John 16:23 – “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.”

At the end of our last post, Jesus was speaking on the topic of joy.  He now reveals to the disciples yet another reason to rejoice at his departure.

At first, this verse seems a bit hard to understand – the first part says that the disciples will ask nothing of Jesus and the second part assures them that whatever they ask, they will receive.  How can we explain this?

The first thing to know is that this occurs ‘in that day’, or after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and after the coming of Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2).

The next thing to examine is the word ‘ask’.  In this verse, it has different meanings.   In one sense, it means to inquire; to seek to gain knowledge or understanding.  It also means to petition; to request something we need/want to receive.  

We are well aware that during their time with Jesus the disciples did both kinds of ‘asking’. 

For instance, Jesus would speak to the crowds in parables, but later on, in private, he gave personal instruction to the twelve regarding the mysteries of the gospel. 

Luke 8:9-10 –  And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be?  And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.

It makes sense that the disciples would continually ask him to explain different parts of his doctrines as they traveled, ate and ministered together.  They asked for and received knowledge, wisdom and understanding directly from Jesus.

The twelve received material things from him as well.  As they traveled from place to place with Christ, they depended upon the support of others to meet their daily needs.  However, Jesus no doubt supplied anything they lacked.  One example of this was when Peter wanted to pay the temple tax, but he had no money.  Jesus told him to go fishing and look in the mouth of the first fish he caught.  Sure enough, the fish contained enough money to pay the tax for both Peter and Jesus (Matthew 17:27).   

So, to summarize, the disciples were accustomed to directly asking Jesus for everything. 

This brings us to the third most significant word in this verse, which is ‘me’.  The disciples were to cease depending on Jesus for what they needed.  Let me explain.

Jesus was about to assume his new role as the Mediator between Father God and mankind.  Once that change occurred, (‘in that day’), the disciples were no longer to ask Jesus for what they needed.  They were now to make their requests directly to Father God, in Jesus’ name.  As the Mediator, Jesus would receive their requests, pass them on to the Father, then send the answer back to his disciples through the influences of Holy Spirit.  This is the meaning of the first part of the verse (in that day you will ask nothing of me). 

Once we understand that, the second part of the verse (whatever you ask of the Father in my name he will give it to you), makes more sense. 

Our heavenly Father has everything we could ever need or want.  In fact, he has resources far beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  He is the fountainhead of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).  As any loving Father, he is happy to give us what we need and want, if it is for our good.  He is particularly eager to give us anything/everything we need to further the Christ’s kingdom on earth. 

As a side note, it is worth mentioning that as we abide in Christ and his word abides in us, Holy Spirit changes our goals, desires and wills so they are compatible with the goals, desires and will of Christ.  The more spiritually mature we are, the more likely it is that we will ask for things in accordance with God’s will.  

One of the keys to receiving is that we must ask in Jesus’ name. 

What does it mean to ask in his name?

It is more than just ending your prayers with “in Jesus’ name, amen”.   We use this phrase so automatically it is almost devoid of meaning for most Christians.  Let’s reacquaint ourselves with what it means to ask in Jesus’ name.

To pray in the name of Jesus is to gratefully recognize Jesus as our Mediator.  It means we acknowledge that the privilege of asking something from God is only possible because of the sacrifice of Christ.  Without him, we could never even enter God’s presence to make our requests.  But now, the throne of grace is wide open for us; we can boldly ask God for what we need:

Hebrews 4:16 – Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

To pray in the name of Jesus is to pray in faith.  We must believe that because of (and through) Jesus, God hears our prayers and answers them.  We must believe/have faith that God keeps all of his promises.  Remember, God watches over his word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12).  If it has been promised to you in the bible, you can rest assured God will grant your request if you meet the requirements.  

Which brings up another issue that I frequently harp on… you need to be in the word, so you know what God has promised you!  You need to know what the requirements are so you can position yourself to receive/claim the promise!

John 16:24 – “Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

Jesus once again reiterates the change in procedure that was now taking place.  Prayers are to be directed to Father God, through the Mediator Christ Jesus.  Answers flow from Father God, to Jesus and are received by Christians through Holy Spirit who is Christ’s agent here on earth.  We do not need the assistance of any other human (living or dead) to make our prayers known to Jesus.  When we pray in Jesus’ name, we can be confident that our prayers will ascend into God’s presence. 

