Looking beyond a promise – Saturday, 6th Week Of Easter – Acts 18:23-28/ John 16:23b-28
These are not the easiest verses in John’s gospel because they could be up for selective scripture reading by the one who desperately needs a prayer heard. Remember that Jesus is hours away from his suffering and death. He is talking to the apostles knowing that their hearts are filled with sadness. He assures them that they will see him “in a little while.”
Jesus, now addressing the apostles says to them, that until now they have not asked for anything ‘in His name’. Why is this so? They did not have to ask ‘in his name’ because they only had to ask him. Until now Jesus has been with them, until now they just had to go to him for their needs and say “they have no wine” or “what are we to feed them?”. He has been their guide and stay for the last three years and they just had to go to Him directly, he was physically accessible.
Now, knowing that he would soon be put to death and rise again; knowing that he would enter His glory at the right hand of the Father, Jesus knew that he would not be directly available to them and so he gives them another gift, “If you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Ask and you will receive so that your joy may be complete.”
Reading this passage, one might feel inclined to focus only on the promise of Jesus that the Father will give us anything that we may ask for in Jesus’ name. Ironically many of us have done exactly that and yet not got what we asked for, leaving us discouraged. I am sure that many of the readers and viewers to this blog and channel on YouTube have prayed hard for something and never got it. May I say, that this is a very poor and narrow way of looking at the text. I understand why some may only see the promise and therefore turn to the Father and ask. I understand why some may claim mighty miracles in the name of Jesus. While this is all very good, we might end up missing the woods for the trees.
There is a central truth here to be grasped; a truth beyond the promises we seek for ourselves or for others. Instead of only focusing on the words of Jesus, to ask in his name, focus for a while on another central truth that you may quickly obscure in your enthusiasm to settle on this scripture line that brings you comfort.
Jesus shares another central truth; that the father loves you! Think about it, you are loved by the Father no less. The gifts and promises are second to the love of God himself. It is easy to focus on the gift received or the prayer that is heard while we may quickly forget that the gift given comes because of the love of the giver.
Perhaps now, this scripture text can take a different form. Knowing that the Father loves each of us, we are encouraged to bring our concerns to the Father without dictating how they are to be solved. Perhaps we can place them in this loving Father’s care, and leave them there? Today would be a good day to let go of your desire for security, for control, and to open you heart to the loving presence of God.