This Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, I’ll be talking about a passage of Scripture that includes these verses:
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” (John 14.12-14, NLT)
Now, your reaction to these few verses may be heavily dependent on the tradition from which you come. If you come from a skeptical tradition, you’ll likely doubt that anything miraculous was ever undertaken. If you come from a charismatic tradition, you may believe this is a name-it-and-claim-it kind of proof text. And if you come from a more mainline tradition, it probably either scares you or baffles you.
When Jesus said these words to his disciples in the context of the beginning of his farewell discourse, he was encouraging his disciples to embrace the power that would be theirs by the Holy Spirit. See, after Jesus died and rose again, he hung around his disciples for 40 days, and then ascended into heaven. And 10 days later, God sent the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name so that his followers could experience the same power that he had – and, if you read that passage carefully, even greater works could be done than Jesus did!
But what does it mean to “ask me for anything in my name”? Doesn’t that just make Jesus seem like a genie in a bottle?
Well, it can if you don’t read with understanding. When we ask for anything “in Jesus’ name”, what’s implied there is a desire that his will be fulfilled. Praying in Jesus’ name is not some sort of guarantee our prayer will be answered our way; if anything, it’s a humble request that it be answered Jesus’ way.
When we are filled with the Holy Spirit and submit ourselves to God’s will for us in Christ, we will have power to do great things in his name. Two contrasting images come to mind here: plugging in a lamp, and letting a dog off the leash. One is stationary, one is free; but each is doing what it’s designed to do – one with staid brightness, the other with reckless abandon.
Spend a few minutes today, holding that passage before the Lord, asking how he wants it fulfilled in your life.