John 16:23-33; James 1:22-27; Numbers 21:49
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is making an important distinction in our Gospel reading today. For, there is a big difference between asking of Jesus and asking in His Name. But, just what is Jesus talking about? In the former situation, Jesus serves as an intermediary; you ask Jesus for something you want and He, in return, makes your request known to the Father. And, that’s pretty good, to be sure! However, in the latter situation, you get to ask the Father directly in Jesus’ Name. To ask the Father in Jesus’ Name is not merely to tack the words “In Jesus’ Name” on to the end of your prayers, though it is certainly that, but, to ask in Jesus’ Name means to ask in faith in Jesus and the Father, and, not merely as an object, mind you, but incorporated into Jesus, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone, as His Bride, His Brother, and co-heir with Him of His Father’s kingdom.
Thus, both your prayer and your Father’s answer to your prayer are rooted in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. When the Word of God became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us, it wasn’t only that He became a man, but He also assumed all humanity into Himself. Jesus didn’t become a man, He became the Man, He became Adam as Adam was meant to be and more! As in Adam we have all been one, one huge rebellious man, so in Jesus are all men made to be righteous.
However, you must be in Him. That is to say, you must have faith, not merely in Him, as an object apprehended by reason, but you must have the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit in you. For, faith in Christ is not merely intellectual assent, but it is communion in and with Him. Faith comes from hearing. That is, faith comes from outside of you, it is external to you, received through your ears, your eyes, and whatever other senses you have or require. But, when you hear, your whole body and person is affected. Likewise, Jesus taught, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” Therefore, faith in Christ Jesus changes you, and for the better. If Christ is in you, then you are a new creation, the old has passed away.
This is why Jesus says to you, “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.” To ask in Jesus’ Name is to ask, not merely for His sake or because of His intercession, but to ask as God’s own dear Son would ask His Father knowing that He will be heard and received and His request granted. Do you see the difference? Because of the incarnation; because the Word of God, His Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, assumed the form of a man, He has taken you into Himself so that all that belongs to Him is granted to you: Sonship with the Father, holiness and righteousness, eternal life. Faith is what makes these things yours, which incorporates you into Christ, but faith is itself a gift of God’s Holy Spirit through the vehicle of His Word. Where the Word of God is received and not rejected, the Father will love him, and the Holy Trinity will come to him and make His home with him.
Jesus shared these words and made this important distinction to prepare His disciples for His going away. He said to them, “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.” Jesus knew, Jesus promised that His followers would suffer because of Him, therefore, He told them beforehand that, when tribulation came, they would remember His words and be strengthened in their faith to persevere through suffering. In a typological way, today’s reading from the Old Testament describes the same situation.
In the Old Testament reading, the people of Israel became impatient in their journey. They began to doubt whether the LORD was with them and they feared the Edomites, seeking to journey around their land so as to avoid conflict with them. Further, they came to loathe the sustaining food that the LORD had provided for them and they began to grumble against God and against Moses. Therefore, the LORD sent fiery serpents to bite the people and many of them died. Now, chances are likely that, had they passed through the land of the Edomites, there would have been some sort of conflict. God never promised that there wouldn’t be. Further, He is fully able to bring good out of such conflict, even out of evil (remember the Ninevites). Moreover, as they were journeying through an arid wilderness, the likelihood of being bitten by a poisonous snake was relatively high. Nevertheless, the LORD did increase the people’s affliction in order to turn them in repentance that they might pray to Him and call upon Him once again as LORD and God. For, the truth was that, just as danger and evil was amongst them all the time, all the more was the LORD in the midst of them all the time.
Therefore, the LORD commanded Moses to make a fiery serpent and to set it on a pole, so that, anyone who was bitten, when he gazed upon the fiery serpent raised up on the pole, would not die, but live. To the bronze serpent, the LORD, who was always present with His people, attached His Word of promise. Though it was, in their eyes, a horrible image, the very symbol of their pain and suffering and death, nevertheless, God made it to be the means of healing and life. Yet, the bronze serpent was but a shadow and a type of the horrible image God would raise up on the cross – His Son, Jesus Christ. He would not be an image of bronze fashioned by human hands, but He would be the very Son and Word of God Himself, conceived by the Holy Spirit of a virgin woman, so that He is True Man and True God. All who hear His Word and keep it, all whose eyes are filled with His Light, all who are baptized into His death and resurrection and believe Him will live, even though they die, and those who live and believe in Him will never die. While merely gazing upon the bronze serpent was sufficient to cure those bitten by the deadly poisonous serpents, how much more does faith and communion with Christ who shares your flesh and blood as your Bridegroom, Brother, and Co-heir of His Father, cure you of the deadly poison of sin and death you have suffered from Satan’s deadly bite?
You don’t need to ask Jesus for what you need, for now you can ask the Father in Jesus’ Name. That is, you can ask the Father with faith in Jesus; you can ask the Father in communion with Jesus; and, you can ask the Father as Jesus asks His heavenly Father and is heard because He is loved by the Father and you are loved by the Father in Him. Thus, asking in Jesus’ Name is literally asking in Jesus, as Jesus’ Bride, Brother, body and blood. Asking in Jesus’ Name is asking for those things that Jesus would ask for, those things that are completely in willing accord with the Father’s will, Word, and wisdom. No, the Father will not give you everything that you ask for, but He will give you whatever you ask in Jesus’ Name.
To help you to understand what it means to be in Jesus and to ask the Father in Jesus’ Name, you have the words of St. James in today’s Epistle Reading, “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James would have you understand that you have been changed by faith in Christ, that you are no longer who you were, but that you are a new creation, born again by water and the Holy Spirit. Thus, you are no longer one who merely hears God’s Word, but you are one whom God’s Word has penetrated and raised from death to life in Christ. You are not merely a hearer, but you are a doer of His Word – you are a little Christ. You will ask in Jesus’ Name, and you will do as Jesus did. James exhorts you saying, “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.” For, in Christ, you have looked into the perfect law, the law of liberty, therefore you may pray with boldness and confidence as dear children of God.
Though Christ has ascended, you are not alone, but He is with you, and you are with Him in intimate communion through baptism and faith, body and blood. You are not an orphan, but you have Jesus, your brother, God, your Father, and the Church as your Mother. You are not a widow, but you have a Husband and Bridegroom, Jesus, who has laid down His life to purchase you and redeem you, to make you holy, pure, clean, and righteous. He will never leave you or forsake you. Though He is at the right hand of His Father in heaven, you are His body, and, where your Head is, there His body shall surely be. Even now He is present to commune with you, His Bride, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone to strengthen you and restore you in faith and holiness. Soon He will come to take you to be with Him in His kingdom forevermore. The Spirit and the Church cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come, quickly, come.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.