The Fifth Sunday after Easter (Rogation Sunday)
O LORD, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things which are good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. 25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. 26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. 28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. 29 His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. 30 Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. 31 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? 32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:23-33)
The Collect for today makes reference to the people of God as humble servants. We should be so, and especially those who wear the color of clergymen. The ministers of God are intended to be servants, not potentates. The Holy Inspiration mentioned is acquired by diligent and spiritual study of the Word in allowing the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and ears to the beauty of Holiness. The Holy Spirit, not the believer, leads into light and truth by means of the Word rightly received.
Language itself is an essential tool in learning and communications. Many today advocate to a downgrade in biblical literacy to the level of the street. But Christ teaches an aspiration to higher understanding and wisdom than common street language can afford. He spoke in parables and proverbs as a beginning point to 1) separate the vulgar goats from the eager lambs; and 2) to teach in similitudes and allegories those great heavenly truths that His hearers could not understand without deep thought and further learning. But He gave them a starting place through the use of parables and proverbs. As a good Teacher, Jesus taught from the known to the unknown – not from the unknown to the unknown as many modern theologians attempt to do out of pride and arrogance. He spoke in terms the people could understand in the simple ways that would lead to profound understandings as they grew in knowledge and truth. But Christ never lowered the holiness of his language. He used terms of respect and high regard for all whom He addressed. He never irreverently referred to His Father as ‘Dad’ or the Holy Ghost as ‘that helpful fellow.’ He used classical language in all of His speaking. We use such language on legal documents, why not when addressing the Supreme Law-Giver?
In the 23rd and 24th verses of our text today, Christ makes reference to a certain day. Which day is it? An ambassador makes treaties and agreements in the name of the sending authority. Christ came and fulfilled all the terms of our redemption. He completed that work on the cross at Calvary and, three days later, by rising from the Tomb. He is our Justifier. He is our Redeemer. He is our Savior. He is our Advocate. When Christ was physically present with the disciples, they felt free to ask of Him anything. Christ prayed to the Father for our benefit; but in His glorious ascension, we may approach the Father directly in petitioning for our needs. However, we must approach God the Father with a Letter of Introduction. That letter is Christ. Whatsoever we ask of the Father, we ask in the name of the One who has qualified us to ask.
Let me ask you, “What does the following mean from verse 23: Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you? If we desire something out of our lust or greed, is God constrained to great that prayer? Contrary to the charismatic religions, God is NOT at all going to grant those petitions. What Christ means by “ask in my name.” That means with my authority, with my concurring will, and in the same Gospel intent I have taught you. We will not ask for anything that does not comport with what God wills for us if we have taken on that Mind of Christ to think and to act. In the verses immediately preceding the Gospel text today, the disciples are desirous to have some mystery of Christ revealed, and that is something that Christ is always pleased to grant – that we KNOW Him better, and His will.
King David perfectly understood those things of God that are waiting in abundance for our sincere prayers of faith. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” A little lamb may have no knowledge that he needs protection from the ravishing wolves of the mountain, but the Shepherd knows and provides that want. Want is a word that means ‘necessity!’ Whatever it is that we need to preserve our lives – physical and spiritual – day by day, the Good Shepherd supplies. We do not know, like the little lamb, all that we need, or all that may be harmful to us. But the Shepherd knows, indeed. David also said: “…. they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing. (Psalms 34:10) We shall LACK nothing that is a “good thing”. If we receive, not, perhaps it is because we ask amiss or out of a heart that regards iniquity. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: (Psalms 66:18) Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. (James 4:3) Is our God a captive audience for our every desire? Is not prayer two-way communication? When we pray, are we careful to examine our hearts for the response God whispers? Is it OUR will for which we pray, or is it HIS will for which we pray?
Remember that Christ has opened the Holies of Holies up to us so that we may approach God directly without an intermediary other than that Holy and Sacrificed Son of God – Jesus Christ. At His death, was the Temple Veil not torn from TOP to BOTTOM – not bottom to top? Only God could make the invitation, and He did so symbolically by the tear in the Temple Veil.
