Sermon: John 16:23-33, Prioritizing Prayer and Peace

Audio Sermon

Sermon: People of God, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! As we come to the last two Sundays of the Easter Season, we begin to get a sense of the surpassing greatness of the resurrection. In our passage, Jesus is preparing His disciples, so they may persevere and believe.[1]

Jesus has been with them throughout His ministry and now He promises not to abandon them. This preparation is precisely what they will need when Jesus dies at the cross. This Upper Room Discourse is filled with contrasting language. The language of going and coming, grief and joy, tribulation and peace, asking and receiving, seeing and not seeing, parable and open speech, unbelief and faith, the world and God.[2] This language is used to describe precisely the emotional state and the response of the disciples when Jesus would depart from them, but at the same time it would reflect the disciples’ response when Jesus would be with them “in a little while.”

The Lord Jesus will be arrested and betrayed. It is important that they grasp what our Lord is about to say, so their faith will not falter; that they will be strengthened to endure what is ahead.

There will be a great reversal. The night will turn into day and sorrow will turn into joy, but they must see first that death must happen, before resurrection.

Jesus provides not only his word of assurance, but also His intercession before the Father. The disciples would fail if they trusted in their own ability to persevere. In verses 23-33, Jesus puts things into perspective by instructing them to ask and receive that their joy may be full.

The call to “ask” appears six times in this narrative. The disciples—as we have seen—have already asked Jesus many questions. They wondered among themselves what “a little while” means. This lack of knowledge will be filled when the Resurrection and the Coming of the Spirit takes place. After these events we see in the book of Acts that the apostles seldom asked any questions. They were under the guidance of the Spirit of God.[3] This is the precisely what Jesus says in verse 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.” Calvin writes that the disciples were like little children who when learning to read needed to pause constantly, so that everything Christ told them required them to think and pause, in order to understand its significance.[4] But on that day, when Jesus is raised from the dead, and in particular, when the Spirit of God is poured out like fire upon them at Pentecost, the reversal will be complete. “The great joy of seeing him again will do away with the torment of uncertainty.”[5] The night of darkness and doubt will become the morning of deliverance.

The vindication of the Son in His resurrection means that any asking must be in the Name of Jesus. This is not a mantra or a magical formula, but a historical and theological reality. Their instruction, direction, strength and success in the post-resurrection era of redemptive history depend on their prayers. It is not that they will stop asking, but that their asking will be shaped by a new reality; the reality of the New World that is dawning. The death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ to the Father make Him the perfect mediator between God and Man. Our asking is now mediated through Christ. Our prayers are answered on the basis of Christ’s finished work and exalted position at the right hand of the Father.

Ask, and you will receive that your joy may be full. Similarly, the Psalmist says that if we delight in the Lord He will give us the desires of our heart.[6] There are two reactions to this type of statement. There are those in the charismatic branch who believe that if we “name it we can claim it!” We often joke about this type of mentality, because it is absurd in light of the biblical record. People have fallen prey to this type of false theology for decades and instead of being guided into all truth, they have made for themselves their own version of the Holy Spirit and their own version of Jesus. The reality is that we cannot treat this verse as a magic formula to fulfill our Christmas wish list. On the other hand, there are many evangelicals who are too pious to receive blessings from God. They fall into the category of “You do not receive because you do not ask.” This position is equally ridiculous. It looks at physical and material good as evil. By nature, this idea is Gnostic. They despise those who are wealthy and treat the rich in the congregation as an inferior species. But biblically, God is always in the business of blessing His people, even with material blessings. But where we go wrong is in assuming that He will always bless us in the way we think He should bless us. What we must see is that in asking, God sets the limits and the boundaries. He gives and he takes away. He gives according to His purposes and He takes away according to His purposes.

In verse 24 Jesus clarifies that the end, the telos of our asking is our full joy. The disciples could not pray in Jesus’ Name, because Jesus had not yet ascended to the Father, but soon enough they would ask and they would receive and their joy would be full. As we read throughout the Acts of the Apostles and through Paul’s writings, you will note that there is an overwhelming joy in their ministry. This leads me to think that the proper context of this asking is the mission of the kingdom, which is the advancement of Christ’s agenda for the world.

In verses 25-28, Jesus tells the disciples that the hour will come when He will speak clearly and plainly about the Father. The wisdom of God, which is many times given through proverbs and through mysterious pictures, will become clear to the disciples in the hour to come. The hour is synonymous with “on that day.” The hour is the hour of resurrection and the pouring of the Spirit on the people. The disciples will soon discover the full nature of the relationship between the Son and the Father, and the Son and the Spirit. They will understand, as one scholar puts it, “The Trinitarian dance.” The persons of the Godhead work harmoniously with One another, because their mission is One, the salvation of the world.

