Rogate – Easter 5
St. John 16:23-33
May 10, 2015
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, X and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rogate is a Latin imperative for “ask.” Unlike most Sundays with Latin names, it doesn’t come from the Introit. It derives its name from Jesus’ instruction to His disciples in the Gospel. “In that day you will ask (erotaw) nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask (aitew) of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked (aitew) nothing in my name. Ask, (aitew) and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” There are two Greek words chosen by St. John to capture here a nuance from Jesus. In this context, erotaw is used for when the disciples ask something of Jesus or Jesus asks something of His Father. Erotaw has the nuance of a footing of equality between the two parties, an equal to an equal (Luke 14:32), or at least a footing of familiarity that lends authority to the request. Aitew is used when the disciples ask something of the Father. Aitew is a request from an inferior to a superior (Acts 3:2; 12:20, Matt. 7:9).
Until now, the disciples have approached Jesus as their teacher and friend. A man like they are. They question Him and petition Him as God in the flesh. So why the change? Why is Jesus now directing them to the Father in His name?
The content of this discourse may be summed up in the one word “consolation.” He wished to console His disciples before leaving them. He already promised them the Holy Spirit. He told them it was only going to be a “little while.” It was the night on which He was betrayed. He’s in the upper room with them. He already washed their feet and they are now sitting together at the table. This is part of His farewell discourse with the disciples before He is arrested and taken from them. Their relationship is on the verge of a great change.
When people who love each other are to part, they console each other, count up all the possibilities of how they can preserve the bond between them, by writing to each other, by thinking of each other, by praying for each other, by giving gifts to each other, until the time when they can be together once more. Just think of a mother dropping her 5-year-old off at Kindergarten, or leaving a child with a baby sitter, or a mother dropping her son or daughter off at college for the first time. The mother comforts the child, discussing the reunion and how they will keep in touch. Our Lord consoled the disciples in this same way. “I am going ahead to prepare a home for you. I’ll send you the Holy Spirit, the comforter, who will tell you all things that I have for you. Then I shall come again to get you. But even while you remain in the world, you and I shall not be completely separated.” 
This is the nature of the connection. Jesus tells the disciples to pray, talk to God in words and thoughts, to talk to the Father directly in His name. This is the Second Commandment. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” What does this mean? “We should fear and love God so that we do not use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.” The command is to pray in His name. This is using it rightly. This keeps the relationship with God close. When two communicate, they stay close. Jesus gives us direct access to the Father in His name. He says that we can have boldness to pray “Our Father,” not “Jesus’ Father;” God is “our” Father in Christ.
What a horrible sin it is then when people don’t pray, don’t ask, don’t use His name for prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, and when they ignore His name all together. It’s worse than the college student or child who has moved out of the house and never calls his mother, even on Mothers’ Day or her birthday. There’s a command from God to use His name. Jesus commands His disciples to ask the Father in His name. People outside of the Christian Church are without excuse. Those who don’t come to church sin. It’s a self-inflicted separation from God.
But for those of us who do come to church, there’s an equally heinous danger to sin—coming to church, even participating in the prayers and service with your mouth, while your heart and thoughts are far from God. This is dangerous because it has the semblance of keeping the Second Commandment, making you complacent, giving an impression to yourself and others that you are keeping God’s command, while really you are despising God’s name by using it superstitiously and thoughtlessly.
Chrysostom writes, “Many people go into a church and there recite endless prayers, then they go out again without knowing a word of what they said…You who cannot hear your own prayers wish that God will! You will say: But I went on my knees. Yes, but your mind went wandering. Your body was indeed in the church but your mind was outside it (Sunday Sermons 2:390)…. For if while the body is bowed to the ground the mouth babbles idly, and the mind wanders here and there through the house, through the market place, how can such a person say he has prayed before the face of God?” (2:392).
Repent. God does not need your idle babbling and thoughtless prayers. Repent. Don’t be hearers of the word and not doers as well; don’t hear God’s command to pray and then turn a cold or distant heart to the prayers. Repent, but believe. God has drawn near to you in His Son and opened the gates of heaven to your pleas. He has commanded you to pray and has promised to hear you. What is more, He has promised to hallow His name, let His kingdom come, let His will be done, and give daily bread to everyone even without your prayers. His goodness is not based upon your words or works. It is based upon His own promise to you.
Jesus came even while you were yet enemies to His Father. He reconciled you when He stretched out His hands on the cross and cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Your Lord is the mediator between God and men. He has stepped into the breach of heaven and hell and has satisfied God’s wrath. He has established a relationship between you and your heavenly Father that is more intimate than that of mother and child in this world. By Baptism, He has connected you to God by blood, His own most precious, holy blood. You are part of the divine family and have the right as a child to call upon Him in every trouble, to pray, praise, and give thanks, to talk to Him on a footing of familiarity that lends authority to your request. If He did this while you were yet enemies, how much more will it do it after repenting of your thoughtless, idle babbling as a son?
Notice also what Jesus promises: “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). Where else is joy fulfilled than in the entrance into eternal salvation. Jesus wants you to ask for the moon. He wants you to ask for things beyond the moon. Pray for the eternal salvation of your souls. Praise God for His perfect atonement of your soul. Give thanks that God loved you so much as to send His only Son to redeem you.
And what praise is sweeter, or what thanksgiving more engaging than to receive the gifts that God wants to give you? You can’t praise God or give Him thanks any better than by hearing His Word preached to you or receiving His meal provided for you, and after hearing and receiving to offer back to God prayers in Jesus name. As the writer of Hebrews says, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:15-16). By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are not just hearers of the Word, but doers. By the Spirit, we are bold to pray.
As the redeemed, we don’t just ask that God’s name be hallowed. We ask that His Word be taught in its truth and purity and we, as His children, also lead holy lives according to it.
We don’t just ask for His kingdom to come. We ask that He would constantly send His Holy Spirit so that we believe His Word and lead godly lives now AND in eternity.
We don’t just ask that His will be done. We ask that every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature be broken and that He keep us firm in His Word and faith until we die.
We ask that we not only think those things that be right, but by His merciful guiding may perform them.
In His Word He comforts you. In your prayers He is close to you. He has said these things so that you may have peace, for He has overcome the world. And soon your joy will be complete O sons and daughters of God.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.
Rev. Michael N. Frese
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana
 Lindemann, The Sermon and the Propers, p. 216.