Friday, May 6, 2016

Power in the Name of Jesus

The Gospel Reading for May 6th, Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter

John 16:20-23 ~ Your Grief will turn to Joy

Jesus said to his disciples: “20 Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. 21 When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. 23 On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”

Jesus’ Last Supper Discourse continues. At this point, Jesus offers another double amen, as He always does in St. John’s Gospel when He is going to clarify a teaching. When the disciples do not understand, Jesus tries to help them grasp what He is teaching with a symbolic reference of a woman suffering in childbirth. The travail of a woman in childbirth is the traditional Biblical metaphor for the sufferings of the Covenant people that will precede the coming of new Messianic Age (see Is 26:17-18; 66:7-14; Mic 4:9-10).

In Genesis 3:13-16, Yahweh cursed the serpent and made a promise that a deliverer born of a woman was going to come to redeem mankind by destroying the power of the serpent who is Satan (1 Jn 3:8; Rev 12:9). The prophecy tells of the enmity/war that will exist between two sides: the “seed” (literal translation) of the woman and the “seed” of the serpent. The “seed” of the serpent represents all those who, in rejecting God, become the “children of Satan.” The “seed” of the woman not only represents the only one born without the seed of a man (Jesus the Messiah), but also collectively all those who love God, “keep His commandments” and “bear witness to Jesus”—these are the “children of the woman” who is a symbol of the New Covenant Church (Rev 12:17). In the climax of the battle, the “seed” of the serpent will “strike the heel” (a Semitic expression for “to do violence against”) of the “seed” of the woman, but the “seed” of the woman will “crush” the head of the serpent (a Semitic expression for striking a fatal blow; see Ps 41:9 and Jn 13:18 and where the text literally reads “lifts his heel against me”). In this great struggle, the “seed” of the woman Mary is Jesus of Nazareth who will suffer but will also be victorious just as the other children of the woman will suffer but will also be victorious!

What is important is the relationship between the promise in Genesis 3:15 and the woman in Genesis 3:16. Both Adam and Eve are accountable for their sin in the Garden of Eden. Adam was to suffer in toiling to provide for his family, while Eve was to suffer in childbirth. When the woman was first given to Adam in the Garden of Eden, childbirth was at the center of the blessing God gave the couple: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). However, after their Fall from grace, God made childbirth through the birth of the Redeemer-Messiah the remedy through which He was to heal mankind and through a blessing of divine grace, mankind was to be restored to his original relationship with God.

From the time of the Fall, a woman’s pain in childbirth was symbolically linked to the defeat of Satan and the promise of restoration. In his commentary on this passage, Biblical scholar John Sailhamer writes: “The pain of the birth of every child was to be a reminder of the hope that lay in God’s promise. Birth pangs are not merely a reminder of the futility of the Fall; they are as well a sign of an impending joy” (The Pentateuch as a Narrative, page 108). St. Paul understood this connection when he wrote to the Christians in Rome: “We are well aware that the whole creation, until this time, has been groaning in labor pains. And not only that: we too, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we are groaning inside ourselves, waiting with eagerness for our bodies to be set free” (Rom 8:22-23).

In speaking of the disciples’ grief in verse 22, Jesus is referring to the grief they will experience during His trial, scourging, and crucifixion while the “world”, those in opposition to Christ, will be rejoicing in His pain and suffering. Their sorrow will turn to joy when they see Jesus after His glorious Resurrection. In John 14:13 Jesus told the disciples, “Whatever you ask for in my name I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” and now in verse 23b He says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” Beginning in John chapter 14 in His discourse, Jesus told the disciples when they keep His commandments the Father will honor whatever they ask. In the previous two chapters, Jesus made this statement four times; now in this chapter He has repeated this promise three more times for a total of seven times (see Jn 14:13, 14; 15:7, 16; 16:23, 24, 26).

In His statement in verse 23, Jesus tells the disciples “When that day comes,” they will no longer need to ask Him questions. The “day” Jesus is referring to is the day of His glorious Resurrection. On “that day” the glorified Christ appeared to the Apostles in the Upper Room and breathed on them as they received the Holy Spirit (Jn 20:22), “the Spirit of Truth” who gave them the understanding they needed.

Three privileges will be granted to the Apostles after Jesus’ Resurrection and to all believers at Pentecost:
1. The privilege of having an intimate relationship with God the Father through the Son.
2. The privilege that Jesus will grant the petitions of their prayers (made in accordance with His will and made in His name).
3. The privilege, through the work of the Paraclete, of understanding Jesus as the revelation of God the Father.

Jesus implies that the disciples have not asked anything in His name at this point in His mission (Jn 16:24). They cannot because they are not yet completely united to Him. This union can only take place after the “hour” of His passion, death, burial, resurrection. It is a future uniting that will give them complete access to the Father through the Son and the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul refers to this glorious union of the Church in Christ as one new person—a corporate Body of Christ that is the Christian community—in Ephesians 2:13-18. Paul assures his readers and us that “He came and preached peace to; you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him [Jesus], then, we both in one Spirit have free access to the Father” (Eph 2:17-18).
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2016