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We call this Sunday, ‘the 6th Sunday of Easter.’ But that is a relatively modern name for the Sunday. For centuries, this Sunday has been known as “Rogate Sunday.” The name comes from the Latin word: “rogare,” which means “to ask.”
The name comes from Jesus’ words to His disciples which He speaks to them in the Upper Room either during the meal or after the Last Supper is concluded; “In that day you will ASK nothing of me. Truly, truly I say to you, whatever you ASK of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have ASKED nothing in my name. ASK, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
Ever since that day He had called them saying “come, follow Me…” He had become the center of their life. For over three years, the disciples have ate and drank, walked and talked, lived and breathed Jesus. Every new day was a new day with the Lord. He was their “all in all.” Sounds good doesn’t it?
But now the time had come for Jesus to be taken away from them. And He knows how hard this will be for them. “In that day…” they will be like sheep without a shepherd. “In that day…” they will not know where to find Him. “In that day…” they will think that they have been left all alone among wolves that want to devour them simply because they had been His followers. Just like you are.
“In that day…” they will wonder what it was all about, this LIFE He had called them into, this HOPE that He had implanted in their hearts, this LOVE that He had shown them, this JOY that they felt. At times they had thought that they would explode for JOY.
As long as they had LIVED in this world they had never known LIFE like the LIFE that they LIVED in Jesus.
This HOPE that He implanted in them was the HOPE that He was going to give His LIFE to the whole world that everyone might truly LIVE.
This LOVE that He had shown them, was unconditional LOVE, not based on status or accomplishments or any sense of worthiness, but pure LOVE, LOVE just for the sake of LOVE, and therefore it was LOVE for everyone.
And so their JOY was nothing at all like those fleeting moments of fun or happiness or escape that they had called JOY. This was a JOY in Jesus. A JOY that He had called them, out of their LIFELESS, LOVELESS, HOPELESS existences, and given them His LIFE and LOVE and HOPE.
But they were about to go from the light into the darkness because the light was about to be taken away from them. And they would surely wonder, ‘what was it all about?’ ‘Was it real or was it false?’ ‘Had they been deceived?’ ‘Confusion, disappointment, resentment, fear,’ all rolled together into one word, ‘sorrow.’ This is where they were headed. And Jesus knew it. And Jesus loved them. And Jesus loves you.
He had tried to reassure them that it would all work out just fine in the end. “Persevere,” “endure,” “be patient,” “wait.” “Don’t get so focused on the ‘now’ that you give up on the ‘not yet.’
He tells them exactly what to expect because He knows them better than they know themselves. “You will have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” “In that day… you will weep and lament while the world rejoices. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy.”
Now again He says, “ASK, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
He wants them to know that even though they will not be able to see Him as they had, He had certainly not deserted them. They should continue to ASK just as they always had, but now they may direct their prayers to the Father, “for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
Here is the temptation that Jesus knows that His dear followers will face. It is the same temptation that you and I face every day. “In that day…” when He is no longer among them in the same way that He had been for those three years, they will DRIFT AND WANDER AND BE ENTICED.
They would drift into a LIFE that they would never have LIVED as long as He was with them and every day was a new day with Him.
Before they ever realized it, they would find that they have invested all of their HOPE, in things below and lost all HOPE in the things above.
They will fall in LOVE with the things of this world to the point that they would begin to measure “True LOVE” in terms of how many of those things can they get, and accuse God of not LOVING them the way that He should when they don’t get what they want.
They will be tempted to believe that the JOY that this world has to offer is what is real and true and lasting and that the JOY that they had in Jesus was just ‘spiritual’ or ‘superstition’ or ‘an opiate of the masses.’
And this is why Jesus so strongly urges them “ASK,” to pray. In “asking,” in praying, you set your hearts and minds, on things above, on what comes from the Father, and that can only come from God.
“In that day,” which is every day that you “sorrow now” for yourself and “weep and lament” because you have wandered and drifted and been enticed… ASK.” Ask for FORGIVENESS and you will receive.
“In that day,” that you long to have that LIFE and LOVE and HOPE and JOY that come from God and God alone… ASK.” Ask for REPENTANCE and you will receive.
“Ask, and you will receive that your joy may be full.” “FULL” as in complete, perfect, and ‘my cup runneth over.’ “FULL” as in the end of all sorrow and weeping and lamenting; as in the end of all hunger and thirst and poverty and sin no longer oppresses us; and temptation no longer tempts us; death no longer frightens us; and the name of Jesus is held above every name and to Him every knees bend and all tongues confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Obviously, this ‘joy to the full’ is not experienced in its ‘fullness’ in this world. We all await “that day” and long for its coming when we will experience it in its fullness. As long as we live in this world of temptation and sin, we experience only a droplet from heaven’s reservoir of LIFE and LOVE and JOY. In this world, we receive the fullness of joy, IN TINY SIPS, each sip a foretaste of the joy that awaits us when there will not be even a drop of sorrow or weeping or sadness.
Until “that day comes” we continue to “ASK,” and we continue to “SIP.”
In the “ASKING” we turn from the things of this world to the things of God, even to God Himself. We know that we have wandered and gone astray and fallen into temptation and sinned by seeking from the world the things that only God can give. But Jesus Christ my Lord has told me to “ASK” the Father in His name and to rest assured that the Father will hear your prayer. For after all, this is why He came down from the Father and is leaving to go to the cross and the grave. He is leaving them to bear their sins and ours; to atone for their sins and ours by His precious body and NOT theirs and NOT ours; to reconcile the Father to them and to us, by His precious blood and NOT theirs and NOT ours.
And in the “SIPPING” we receive what our Lord has promised. Just a droplet, a sip, a foretaste of the flood of joy that we have been baptized into. “Ask and you will receive that your joy will be made full.”
The final words that Jesus has for His disciples in the Upper Room are these. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
When we began, we heard Jesus say, “ASK.” Now as we conclude, we hear Jesus say, “listen to Me.” Here is the two-way conversation that Christians and only Christians have with God. To “ASK” is to speak to Him, and what a blessed privilege and honor this is.
But just as incredible is the fact that God humbles Himself to speak to us. And He speaks to us with tender and gracious words. “I know what trials and troubles you face in this world what sorrow and weeping this world inflicts on you. I know because I have ‘come down from the Father and have come into the world.’ “In this world you will have tribulation.” And I have experience this tribulation in its fullness. But “take heart, I have overcome the world.”
The victory has been won – past tense. The LIFE and LOVE and HOPE and JOY that are in Christ alone are yours now – present tense. But so is trouble and tribulation present tense. But the promise is that “in that day” the trouble and tribulation, the sorrow and suffering, weeping will be over – future tense.
St. John writes what he sees lies ahead for the followers of Jesus who persevere and remain patient and wait for the Lord. “He WILL wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death SHALL be no more, neither SHALL there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore…” “Nothing unclean WILL ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” “For the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21)
In the meantime, that is, in the NOW BUT NOT YET, we continue to “ASK the Father in the name of His Son” for forgiveness and faith and guidance and perseverance and patience. And we continue to RECEIVE, a ‘sprinkling’ of water here on an infant named Agnes, a “SIP” of wine and taste of bread there. All of it, a precious foretaste of the ‘full joy’ that is to come.