When God gave us the Ten Commandments, we were not ready for the implementing Rule of Love that we must develop to understand those Ten Commandments. He allowed us to fumble and stagger under our futile attempt to be righteous under the Law. Once we had learned that we were powerless to gain heaven by our own righteous works, Christ came in the fullness of time to teach us that without LOVE, there could be no true obedience to God. We must Love God with our whole being, and our neighbors as ourselves. This was the implementing Rule of Love that will enable us to keep the Commandments – all of them – of God. Love is the OBJECT, the Commandments the EVIDENCE of that LOVE. “….love covereth all sins. (Prov 10:12) This is no invitation to hedonism, but we cannot obey the Commandments of God without those two implementing Commandments of Love for God and Love for our neighbor. No one will violate the Law of God if He keeps the First Law of obedience in Love of God, and the second in Love of neighbor. Christ came speaking in parables and proverbs as a fundamental approach to our ignorance of the spiritual law that attends the legal law. Now, He speaks clearly to our hearts once we have passed the barrier of ignorance to love. 25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. The Ascension of Christ into the glory of Heaven was not a matter of despair to us, but a benefit and blessing. Rather than always speaking to us in human terms, He now speaks in spiritual and heavenly terms through the agency of His Holy Ghost – our Comforter. Instead of speaking in our ears, He now speaks in our hearts. They physical evidence of His death, Resurrection, and Ascension opened the audible channels of our hearts to hear truths that cannot be uttered in simple language. The end-proofs of His Divinity in rising and ascending are a stamp of authenticity to all else that He uttered while with us in the Body.
26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. All that we pray should be in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Ark and Advocate. He is right beside the Father and has His undivided attention. He constantly intercedes for us when we offer our Godly prayers. And those Godly prayers receive the same respect and consideration of God as if Jesus had asked it of Him. How can this be? Because God loves you in the same way He loves His only Begotten Son. If we love Jesus and claim that redemption He has made available to us, God the Father views us as His own Son because it is the covering Blood of His son that He beholds when He looks upon us.
We are strong in words and often, unfortunately, weak in courage and faith. One who believes too quickly may also be disillusioned too suddenly. The disciples claim to believe all that Jesus has said and are steadfastly convinced of who He is. However, the following events of the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Christ disarms their courage and results in their fleeing from Christ in terror. How fickle is the heart of man. Those same ones who threw down palm branches shouting Hosanna just a couple of days earlier would be gathered on the paddock outside Pilate’s judgment hall shouting ‘Crucify Him. His blood be upon us and our children!” How chilling!
Knowing the hearts of His disciples, Jesus knew precisely the hearts of those disciples then, just as He knows your heart today. 29 His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. 30 Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. You took a vow at your Confirmation, perhaps your Baptism and your Wedding of certain things. How tenaciously have you kept those bold expressions of fidelity and faith? We weaken over time in the face of threat, dangers, and temptations. It is for this reason that we need to consume our Daily Bread from Heaven in god’s Word. When the soldiers marched into the Garden at Gethsemane to arrest Christ, when hundreds or thousands were gathered without the Hall of Pontius Pilate screaming for His death, when they saw the horror of the crucifixion – it was then that their hearts grew fearful and faithless. But those same disciples showed no such fear in the course of their lives AFTER the Resurrection and Ascension. They now had unchallengeable evidence of who Christ was, and their faith was firm even unto death. Peter denied Christ once he was physically separated from His Person. But once Peter had been blessed with the constant Spiritual Presence of Christ with the benefits of the Holy Ghost, he never again wavered. Do you have that assurance and courage?
Christ knew their weakness, and did not condemn them for it. He knew what they would later do, and how they would die for His Gospel. 31 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? 32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. This prophecy was fulfilled within hours of its being spoken. But when one is left alone by all men, the Presence of God is of far greater worth than all the world. When you may be the ONLY one who stands upon the promises of God – when all others deny the Word – you will be standing on the Immovable Rock with God. When the dust settles, you will still be standing there while the world vanishes into the mist of doubt.
Why did Jesus speak so frankly of their coming failure? He did so to bolster their faith, and OURS. When we have been clearly told of all that may befall us in this life for our testimony of Jesus, we will be armed to withstand the withering gales of wickedness and deceit. Jesus ALWAYS knows more and better than we can know. He KNEW the coming betrayal and passion. He KNEW the burial and Resurrection. So He abides their ignorance until their faith is made invincible in the facts of His Resurrection and Ascension.
In spite of the heartaches and troubles the world may send your way, we have One who has conquered every power of the world and furled their flags. He tells us in prophecy of all troubles that may lie ahead. This is to bolster our faith when the moment comes and recall that Christ went before and won the victory for us. 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. Unlike those who claim that Christians will be taken out before the hard times roll, Christ teaches us otherwise. We can even see the pitiful and ungodly plight of Christians in china, in North Korea, in Vietnam, Pakistan, Iran, etc. Christ forearms us by forewarning us: 17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; 18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. (Matt 10:17-20) Did you believe these times were limited to that of the Apostolic Age? Are these things not happening now in many parts of the world, and there is an odor of the same beginning to arise in our own Beloved Land. BEWARE!