By: Steven Nelms
First things first, let’s look at what Jesus was talking about when he dropped this genie’s lamp into his disciples’ hands (See Part 1). Thus far we have been emphasizing all the wrong words in this verse, John 14:13-14, which is what leads to our misunderstanding of it. First we see that we are the askers, Jesus is the doer. We rub the lamp, make a wish that commands Jesus to act, and then he twirls his arms above his hand and poof! I am now bestowed with the supernatural ability of flight. But as we’ll see, we’ve put the emphàsis on the wrong syllàble.
"Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” - John 14:13-14
My initial tendency when understanding this verse and seeing how it contradicts reality is to look at two words; whatever and anything. I see those two words and instantly notice that I do not have anything and everything that I have ever prayed for. That’s quite obvious as I currently am not successfully writing out these words by telekinetic powers. There are quite a few prayers in my requests column that, according to my magic 8-ball, don’t have a good outlook for answers. So let’s zoom out a bit and look at what’s going on before Jesus invites us to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what we want.
We are at the very end of Jesus’ time on Earth. This verse falls in the 4 chapters of John that contain Jesus’ last sermon to his disciples. In the chapter just before, he has washed his disciples’ feet, acknowledged that Judas was going to betray him, and foretold Peter’s denial of knowing Christ. So he knows that his time with his disciples is coming to a swift close and he is taking every opportunity to tell them all that they need to know and need to hold on to. Some of the most profound truths about our relationship with God and who Jesus is are found in these chapters. One of these truths is what we are talking about this right now.
Chapter 14 of the gospel of John begins with Jesus exhorting his followers to hang on to their hope in Christ. Jesus reassures them that he is going away to make a home for them so that he might take them there someday. Thomas reminds Jesus that they have no idea where he is going so how can they know the way in order to meet him there? Jesus responds, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus answers Thomas’ question exactly. Where am I going? I’m going to the Father. How will you get there? You’ll get there through me and only me. Then Phillip asks that Jesus would just show them the Father and that would be enough. In other words, to actually physically be with the Father would be far too much, but if Jesus would just show them the Father then that would be more than enough to satisfy them. And then Jesus introduces himself explicitly to Phillip as he answers, “Don’t you know me, Phillip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus here explicitly introduces the Father to his disciples. This begins a repetition that pervades through chapter 17. Jesus again and again states and restates this relationship of him and the Father being in perfect unity as one. Jesus is intentionally, purposefully identifying himself with the Father to such an extent that the disciples would understand they intimacy shared within the Godhead.
This theme is critical to understanding the next few verses.
In chapter 14, verse 10 Jesus explains that, “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 his work.” There are two elements that Jesus coincides with himself and the Father. That is, what he speaks and what he does. He is one with the Father, so much so that every word on his lips and every motion of his body is exactly, perfectly representative of the Father living in him. Jesus goes on to say, “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.” (John 14:11). Jesus, who could not be proven to have ever spoken falsely, states that if his word is not to be trusted, then surely what he does, the actions he takes, the things he gets done can be sufficient evidence as to his unity with the Father.
Next, Jesus goes on to say that those who believe in him will continue to do works that would be even greater than the ones he accomplished, and only because Jesus would be going to the Father (John 14:12). This has to do with the giving of the Holy Spirit once Jesus is glorified at the right hand of the Father (John 7:39). And now we find ourselves back to the verse we are reassessing. In light of the preceding verses, what element of verses 13 and 14 should be standing out?
Immediately we should catch on to this repeating theme of the Father being glorified in the Son. This phrase begins with two words; “so that”. So now we know that whatever function preceding these two words must be solely for the reason of the Father being glorified in the Son. We now have a completely different emphasis on this verse. Instead of the idea being focused on me asking for whatever and anything that I want, the focus is shifted back onto the Father being glorified by the actions of Jesus. And as Jesus just got done telling us, all that he says and all that he does is perfectly reflective of the Father living in him. So if our requests invoke the actions of Christ, they must be consistent with Jesus’ identity and unity with the Father if we are to expect any response.
To Be Continued...