May 5 2013 Sermon
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. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. 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. 26 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; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” 29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 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.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 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. 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.”
Isaiah tells us, “No more shall be heard the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.” Those were the sounds of Good Friday. On Easter a new sound was heard. The sound of “Alleluia;” the sound of Angels shouting, “He is not here! He is risen!” Easter is the sound of the Gospel being proclaimed, of people repenting, and of sins being absolved by pastors around the world. Easter is the sound of the Good Shepherd’s voice leading us to green pastures and still waters. It is the sound of God’s love being lived out in our lives.
But there is still another sound of Easter, a different kind of sound, for it is not a sound that we hear, it is a sound that God hears: the sound of our prayers. It’s the sound of our voices lifted up in prayer. The sound of his beloved children asking him for what they need and of his giving them whatever they ask in the name of Jesus. It is the sound of a child crawling up her father’s lap, looking into his eyes with that pleading look and saying, “Daddy, I love you.” Your heart melts…….Then suddenly you know you’ve been had. She wants something from you, and there’s no way in the world you’re heart is going to say “No.”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” The Father is not an immovable object. His heart is not made of stone. His is not fixed or inflexible. His love is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. His love does not change; the promise of his love does not change. But he can and does change his mind in our favor. He changes his mind from wrath and punishment to forgiveness and compassion, because of the death of his Son on a cross. When he sees his Son on the cross, his heart melts, and he relents from the punishment he has proclaimed. When his children made a golden calf and worshipped it in the wilderness, he told Moses, “Let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” Then Moses prayed, “Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.” And because of Jesus’ death on the cross, the Lord relented from the disaster he had spoken…. Jonah preached the judgment of God to the people of Nineveh and they repented. “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them,” (Jonah 3:10), because of his tender mercy in Jesus Christ.
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). On account of the Son, the Father loves us. Because his very own Son, Jesus Christ, became one of us; because He is our brother, the Father loves us and when he sees those pleading eyes sitting in his lap, and hears those pleading petitions, “How can he not graciously give us all things,” like grace, forgiveness, life, salvation, love…His heart melts for us.
“I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you…” His heart is full of fatherly love. Here Jesus speaks of the Father’s tender love. There are many in this congregation who feed deeply on God’s word in regular Bible study, so deep, in fact, that you are even somewhat familiar with the original languages in which the Bible was written. You know that the word “agape” in Greek means love. But here Jesus does not use the word “agape.” When he says the Father loves us, he uses the word, “phileo.” From that word the City of Philadelphia got its name. It too means love. But while agape means a love that is so perfect and complete it even loves your enemy and people you don’t like, “phileo” focuses on the feelings of love. The emotion of love, the affection, compassion and relationships. It is the love between family members. The love between friends. It is love for people you like. It is the affection, kindness, and tender feelings of a loving father’s heart when his child looks into his eyes and his heart melts. That is phileo! That is how the Father loves you!
Jesus says, “…the Father loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” The Father loves you because you have loved me and believed in me. Because of faith in Jesus Christ. You see, there is no reason the Father should love us. We have done nothing to earn his love. We do not deserve his love. We are sinners by nature and we are separated from him by sin. Only his wrath and anger and punishment do we deserve. We are by nature on the road to hell and eternal damnation, except for his Son, Jesus Christ. By faith that Jesus died on our behalf; faith in the atonement of our sins; we will not be cast out into the eternal fire of his wrath. He loves us because we have loved the Son and believed in him. We receive the gifts of God by faith.
On account of Jesus, you are reconciled to the Father. Your sins are forgiven…. By means of your baptism you are born again, you were brought to faith in Jesus Christ, and became Sons of God and brothers of Jesus Christ. Therefore the Father loves you!—emotions and all. Phileo means He has affection for you, he cares about you, he likes you! And so he gives you gifts.
“Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” He “gives” it to you means it’s a gift. Not something you have earned, but a gift. Not something you deserve, but a gift. We deserve only wrath and punishment. But on account of faith that Jesus died on the cross and paid for our sins, we can climb up on the lap of our Heavenly Father and ask in the name of Jesus, “Father, have mercy on me, a sinner,” and he will give it to you. His heart melts on account of his Son Jesus, and he gives you his good gifts; the gift of forgiveness; the gift of eternal life. “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” It’s an undeserved gift. It’s pure grace.
“Now,” says Jesus, “I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” But that’s okay too, because the Father hears our prayers and gives us what we ask. Difficult times are coming. We are in this world and will be persecuted and bear our cross just as Jesus bore his cross, but the Father himself hears our prayers. He himself loves us. So we can go to him like little children and ask for what we need, and he will give it to us because we have believed in his Son.
And the Son goes home to the Father. The Son who left his Father’s home and went on a journey to a far away land. There he took upon himself our sins and guilt. There he was hated and rejected. There he suffered and died for our sins. It was a world of famine and starvation, and there he perished. But now he has come alive again and returns to the Father. The Father was waiting for him, looking down the road for him to return, and while he was still a long way off, he saw his Son in the distance, and ran to him. There he embraced him and kissed him and ordered his servants to put a new robe on him and a ring on his finger and to kill the fatted calf and made a feast, “for this Son of mine was dead, but now has come alive.” The Father welcomed his Son home. And seated him at his right hand and gave him authority over all things. This is what happened when Jesus ascended to heaven. This week, Thursday, we will be celebrating the ascension of Jesus with a worship service. It is the homecoming of the Son, which sets the stage for our homecoming.
And when Jesus returned to the Father, all authority in heaven and on earth was given to him. The signet ring was placed on his finger. Jesus has overcome the world. He is seated on the throne of glory and rules all things for our good. So in the midst of tribulations and sufferings to come, we know that Jesus is in control. In the midst of all the uncertainties, and changes of life, there is one who is for sure, stable, strong, and who loves us that has all things under his control. Yes, he has overcome, even evil and Satan have been overcome by him. Even Satan and his angels are under the authority of the Son, so we have assurance. Jesus is our rock and salvation. Even in the midst of evil and woe, we know that “all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” Jesus has overcome the world with all its evil, so we pray boldly and confidently, “Our Father, who art in heaven,… deliver us from evil,” and whatever we ask the Father in Jesus’ name he will give it to us.
And because the Father received his Son back home, we know that he will receive us as well. For we are his brothers and the Father loves us because we have loved the Son and have believed on him. Therefore, we are comforted in our sorrow. We have assurance and hope, because there is a new sound this Easter, the sound of our prayers which the Father hears, and whatever we ask of the Father in Jesus’ name, he will give it to us.” Amen.