The direct consequence of asking properly is receiving what we need.  The consequence of receiving what we need is experiencing fullness of joy.  

John 16:25 – “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.”

‘Figures of speech’ (your translation may say ‘proverbs’) refers to something that is obscure, or difficult to understand.  And Jesus’ statements were obscure – at least to the disciples, at the time.  The death and resurrection of Christ are plain to us, but to the twelve who were filled with Jewish prejudices, they seemed very enigmatic and shrouded in mystery.  But they needn’t worry – a time was coming when everything would be plain and easy to understand.  This was probably a great encouragement to them at the time.

‘The hour’ refers to the Day of Pentecost when Holy Spirit came down into the world.  He is the Spirit of Truth; it is his role to communicate/explain/reveal the truths of God to mankind, making the mysteries of the gospel plain and simple for all Christians to understand.

Sometimes we tend to wonder how the disciples failed to understand certain spiritual things that seem so simple to us (like the death of Christ).  But we should be careful about criticizing them because there are clearly things in the bible that we still do not understand today.

The good news is that if we apply ourselves to study the word and we ask the Father (in Jesus’ name) to reveal spiritual mysteries to us, he will do so.  Jesus is the head of the church and he actively assists the church in every generation to understand the plans and purposes of the Father.

John 16:26-27 – “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.”

This is another passage that on first glance seems to contradict what Jesus said before.  However, that is not really the case.  Jesus is NOT refusing to intercede for believers or giving up his office as Mediator.

The overall meaning of the verse is this: 

God has always loved mankind (I John 4:19); however, we were under his wrath because of sin.  To remedy that situation, he sent Jesus to die for us.  (While we were still sinners, Christ died for us – Romans 5:8).  Those who accept Christ in faith can be reunited with the Father and experience his love through Jesus our Mediator. 

So not only can Christians count on the intercession of Jesus, we can also have confidence that because of our relationship with him, the Father is favorably inclined to freely give us all that we ask for, without any difficulty.   This is the point Jesus is stressing in this verse.

Because of our love or Jesus and the Father’s love for us, there is no need for us to convince him to help us.  We don’t need to somehow talk him into assisting us.  There is no need for us to beg God for what we need.  Remember, begging does not move the hand of God – faith does!

This brings up something else for our consideration.  When you picture Jesus making intercession for you with the Father, what do you see in your mind’s eye?  Do you picture Jesus on his knees in front of God, begging and pleading and hoping to get what we need?  Do you picture a miserly God who grudgingly gives away his blessings?  If so, you need to think differently because nothing could be further from the truth!

Romans 8:32 – He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

God is very pleased with the obedience and sacrifice of Jesus.  At this very moment Jesus is seated at the right hand of God in a position of honor, authority and power (Romans 8:34).  Because his sacrificial work is a part of who he is, it is continually present in the throne room of God; God is always aware of it.  Because God is perfectly pleased with his Son and the sacrifice he made, we have the heart of Father God as soon as we approach him in the name of his Son.  On this basis he is ready, willing and able to give us what we ask for.

Mark 11:24 – Therefore I say unto you, whatever things you desire, when you pray, believe that you will receive them, and you shall have them.

So, when you approach Father God in prayer, make your requests in faith, believing that you will receive what you have asked for!

John 16:28 – “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

In essence this verse is a plain and simple declaration of the mission of Jesus – He came from the Father into the world to redeem it.  Now that his mission was about to be completed, he would once again return to the Father in heaven. 

The disciples were fully convinced that Jesus had come from God – they accepted him as God manifested in the flesh.  Jesus now helps them to understand that upon his ‘exit’ from the flesh, he would be received back into heaven by the Father – he would return to the glory that was his before the world began (John 17:5). 

John 16:29-30 – 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.”

As we mentioned in our last post, the disciples were perplexed by the statement of Jesus in verse 16 (a little while, and you shall not see me: and again, a little while, and you shall see me because I go to the Father).

In verses 17-18, they debated among themselves what these words meant, but it is clear from the text that Jesus did not hear this part of the conversation. Yet, in verse 19 Jesus knew that the twelve wanted to question him about that statement. 

