John 16:23-30; James 1:22-27; Numbers 21:4-9
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Christ is risen. He is risen in deed. Alleluia!
Everything you have you have received as a gift from our Father above. (Jam. 1:17) You think you’ve earned stuff. But how did your abilities develop? By way of gift. A gift of parents who brought you forth, and imparted to you your genetic inheritance; who trained you up in the way that you should go. (Prov. 22:6) Or if your parents were lousy by way of the gift of others you received wisdom and encouragement to overcome the bad training you received from your parents. And teachers, mentors, bosses, and other people God put in your life provided new training that led to new abilities. New ways of thinking. New patterns in your life. So that all you have is by the way of gift.
This includes the breath of life in your lungs. For lungs apart from breath are dead. Lungs and breath go together. You can not separate them. If you do the lungs cease to live, to function, they become rotting flesh without breath. Meanwhile, breath without lungs is just wind. Empty. Vain. Meaningless. (Eccl. 1:2, 14; 2:11, 17, 26, etc.)
And so is religion without the word of God. (Jam. 1:26) Empty. Vain. Meaningless. For the word of God is a mirror unto you. (Jam. 1:23-24) A mirror that you must stare into. Must examine yourself by. By which you must discover that you deceive yourself when you think you are a religious or “good” person. Because you do not bridle your own tongue. (Jam. 1:26) You do not direct it into life-giving, gift-giving words. You do not do what the Law says. You should. You see the wisdom in it. You realize that being a gift to those who are afflicted is good. (Jam. 1:27) It is right. It is desirable. Who does not want to be a life-giving gift unto others? Especially those most afflicted. If you could, you would. Or at least, you know that that’s a good thing. That you should. But staring in the mirror of God’s Law shows that you are not. (Jam. 1:25) To not bridle your tongue’s desire to justify itself is foolishness. Your tongue needs to be bridled. (Jam. 3:8) It needs to be guided into saying words of repentance. Turning to the Lord in prayer. That’s what James wants you to know and do.
On the night in which our Lord was betrayed He had been saying all the funny figures of speech we’ve heard last few weeks. “A little while” and you will not see Me, then “a little while” and you will see Me. For “I go to the Father.” (John 16:16-17, 4th Sunday of Easter) And “you need Me to go, so that I can send the Helper to you.” (John 16:76, 5th Sunday of Easter)
It’s strange stuff. His disciples didn’t understand it then. They wouldn't understand it till He rose from the dead. That’s exactly what He says today. (John 16:23) “In that day”—the day when I rise. The day when I return to you from death. “You will understand these things. In that day you’ll understand what all My figures of speech were about—what they mean. (John 16:25) And then I’ll be able to speak more plainly. Right now, you don’t get that I must die and rise. But in that day you will. For the Holy Spirit will reveal all that I’ve said to you and bring it to your remembrance. (John 16:13-15; 14:26) So then, I’ll be able to speak more plainly about the Father’s plans, the Father’s purposes, the Father’s kingdom. And in that day you will pray in My name.” (John 16:23)
Now, in our day, slapping “we ask this in Jesus’ name” on the end of a prayer is common. It’s as though, we Christians think that by saying those words everything we ask must be granted. After all that’s what we heard Jesus say this morning. “Whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give to you.” (John 16:23) But that’s not what He says it means to pray in His name. He says that His Father will give you what you ask “in His name”, because you love Jesus and believe that He came from the Father. (John 16:26-27) To ask anything in Jesus’ name is to trust that He came from the Father to do the Father’s will. It is to fear, love, and trust Him whom the Father sent. To have faith in Him. To listen to Him. (Matt. 17:5) And, therefore, in faith to pray according to His will. (Matt. 6:9-13) And Jesus taught us exactly what we should pray. And little of it is for ourselves, for our own physical needs—though that is what we mostly pray for… God wants you to be provided for. That’s why the Father wants you to pray for your daily bread. (Matt. 6:11) For everything you need for this body and life. But don’t let your prayers stop there! There’s a whole lot more in the Lord’s Prayer that the Father desires to give you. Pray for those things. And bridle your tongue by directing it into those paths. For Christ is gifting you. He is going to the Father to settle your account with the Father. To pay the debt your sins owe. And to do the Father’s will. To satisfy within the Holy Trinity the justice that is deserved for your sins. But not only that, for by settling within God, according to the Father’s will, the need for justice—by taking all sin and its penalty into God by taking it into the flesh of Christ and paying for it on cross—this allows God the Father to be your loving Father. To give you all good gifts. (Jam 1:17) To have His Son always be in your corner, wanting all good gifts for you. Dispensing them to you by His Spirit through His Word.
For that Word points us to God’s Fatherly goodness. It’s always been that way. That’s why the cross was planned from before the foundation of the world. (Rev. 13:8) Because the Father has always been kind and loving. Fatherly to you. That’s why when the Israelites blasphemed God He disciplined them as any loving Father does. But in context of a whole nation He did it by sending poisonous serpents in their midst. (Num. 21:5-6) And when it had the desired effect so that they cried out to the Lord for mercy (Num. 21:7)—just as you do with a loving Father—He gave them mercy. He told Moses to set up a serpent on a cross. To be a sign of His mercy. (Num. 21:8) So that by listening to His Word of promise and looking at it, as He commanded, they would be healed. When they took Him at His Word, when their sins of blaspheming Him bit them, they would be healed by looking at this cross on which was hung the image of their sin. The Father in love, for that time and place, provided a sacrament of salvation—a physical thing, commanded by God, by which God would save them. This sign foreshadowed God’s Fatherly mercy for all the world. For Christ our Lord said, just “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:15-16)
For God is your Father. He always provides a means of escape from your sin. (1 Cor 10:13) It is looking to the One He sent for you in love. For He will hear your prayers uttered trusting in name of His Son. (John 16:23, 26-27) He will forgive your trespasses and deliver you from evil. Just as He daily gives you bread and brings His kingdom, hallows His name in your life, and brings His kingdom unto you. (Matt. 6:9-13) Along with every good and perfect gift. (Jam. 1:17)
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Regina, SK