Lectionary Reflection: John 14:8-27 In His Name

In the first part of this passage for Sunday, Jesus says something startling.  14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.  (NIV). 

But what does it mean “in my name?”  Certainly this has been one of the most misunderstood passages in the scriptures.  No.  It isn’t a license to do anything we please, and no it is not a matter of faith.  (Some say if God doesn’t keep this “promise” it is because the person doesn’t have enough faith).  Ha!  Wrong!

In Scripture, there is a passage about the tribulation which says…”Let him who is on the housetop not come down…”  So in the 50s, there was a hairstyle called a top knot that was particularly popular among young women – implied “loose” young women.  So one preacher preached from the scriptures:  “…top not come down.”  That was the only part he read.

So it is with this passage and people who think it is a “promise” and if you have enough “faith” God is bound by his word to keep his promise and do whatever we ask.  But like the preacher in the 50s, you have to take the passage in context if you want to really understand it.  The very next line is:   15“If you love me, you will obey what I command.  (NIV). 

In fact, this whole discourse is about obedience to Jesus’ words (God’s Word).  With that in mind, what then can “in his name” mean?

Well, consider a diplomat (Ambassador) on the field in Afghanistan.  And say he tells a general to take his army and invade Iran.  Of course, as an Ambassador, he is assumed to be speaking in the President’s name.  Hopefully, though, the General is wise enough to phone the White House and verify.

“Hell no!”  The President might say.  “He has no authority to say that in my name.  I haven’t told him to say that!”  (Can we all sigh some relief)?

And we are God’s Ambassadors.  This is when we speak in his name.

So your friend (secretly jilted by your sister, unbeknownst to you) is in the witness box and your own attorney asks the question that your friend answers.  “Yeah, the accused told me right before the trial started that he was not only speeding but he ran over a person ten miles back?” 

Your friend grins wickedly and rubs his hands together.  The revenge is on your sister but you pay the price. Your lawyer smiles and says “No more questions.” And jingles the money in his pocket.

You jump up.  “Your honor, I never said any such thing.  I never ran anybody over.  And I wasn’t speeding!”  You turn to your lawyer and if your lawyer does not “fix it immediately!” you might consider the words “You’re fired.”  After all, your lawyer is the one charged to speak in your name, and he is charged to do so honestly and fairly, no matter how big the bribe…

And here we are witnesses for Jesus. Defense attorneys speaking in his name.  We are charged to speak honestly and fairly and not say things he never said or authorized.

You see, to speak in someone’s name is to speak the words they authorize whether that is the President, the accused, or the King of Kings. 

If you look at the whole passage, Jesus is talking about us being one with him as he is one with the father.  He is talking about the in-filling with the Holy Spirit who will bring us into conformity with him, to teach us his ways and remind us of his words.  The Holy Spirit helps us to be obedient to all that God asks and makes us one with God’s will.  (God does the work.  We agree).  And in that case, if you ask for something that is clearly Jesus’ will, of course he will do it.  (duh)!

Learn from him.  His yoke is easy and his burden is light.  The obedience of love looks for oneness with God; to be brought into the likeness of Jesus.  One Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all.  It really isn’t a matter of how much faith we have.  It all has to do with oneness with his will, with learning his ways and obediently walking in them.  Then when ask, he will do it!  And that is the promise.

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