Cece here from the Dallas First Church Stepping Stones class! I can’t wait to share some highlights of what we learned in this week’s Stepping Stones lesson over John 16. (It’s a bit of long one this week!) I hope you will be blessed by this fascinating chapter.
Jesus has been talking now for three solid chapters. In a matter of hours, Jesus is trying to teach His disciples what really needs to stick from their last three and a half years together. Of particular emphasis is Jesus’ promise to send the Helper. Looking at verse 7 (“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you”), we know that Jesus did not mean that He and the Holy Spirit were “mutually exclusive,” that they can’t both be in the same place for some reason. Rather, it seems Jesus was trying to communicate that a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit that would be possible when Jesus ascended to heaven to assume the role of our interceding High Priest. (See Romans 8:26-27 and Hebrews 2:17-18.) Additionally, the Spirit would be unhindered by the limitations of humanity. I love this quote from The Desire of Ages:
Before this the Spirit had been in the world; from the very beginning of the work of redemption He had been moving upon men’s hearts. But while Christ was on earth, the disciples had desired no other helper. Not until they were deprived of His presence would they feel their need of the Spirit, and then He would come. The Holy Spirit is Christ’s representative, but divested of the personality of humanity, and independent thereof. Cumbered with humanity, Christ could not be in every place personally. Therefore it was for their interest that He should go to the Father, and send the Spirit to be His successor on earth. No one could then have any advantage because of his location or his personal contact with Christ. By the Spirit the Saviour would be accessible to all. In this sense He would be nearer to them than if He had not ascended on high. (p. 669)
Christ promises that this Helper will dwell in us (John 14:17), teach us all things (14:26), point us to Jesus (15:26), and lead us into all truth (16:12). Let’s be sure not to miss out on these amazing promises!
The next passage that I want to look at with you is John 16:23-24: “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” And then compare this promise to John 14:13-14: “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” Whoa! Did I just read that correctly?? Because I must have been missing something before at one or two points in my life! I have most definitely asked for a number of things in Jesus’ name and, guess what, they didn’t happen! What’s going on here?! As we step back to examine this promise, I think we need to look a little more closely at the “in my name” part. Is Jesus really just talking about the little suffixes we add on to the end of our prayers – “In Jesus’ name we pray, amen”? I don’t think so.
You see, in our modern Western society we have a very superficial understanding of what names meant back in Jesus’ day. Names were not just a unique identifier by which an individual was called. Instead, names were indicative of the very core of a person’s character and being. In fact, families would often wait to name a child so they could get a feel for the kid’s personality first. And so, when we study the Bible and run across the word “name,” we can almost always replace it with “character.” With that in mind, think about the much deeper meaning of verses such as Psalm 23:3, Isaiah 52:6, and Exodus 20:7! So, coming back to John 16, our passage is now given incredibly rich meaning and clarity when we understand Jesus as saying, “Whenever you pray for what is in line with My will, for what is consistent with My character, with what I am all about at My core being, then I promise that your prayers will be powerfully answered every time, no questions asked!” Just think, as we continue to grow closer and closer to Christ and as our characters begin to become more and more like His own, our prayers will become less self-centered and more focused on others and on the eternal mission of God’s kingdom. And then we are promised powerful answers.
I hope you will take some time this week to meditate on some of the awesome passages found in John 16. And that you will consider more closely the marvelous work of the Comforter and what it really means to pray in Jesus’ name.