Therefore, when Jesus knew and answered all the questions of the disciples (without them asking), it proved that he had divine power; he could search and know the minds and hearts of men.  This was yet another confirmation for the disciples that Jesus came from God and was divine.  

At this point, their understanding of Christ’s person, mission and office had grown.  Although they still did not know the full meaning of these things (that would only come through Holy Spirit), they were very comforted to have some insight into the plans of God.

John 16:31 – Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?”

In the prior verse the apostles made a full profession of their faith in Jesus’ divinity and in his omnipotence. 

In response to that confession, Jesus asked them this question, which was clearly designed to get the disciples to embark on a full and truthful examination of their own hearts.  The disciples felt they had unshakable faith, but that wasn’t the case.  They didn’t realize just how weak their faith actually was.

Of course, trials and/or persecution are the real tests of faith.  In a very short time Jesus’ suffering and shame was about to commence and this would result in a severe test of their faith, as Jesus describes in the next verses.

John 16:32 – “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.  Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.”

Again, Jesus accurately predicts future events.  Once he is arrested and crucified, the disciples are absolutely terrified of suffering the same fate so they scatter, forsaking Jesus (Matthew 26:56) and each other. At that point, it was every man for himself.  Soon afterward, many of the disciples traveled to Galilee and returned to fishing (John 21:1-14).

But even though the disciples fled, Jesus was not alone.  God was with him and that was all he really needed.  The Father had promised to be with Jesus during his whole incarnation (Psalms 89:21) to preserve (Isaiah 49:8) and strengthen him (Isaiah 50:7). 

As he hung on the cross Jesus was so assured of his Father’s presence with him, that he committed his Spirit into the Father’s hand upon his death.

Every Christian has the assurance that God never leaves us.  He walks with us on the mountaintop as well as in the valley of the shadow of death.  Even if man forsakes us, God never will.

John 16:33 – “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

This is the conclusion of Jesus’ farewell sermon to his disciples.  Jesus reiterates that the world will hate them, because it hated him first.  Any follower of Christ can expect trouble and tribulation from those in the world. 

Yet, despite opposition and persecution, the disciples could have peace that passes all understanding, because the Spirit of Christ was always with them. 

They could also be assured that God is the final victor in all things. 

Jesus knew that his sacrifice on the cross was the means to victory over Satan, the god of this world.  The disciples, however, didn’t realize this.  To them, the cross seemed like the final end of the ministry of the Messiah.  This is why Jesus assures them that, despite what things would look like in the next 72 hours or so, he had indeed overcome the world. 

Let me offer you some encouragement:

As we noted in today’s post, we are to pray to Father God in Jesus’ name and expect to receive an answer from Holy Spirit.  This is the normal process for every single Christian. 

While it is certainly appropriate for others to pray for/with us at certain times, this should not be our normal routine.  You shouldn’t be calling your parents or your pastor every time you need to be in touch with God!   You should be ‘asking’ for what you need yourself.  After all, who knows your situation/needs better than you?

If you are a new Christian or if you haven’t been regularly engaged in prayer, I strongly encourage you to develop your prayer life.  Discover the joy of meeting God in prayer on a daily basis.  You’ll be glad you did!

Let me offer you some relief:

Faith in God and his promises plays a key role in today’s study.  Jesus asked questions that were designed to get the disciples to examine their own lives and to evaluate their level of faith. 

What is your level of faith?  If it isn’t as strong as it should be, don’t fret.  Faith is a living substance that continues to grow the more you use/exercise it.  Examine your life and find those situations that need to be changed.  Find a promise in God’s word that speaks to your issue and stand on it in faith!  Pray to the Father in Jesus’ name, and watch for the answer.

Let me offer you some strength:

There was a point in time when it seemed to the disciples that Jesus had suffered defeat at the hands of his enemies.  But as we are well aware, that was not the case. 

Sometimes we also experience situations where victory seems far away or even impossible.  Perhaps you have prayed for something or someone for a long period of time, and nothing seems to change.  If that is you, I urge you to stand strong in your faith! You can be sure that Father God has heard your heart’s cry. 

You can be sure that he is working ‘behind the scenes’ to bring that situation to a place where it will be for your good.  So don’t give up –stand strong and wait for your victory to manifest itself!

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