“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.” In this passage Jesus says that I do not say I will ask the Father on your behalf. How can He be the mediator between God and Man and not speak on our behalf? We know from that the Bible teaches that Jesus is our advocate[7] and He always speaks on behalf of His chosen people, His flock. The answer to this supposed contradiction is that thanks be to God, the text does not end there. The reason Jesus makes this statement is in order to make another statement. He is our Mediator, but He also wants to stress that we are now reconciled to the Father. The wall that separated us from the Father will now be broken on that day when Jesus rose from the dead. The tomb pictured that separation. When the stone was removed, the separation vanquished. The Father poured His love on us in His Son and Jesus wants to make plain that loving Him means loving the Father, and it means receiving the full adoption as sons of the kingdom.

In verse 28, we see the powerful theological summary of Jesus’ life and mission; a complete summary of the Christian faith, which we profess every week either in the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed. The text says that He came from the Father into the world, that is, Jesus eternally existed with the Father and now He is sent to earth in human flesh to be the faithful servant of Yahweh. And now, Jesus will leave the world, because His work has been accomplished and He is returning to the Father as a vindicated, faithful, and perfect Son; One who fulfills His mission and now sits as the exalted King of Kings and Lord of Lord.

This declaration seems to open the eyes of the disciples. We see this in verses 29-33 when the disciples affirm in wild amazement that the Son of God is who He says He is. And in a humorous way, Jesus upon seeing their realization of Who He is asks the question: “Do you now believe?” As if to say, “I have told you many times and now you see?” But in another sense, He is also saying, “Now that you believe, you are prepared to endure what is ahead.”

In verse 32 Jesus says, “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.” The idea here is that Jesus “must bear the full burden of the world’s hostility to him alone, while the disciples go free, each to his own home, and abandon Jesus. The disciples will not be the ones abandoned like sheep; Jesus will be abandoned as Shepherd.”[8] The reality is that there will be a time when they will not be able to follow Jesus. Jesus must walk the road alone, so that we may not be alone. Jesus must endure abandonment from His own, so that his disciples may not be abandoned, but hopeful. But yet, Jesus says that He is not alone, for the Father is with Him. He will not need the comfort of any disciple. The Father never abandoned His Son. Even though He cried out, “My Father, My Father, why have you forsaken Me? yet, the Father had not fully forsaken Him. One commentator wrote that though God “withdrew his gracious and comforting presence from him…yet not his powerful and supporting presence.”[9]This is an area in which we need to simply affirm the biblical message. There is a sense in which Jesus was forsaken by the Father and there is a sense in which the Father was always with the Son. The eternal Father was with the Son in the darkness of death and in the brightness of the resurrection.

How Shall we Then Live?

We have spoken of prayer. And all of us here know the significance of prayer. We all know it is indispensable to the Christian life. But yet, many times we as a people do not prioritize our prayer life as the Bible does. In the Scriptures, the mission of the New World is central. If we are to find delight in prayer, we must find delight because our prayer corresponds with the priorities of the Kingdom. When did you last pray that was God would destroy His enemies for the sake of His Son? Or when was the last time your prayer took on a missiological focus. Missions is the heart of God. God is a missional God. The disciples knew that their task would open the doors of nations who have been closed to the gospel. We need to embrace a missional view of the world. Websites like operationworld.com provide a wonderful resource for those interested in praying for the nations. Our small denomination has done a marvelous job in taking biblical education to Eastern Europe. The Slavic Reformation Society is a marvelous testimony of God’s grace in that part of the world. This is one reason Providence has begun to support the work of Blake Purcell in Russia. If you are interested in developing a pattern of prayer for the nations this summer, I will be glad to speak to you following the morning worship. My general impression in the few years I have analyzed the evangelical landscape is that prayers in the church of Christ are mis-prioritized. They do not comport with the overall mission presented in the Scriptures. This is an area we need to think through as a church.

Jesus concludes in verse 33 by offering peace to his disciples. This is a common term in our day, but one that few actually possess. We see peace signs in our society in political rallies and baseball games, but typically peace is never associated with the sacrificial death of Jesus. Peace only come to those who know that Christ has died for our transgressions and has been raised for our justification. Peace is not the absence of tribulation, but it is looking at tribulation through resurrected eyes. Peace is a worldview. It is the mental and spiritual assurance that just as the Father never forsook His Son, He will never leave or forsake you.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! In the Name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.


[1] See John 13:19 & 14:29.

[2] C.S. Barrett, The Gospel According to John (An Introduction with Commentary and Notes), pg. 491.

[3] Matthew Henry, Commentary on John.

[4] John Calvin, Commentary on John.

[5] Herman Ridderbos, A Commentary on John’s Gospel.

[6] Psalm 37:4

[7] See I John 2:2.

[8] Herman Ridderbos, Commentary on John, pg. 499.

[9] John Gil, Commentary on John’s gospel. Gil is one of the few who attempted to find some explanation for this  passage.

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
This entry was posted in John, Sermons/Easter and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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