A Promise

2005 Nov 24

John 14:8-21 is a discourse with a famous verse in it ("ask for anything & I will do it").

What does this verse mean? Often this is interpreted for things like ministry accomplishment, etc. Does experience bear out that Jesus does what we ask regarding ministry advancement? -no it does not. Even for the most godly people that we know, they do not receive everything for which they ask from Jesus. This promise is unequivocal, so it must be a promise of something else. I think the promise is more simple and basic than the popular interpretation.

Philip had asked to be shown the Father, and Jesus said he had already seen the Father because Philip had seen Jesus. How hard was it for Jesus to have been emulating the Father? This is a trick question because there was no emulation involved at all! - Jesus and the Father are one being, so the disciples were seeing the Father himself, evidenced in the life works of Jesus. (Look at the passage in a New American Standard - the NIV unfortunately does not use the word "works".)

Because the identity of Jesus is the same as the Father, it is in His nature to do the works of the Father. Godliness is not in our nature. However, our faith in Jesus enables us to live our life doing the works of God. Maybe this is what Jesus meant by "greater things" because we would be doing the works of God in spite of them being unnatural for us.

Jesus realized the difficulty of the task so He gave us two promises as resources for success. He promised to do anything we ask in His name. And He promised to send us the Holy Spirit to be in us. That changes the equation because some of God's nature would be in us, enabling us to do the works of God. However, for us there is emulation involved because we are only an image of God.

Jesus said that any person who had faith in Him would do these works. Comparing again to experience, that means Jesus wasn't talking about the miracles. (Very few godly people do miracles.) He was talking about the ordinary tasks of life. Jesus' life was filled with a lot of ordinary stuff, and yet He had said that God the Father was seen in that stuff. These works of God start inside us then turn into action. This is the process of us learning to be Christ-like.

The whole context is about us doing the works of God. That sets very specific limits on the "anything" that Jesus would do at our asking. In fact, Jesus is saying He will do any request we make to him for His works to be evidenced in us. Not our ministry success, ministry resources or even the salvation of others. Just requests that we individually be able to do the works of God. Requests that we show Christ-likeness.

Comparing back to experience, I can't think of examples where the promise of "anything" in this context has been met with refusal. The promise in these verses no longer has reason to be a point of doubt-making, but can now be a source of confidence. So then, what should I be asking of Jesus?