherever you might be - a great blessing, of course, that this is possible in a time like this (in other times it wouldn’t have been). But as you patiently wait out this trial, I want you to think this morning about who Jesus really is to you, and about how knowing that can give you peace and assurance. He’s emphasizing it in this text.
Earlier in this conversation (a couple of chapters back, actually), Jesus had begun to make an important case to His disciples. It was in opposition to what the Jewish leaders had been saying. While they had been trying to marginalize Him as a fraud without any connection to the Father, He had said in great contrast, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).”
Think about the significance of that statement in our world today. Those who wish to avoid any division in religious discussions avoid also a passage like that. It includes more peoples’ points of view to just talk about the Father, and then to leave things pretty general in terms of how one belongs to the Father. One group can say it belongs to the Father through this means, another through another means. Avoiding talk about Christ, and the claim He makes in that passage leaves room for a lot of different points of view. You might even have been discouraged from speaking of Christ, and have directed any religious comments toward the more socially acceptable “Father” or “God” rather than, specifically, Christ.
The disciples were facing a time that would be more than just intimidating. In the beginning of this same chapter, Jesus tells them that a time is coming when people will put them out of the synagogue, and will think that in killing them they are offering service to God. He says it’s because, not only have they not known Him, but also, they have not known the Father (16:3).
The thing is: they thought they knew the Father. That’s tragic, isn’t it? They were going along in this world thinking they knew who God is, and what makes a person belong to Him; but they were wrong about it the whole time. Think about that. What if you were wrong about what brings about eternal life? What if hell were really in store for you rather than heaven?
The people Jesus was talking about thought their best effort at godliness made them belong to God. “I’ve tried to be a pretty good person. Others would testify that it’s the case. So, I’m one of the ones upon whom God will look kindly.” That’s how most people think (it’s how we naturally think). But Jesus says of such, they have not known the Father.
Jesus talks in our text about praying to the Father in His Name. You might have wondered why we pray in Jesus’ Name. There is good reason for it. The catechism says, We pray in Jesus’ name because He assures us that through faith in Him, as our Savior, our prayers will be heard and answered (ELS Cat. 2001, p.156). It is in that Name that God has promised to be gracious to you. That person, Jesus, is the One because of Whose coming the angel says in the Christmas account that there can be Peace on earth, good will toward men (Luke 2:14). Because of the One Who has been born in Bethlehem, God’s righteous anger over sins has been put away. Christ’s sacrifice brings peace. His shouldering of every sinner’s guilt makes innocent before God those who cling to Him. Through Jesus you have a gracious audience with the Father. You’re able to approach Him, and be met in a kindly way instead of in judgment.
Otherwise, you couldn’t, though. Without Jesus having made peace with the Father for you, the Father’s reception of you would have to have been very different.
James encourages his readers in the epistle lesson, to be doers of the word, and not hearers only. Doers of the Word bridle their tongues, for one thing, he says. They speak in a godly way - even to people who have spoken evil to them. Ultimately, also he says, they keep themselves unstained from the world.
But we just said earlier how overwhelming it can be in this world. Jesus knew that the disciples would be tempted to abandon Him when it came to the point of them being persecuted for their faith. They would be tempted as Peter was, to deny Christ, and throw in with what was more palatable with the world around them (the people accusing him around the fire in the High Priest’s courtyard wouldn’t have cared if he’d said he believed in “God,” or in “The Father.” It was Christ that offended them).
You face the same offense because of your faith in Christ. Can’t you also think of times when you opted to avoid the discomfort of that Name? You might even have thought of good reasons to do so, that took the feelings of others into account and so forth. Your denial of Christ might have seemed so much less serious than Peter’s. You didn’t swear, like he did, that something false was the truth. In fact, you didn’t say anything at all. You just let people think falsely about God, though you knew the truth about Him. That is quite a bit like what Peter did, isn’t it?
Can a sinner be forgiven who hasn’t always bridled his tongue, but has returned evil speech for evil speech? What about one who even has denied (even if only by silence) that Christ is the One through Whom a person belongs to the Father? The answer, of course, is yes - he or she can be forgiven. Those sins are among the sins that were assigned to Christ when the Father forsook Him so as to fully and freely forgive and save you. His righteousness was assigned to you in exchange.
When you go to the Father humbly in Christ’s name, repentant, your sins are invisible to Him, hidden under Christ’s righteousness. His love is in the forefront of His mind, that caused Him to give His only-begotten Son to save you from perishing and to give you eternal life. That’s Who Jesus really is to you; He is the One through Whom you have peace with the Father, He is the One through Whom you are assured of eternal life.
This video presentation will soon be at its end. You will be back to considering the important details of life as they look from your perch at home. Whatever is your situation in this world in the wake of the Covid-19 virus, you are right about what brings about eternal life. Jesus is the One through Whom you have peace with the Father. He’s the One through Whom you belong to the Father. He is the One through Whom you have forgiveness of sins. The Bible says that. It is the truth. It will continue to be the truth whatever comes of this life. God be praised! Amen.
Other Texts for Easter 6:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
[What it looks like to be one of these ones who pray to the Father in Christ’s Name and are heard]