TITLE: In Jesus' Name, Amen SCRIPTURE: John 14:8-17 (25-27)
As a child, I heard people end their prayers, "In Jesus' name. Amen." Everyone did that. Every prayer ended with the words, "In Jesus' name. Amen."
I suspect that most adults took those words for granted, since they had heard them all their lives. However, children are generally more curious, children want to know why, so they ask why do we always end our prayers "In Jesus' name. Amen." And we are told that the Bible told us to do that. Later, we find that the "In Jesus' name" tradition started with Jesus' words in John 14. He said, "If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it."
The logic is simple. Jesus said, "If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it." Therefore, if we end our prayers, "In Jesus' name," we commit Jesus to do what we ask. It makes good sense, then, always to include the little tag line, "In Jesus' name," at the end of our prayers.
Of course, that raises other issues. For one thing, I have prayed for things that I didn't get -- even though I carefully ended my prayer, "In Jesus' name. Amen."
So Jesus doesn't answer every prayer that we conclude with the words, "In Jesus' name," and for good reason! If Jesus were to turn himself into a genie who would grant every wish, what a chaotic world this would be! Not only would our bad prayers lead us to disaster, but our good ones as well. Nobody would ever get sick. Nobody would ever get old. Nobody would ever die. We would live in a world of billions of people.
All the babies would quickly grow old enough to get a driver's license, and then stop aging. There would be tens of billions -- then hundreds of billions -- packed in like sardines -- stacked up like cordwood. After awhile, the whole earth would be completely filled with people. There wouldn't be any space left to grow food. Then what would we do? We would really be in a jam if Jesus granted every wish asked in his name.
But, in Jesus' day, this phrase, "in my name," had special meaning. A person sent in another's name was an emissary. A king, for instance, would send an emissary to conduct business in his name. While that conferred great authority on the emissary, it was hardly a license to do anything that he wanted. Before departing to faraway places, the emissary had to learn the king's desires. He had to get so "in tune" with the king that he could make the decisions that the king would make -- do what the king would do. Before a person could be an emissary -- act in the king's name -- that person had to develop an almost spiritual relationship with the king.
So when Jesus says, "If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it," he next says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Praying in Jesus' name requires that we learn Jesus' desires -- get "in tune" with Jesus -- make the decisions that Jesus would make -- do what Jesus would do. Praying in Jesus' name starts with keeping his commandments. We can never really pray in Jesus' name without first loving him and keeping his commandments.
But loving Jesus and keeping his commandments don't come naturally. We don't want to keep Jesus commandments -- we want to eat and drink and be merry. We don't want to do what JESUS wants us to do -- we want to do what WE want to do! If we were honest, we would confess that what we really want out of life is to be able to do whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it.
Jesus knew that. And so he made us another promise -- a promise to send help -- a promise to make the impossible possible. He said, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever."
When he said that God would give us another Advocate, the Biblical word is parakletos. Jesus says that God will send a Paraclete. In common lingo, a Paraclete was someone brought in to help someone in need:
-- A Paraclete could be a lawyer brought in to represent a person charged with a crime.
-- A Paraclete could be a counselor brought in to help a person struggling with a difficult decision.
-- A Paraclete could be a coach --a trainer -- someone to help a person attain high goals.
As Jesus makes clear later in this chapter, Paraclete is also another name for the Holy Spirit -- the Spirit of God dwelling within us. Jesus promises that God will send God's Spirit to live in us -- to help us -- to be with us 24/7. It matters not where we are. It matters not the time of day or night. The Holy Spirit is there to help us -- to strengthen us -- to guide us -- to protect us!
Jesus says that this Paraclete -- the Holy Spirit -- "will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you."
Jesus was getting ready to return to heaven, and he had told his disciples so many things. He could see that they didn't understand. How could they understand that Jesus would die on a cross? They expected a warrior-king, and they got a suffering-servant -- how could they understand?
It must have been so frustrating for Jesus, who made every effort to teach them what they needed to know -- only to see his words go over their heads -- in one ear and out the other.
Parents know how that feels -- especially parents of teenagers. We talk and talk, but our children don't seem to understand. They have to live their own lives -- make their own mistakes. It can be so frustrating to watch and want to help. It must have been frustrating for Jesus, too.
But Jesus wasn't through -- not by a long shot! He said:
"The Advocate, the Paraclete,
the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything,
and remind you of all that I have said to you."
He knew that the day would come when the disciples were ready to listen. When that day came, the Paraclete -- the Holy Spirit -- would be right there with them to help them.
And that same Paraclete -- that same Holy Spirit -- is here with us today. We received the Holy Spirit at our baptism, and the Holy Spirit abides with us all through life -- to help us -- to guide us -- to strengthen us -- to bless us -- to teach us -- to remind us of everything that Jesus said -- and to help us understand what Jesus meant.
Jesus then said:
"Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled,
and do not let them be afraid."
Peace! That's what we need! Jesus says that he does not give the kind of peace that the world gives -- and that is good. The world's peace comes and goes. We feel at peace as long as everything is going well -- but how often does that happen! We celebrate when politicians sign peace treaties, but how long do those last! The world's peace is fleeting.
But Jesus' peace is different. Jesus' peace comes through the Spirit living in us -- always present -- always ready to help.
That is not easy to remember, because life doesn't always go smoothly. I can't tell you that I always feel peaceful, because I don't -- but I can tell you this. When life really starts unraveling -- when times are really tough -- I become aware of my inadequacy. In those moments, I realize that, if my fate rests in my hands, I am lost. But, in those same desperate moments, I realize that my fate is not in my hands, but in Christ's -- and I realize that I am not lost -- and a wonderful peace settles over me.
There is irony here. When things are a little bit bad, I let them bother me. When they are really bad, I remember -- am forced to remember -- who is in charge. I am not in charge-- Christ is in charge. I don't have to save myself. Christ has already done that. And that brings me peace.
In an article in Decision magazine (July, 2002), Tony Evans tells of rushing to catch a plane. He was walking as fast as he could -- really straining to get to the plane on time. Then he glanced over his shoulder and saw a man walking at a much easier pace -- but moving much faster. The other man was on a moving sidewalk. Evans comments:
"When we walk in the Spirit, he comes underneath us and bears us along. We're still walking, but we walk dependent on him."
Two additional thoughts: First, when we walk by our power, we move at one pace. When we walk by God's power, it is an altogether different pace. Second, just imagine how much more peaceful the journey was for the man on the moving sidewalk.
You can have that same peace. Jesus is speaking directly to you when he says:
"Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give to you....
Do not let your heart be troubled,
and do not let it be afraid."
If you have been baptized, always remember that you received the Holy Spirit at your baptism. God's Spirit is with you 24/7 -- day and night -- in good times and bad. When you need help, ask God. God isn't in some distant heaven, but he is in the same room with you -- is in you.
The old wisdom is "Let go and let God!" That is the answer. When times are tough, let go and let God. That isn't a recipe for passivity, but is a recipe for peace. It isn't a call to stop working. It is, instead, a call to do your best -- and then to trust God to make it work out all right.
And if you have not been baptized, do it now. Be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit -- the Spirit of God living in your life -- working in your life. Let Christ -- through the Spirit -- bring you peace. Amen.