Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Ask Me For Anything

“Ask Me For Anything”

We continue to be in the Season of Easter - the church season that lasts from Jesus’ resurrection until the day of Jesus’ ascension into heaven which is 40 days after the Resurrection. During these 40 days Jesus remains on earth, teaching his disciples and trying to get them ready to begin their work as the disciples and apostles and evangelists for the church. During this season we recognize the presence of Jesus on earth with our Christ Candle, and we try to talk about these last concepts Jesus is trying to get us to understand before he ascends to the right hand of the Father. This season is also a time set aside to talk about this early church in its very beginnings as it struggles to form and get organized and do what Jesus instructed the church to do - which was to go into the world and teach people what Jesus has taught them. We in the church today are still given that purpose - Jesus is still charging us to “Go into the world and teach others what Jesus has taught us!” So in order to do this, we are tasked with learning what Jesus has taught us.
So Jesus is gathered with his disciples and he is trying to tell them that shortly he will be leaving them and they will have to do the work on their own. The disciples are confused about why Jesus has to leave - Why can’t he just stay with them like he is? Jesus says, “I can’t - I’m going to ‘prepare a room or some versions say ‘a mansion’ for you” So Jesus is assuring these disciples - and us for that matter - that after we get done doing this work that Jesus has given us to do, we are assured that we will get to be with Jesus for all eternity. It is Jesus’ way of reminding the disciples that doing what Jesus wants them to do - doing what Jesus really wants us to do - is going to be tough. But to keep their eye on the prize - eternity with Jesus in a mansion in heaven - whatever that may be. Jesus is just assuring us that the grief we will experience here doing Jesus’ work will be trumped by what is to come.
So Jesus continues by saying, “You guys have been with me for 3 years and you have seen what I have done.” So what has Jesus done? There is a great line in the new “Bible Movie” where Jesus’ disciples ask Jesus what they are going to do and Jesus answers, “Change the world”. And that is pretty much what Jesus wants us to do - change the world. Sounds pretty easy doesn’t it. No big deal - Jesus says to us - “Change the world” and we just shake our heads and say that is impossible and go on doing what we have been doing…..
But Jesus’ continues: If you
really believe in me - heart, soul, mind and strength - really believe in him Jesus says we can do even greater things than Jesus did. So Jesus keeps moving the bar up - first we just had to do what he did and now we have to do greater things than Jesus….. Just keeps getting harder and harder…… And Jesus says: “Think this is impossible? Ask me for anything and I will give it to you”.
“Ask me for
anything” and I will give it to you.” Think about that. Ask me for anything…”
And Jesus is saying this as a matter of fact - No big deal. Ask me…….
This is probably one of the most misused and misunderstood verses in scripture. Have you on heard someone say, “Well I prayed for whatever and God didn’t come through. It didn’t happen…” and then that person feels that asking is useless….
The story we read about Stephen from the book of Acts may help us better understand what this passage - this idea of Jesus’ promising that we can ask for anting - is all about.
The entire book of Acts is the story of the growth of the church from the time of Jesus’ ascension into heaven until the death of the Apostle Paul. The church started with 121 people and began to grow quickly. There were growing pains; there were problems - but they continued to work together and work the kinks out and attempt to be what they understood God wanted them to be. Remember these were house churches. They kept their numbers around 20 - 25 and when they grew past that some would go and begin a new house church. They worshipped together, they ‘broke bread’ together - which means they celebrated the Lord’s Supper and they sheared meals together. They

prayed together and studied together. And as they became established, they begin to do mission in their communities. Each house church had a leader who was called an elder and they had deacons - the job of the deacon was to carry out the mission of the church.
They saw their first mission as the care of widows. So the deacons in the church would go each day to each home of each person in the church, collect food and then distribute the food to the widows and whoever else needed food. The book of Acts even lifts up certain men who were deacons and talked about the good work they were doing. One of these first deacons who stood out was a man named Stephen. But Stephen not only worked to distribute goods to the widows and poor, he also took seriously Jesus’ words to tell people what Jesus had taught. So Stephen would talk to people in the streets of Jerusalem as he went out to do the mission work. He would tell them about salvation in Jesus. And of course the Jewish authorities heard about this and promptly had Stephen arrested.
At his trial, Stephen gave a wonderful speech about how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. We have it recorded in Acts 7 - take some time to read it! The speech hit the mark with the Jewish leaders and you know what happens when someone hears the truth but they don’t really want to hear it - the solution is to get rid of the messenger. So they take Stephen out to the edge of town and promptly begin to stone him to death.
It is Stephen’s reaction to his stoning that is so remarkable. He looked up to heaven and ‘saw Jesus’. Now whether we believe he actually saw Jesus or whether the Holy Spirit just lets Stephen know he has done the right thing and that God is with him - doesn’t really matter. But we know that at that moment Stephen receives the message Jesus had given to his disciples earlier - I’ve gone to prepare a place for you and it is ready for you when you get here.
So I want to you be Stephen for a moment You know and believe Jesus’ words “Ask me for anything and I will give it to you.” As you are being stoned to death, what are you going to ask for? And you believe without a shadow of a doubt Jesus will do whatever you ask….. (pause)
Stephen asked for 2 things: first was for Jesus to receive his Spirit. Not ‘save me’ or ‘make it not hurt’, or ‘make all these crazy people drop dead’. Just ‘Jesus, I’m going to die and I ask you to receive my spirit.’ And the second thing Stephen asked for “Forgive them Jesus. They just don’t understand.” And what do we know for sure - Jesus did what Stephen asked. How do we know? Because Jesus promised, “Ask me for anything and I will do it.”
What we often miss in reading this passage from Jesus is what Jesus says before he says, “Ask me for anything” because he puts a stipulation on it - he says “If it glorifies God, I will give you whatever I ask of you.”
And think about how God was glorified by what Stephen did. Stephen didn’t whine or cry or beg. Stephen didn’t get angry or call the Religious Leaders names. Stephen simply glorified God by offering himself to God and calling on God to forgive those who were persecuting him. What a witness. Stephen so believes in the promises of God he knows without a shadow of a doubt that this temporary pain will end with eternal life with Jesus. And he figures that if he can go out influencing others about the power of Jesus then that is what he will do.
What Jesus is teaching us by those words “Ask me for anything” is that in doing the work of God, in doing what Jesus has asked us to do, in being willing to be a witness in the face of persecution or more likely people thinking we are ‘goody, goody’ or ‘Bible bangers’ or ‘religious nuts’ Jesus will be there to use that witness to move others. Stephen’s persecution and death had a huge impact on the early church - not in scaring people away from the church, but showing people how important faith and commitment to Jesus Christ was.
And that is what we are charged to do. Our passage from Peter today says, You are a people called by God to show others the goodness of God. And this is when Jesus says to you, “If you feel overwhelmed or inadequate to do this job, just ask me and I guarantee I will help you.” Amen