John 14: 1 – 14 Jesus comforts his disciples
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house had many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’
Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’
Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’
Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
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What an amazing passage this is!
There is the wonderful consolation of verses 1 – 4, with its direct assurance that we will be with Jesus when we leave this mortal life.
There is the blunt question of Thomas, the sceptic, in verse 5, and Jesus’ transcendent response, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life,’ which tells us that reality is Jesus; and Jesus is reality.
There is Philip’s request, which must have taken some courage as Philip’s view of the Father would have been the God of Moses – awesome, appearing as a column of fire, or a pillar of smoke, and after being in whose presence Moses’ own face shone so that it had to be covered (Exodus 34: 29 – 35). And Jesus replies, ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.’
Then, finally, there is Jesus’ promise about what his disciples will do after he has been glorified: ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.’
I’m going to look at this last promise, because it’s one with which I have struggled.
Between thirty and forty years ago, in the heat of the Pentecostal renewal, I was in a house group that prayed earnestly for many good things – and we saw healings and other signs that couldn’t readily be explained in human terms. Then one of our group was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We prayed. He worsened. We prayed a lot. He died. That was a body blow.
‘You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.’
We knew this promise of Jesus. So what were we doing wrong?
We continued to pray in faith. We still saw healings occasionally. God answered prayer, but our expectations were lowered.
Now, this blog has been started in faith. I was praying to be closer to Jesus, and he said, “It’s easy. Just spend some time being with me. I’m always with you, but I can’t show you myself unless you look”. And then, as I hesitated, partly wondering whether this was real, and partly wondering just what Jesus meant, he said, “You’re a writer. Read St John’s gospel and blog about what you learn. Don’t worry about readers – it doesn’t matter if you have no readers – just write the blog and publish the posts.”
So that’s what I’ve done. Every day except Sunday, it’s been the first task of the day to read, pray and write. Sometimes it’s taken all day. Many times I have no readers, but it doesn’t matter. And I’m growing closer to Jesus – or, as he is always with me, I should say that I am slowly, slowly learning how to listen to him and how to know him better.
Which brings me back to Jesus’ promise, ‘You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.’
Jesus is talking about requests made in his name, which is to say, in accordance with his will. Our intercessions need to be in line with God’s plan, just as Jesus’ intercessions are. While I was reading about this, I came across a sentence that summed it up very neatly: “The primary principle of intercession is simply to tell God what he tells us to tell him as the means of releasing his power.” If we learn how to understand God’s will in a situation, we know how to pray about it, and we will see his promise fulfilled.
Finally, here are two encouraging passages of scripture to help us understand God’s will.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1: 5)
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12: 2)
Thank you for helping me be more aware of Jesus’ presence with me. Please help me to be a faithful disciple.
In Jesus name, Amen