Asking For The Holy Spirit
May 27, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. "Ask. If you do, it will be given [to you]. Search. If you do, you will find [it]. Knock on the door. If you do, it will be opened," (verse nine). It's not just once. This has the meaning, "Keep asking. Keep searching. Keep knocking." If you do, then, "it will be given," "you will find," and "it will be opened." Of course, Jesus is speaking in this passage about how we are to ask from God, how we are to pray. We keep asking from God. We keep asking from God and not from somebody else. We keep searching unto God and not some where else. Also, we keep knocking on God's door. This is the message given to us for The Pentecost Celebration for year 2007.
[He] Has No Food To Serve Whatsoever
2. So, what might it mean when we say to ask from God and to keep asking? Just before this speech from Jesus [about asking, searching and knocking] is recorded one parable. After [we] get that first part of what he said, he says, "Ask."
3. What Jesus gave is the following speech. "Someone from among you has a friend and he goes to him in the middle of the night and tries to ask the following. 'Oh friend, please lend me three [things] of bread. A traveling friend has turned to me, and I have no food to serve whatsoever.' Whereupon, he is forced to answer from his house. 'Don't bother me. The door is already shut, and the children are sleeping near by me. I can't get up and give you anything.' But, I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is a friend, if he asks persistently, he will get up and give him whatever he needs," (verses five through eight).
4. It is the story of a [man] who goes to a friend in the middle of the night, asks persistently and keeps imploring for him to give him bread. Thus, it is a story where a person gives what is needed not because they are friends but because the person keeps imploring for it insistently. This parable teaches us "we are to pray persistently." It's about not giving up but to keep on praying.
5. Why does this guy go to his friend's place and ask for "bread?" The reason is simple. Because he didn't have bread at his own place. So, he goes to someone who does and asks for [some]. In this way, "the asking" arises out of a shortage. To go the next step with this, we can say that it emerges out of an awareness of a need or shortcoming. It's that way even with God. People who don't sense their need will not ask. They will not ask God. They will not pray.
6. But now, why, in the first place, does he have a need for bread in the middle of the night? It is because a person has all of a sudden come to visit him in the middle of the night. The reason is not given in the text. For whatever the reason, it is an extremely bothersome thing to say. But, he doesn't say, "Please don't bother me. I can't put you up for the night." He wants to help his friend during his journey. Since he can tell that he is hungry, he wants to give him bread to eat. But, he cannot give him [something] to eat. "I have no food to serve whatsoever"
7. It is not a mere awareness of a shortage. It is the awareness of the shortage that "I have no food to serve whatsoever." To be brief, his shortage comes from this heart of his that says, "I want to serve him, but I have no food to serve this man with." Were he just thinking about himself alone, he would have had no need to notice that he had no bread. Had he not taken notice that the traveler was hungry, he would have had no need to notice his own poverty that he had.
8. In fact, we can make the same statement in regard to the persons who appear in today's second scripture reading. In the second reading, Acts chapter two was read, and at the opening section of it were the following words. "When the Day of Pentecost came and the group was assembled as one ..." (Acts 2:1). The ones who were there were the disciples and the women after Jesus had returned to heaven. Why in the world were they assembled? Just as it is written in chapter one, [they were assembled] for the purpose of prayer. [They were assembled] in order to ask and seek God. Why were they seeking God I wonder? It was because they were powerless. It was because they were poor.
9. But, there was a group of them there of as many as one hundred and twenty persons. If they were just considering how to maintain their own faith or just considering in detail how to keep up their assemblies, I don't think they would have needed to ponder their own poverty and powerlessness because they were working people for that matter. But now, they were not thinking of themselves. Just as Jesus told them to, they wanted to preach Christ as Christ's witnesses unto the ends of the earth. So, the story is different from that. When we decide to go out into the world and deliver God's salvation, we will inevitably have to come face to face with our own poverty and powerlessness. We will be unable not to cry out "I have nothing to serve them with." Therefore, [he] asked from God.
10. We're the same way. When our faith lives just think of only our own happiness and peace of mind, then in a certain sense we have no need to be troubled with our poverty. It's like that for the church too. The church that thinks of just maintaining and continuing the status quo doesn't need to feel the pain of its own poverty and powerlessness. But the first time [we] begin to focus [our] attention on the many who need salvation, when [we] begin to have an awareness that the church is sent into the world, when [we] turn [our] eyes on the truth that those nearby [us] are suffering from hunger and have a need for the bread of life, then we too will inevitably come in direct confrontation with our own poverty and powerlessness. When we attempt to do battle with the satanic powers that would separate people from God, [cause them] to fall into sin, hurt and destroy [them], then we will surely feel the pain of our own poverty and powerlessness. But yet that very pain is important. That very self-awareness of shortage is important. For, it is precisely because of that very awareness that a person becomes steadfast in asking and seeking.
The Heavenly Father Gives Us The Holy Spirit
11. So now, this man went to his friend's house and made a request, wholeheartedly thinking I want to give the traveler bread to eat. And he didn't just make a "request." He "kept on asking." He kept on imploring in a persistent manner, "I have no food to serve whatsoever." Why is it that he didn't just ask, but kept on asking? He had certainly heard the words, "Don't bother me. The door is already shut, and the children are sleeping near by me. I can't get up and give you anything." Yet, he did not give up. Even still he kept on asking. Why is that? -- It is because he had hope. He believed. The door surely will open up for me. He will give me what I need.
12. Those without hope, even if they may be aware of a personal shortcoming, they may ask, but they cannot "keep asking." It is "hope" that one needs in order to not give up and keep praying. The disciples who were assembled in Jerusalem also had hope and waited for God. It has "When the Day of Pentecost came and the group was assembled as one ..." [in the text], but they did not assemble on that hour by chance. They assembled every day. It wasn't for a day or two either. Ten days had already passed since Jesus' ascension. During that interval of time, they had kept praying.
13. Thus, as for the important thing in order to "keep asking," Jesus not only says, "Ask. Keep asking" because [there] is hope, but also gives the following speech. "Is there a father among you who would give to his child who wants a fish a snake instead of a fish? Or is there a father who would give [his child] a scorpion though the child desires an egg? In this way then, you know that while a person may be evil he or she will give good things to one's child. Still more will the heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to the one who asks!," (verses eleven through thirteen).
14. In the parable just ago, God is compared to a friend. But, God is more than a friend. God is our Father. The Lord says, "Still more will the heavenly father!" Even the parents of this world, with some few exceptions, generally do try to give good things to their child. They may not even necessarily be things that the child has even asked for. But, they are "good things." Therefore, since it's the heavenly father it will be even better, says the Lord. What's more, the text here says "heavenly father" but a slightly different expression is actually used, that of "the father from heaven." In saying "the father from heaven" the meaning seems to be "the father who will answer from heaven what you ask for." God the Heavenly Father is a God who gives good things from heaven to the one who asks.
15. Has everybody already noticed that today's passage has a strange way of ending? In The Gospel According To Luke Jesus does not say, "How the heavenly father will 'give good things' to the one who asks!" The Lord says, "How the heavenly father will give the Holy Spirit to the one who asks!" The appearance here in this text of "the Holy Spirit" is quite abrupt, and it is also a bit of an unnatural Japanese expression. Yet, what Jesus is wanting to say is extremely clear. Just as a worldly father does, what does the heavenly father want to give since he is willing to give the best from heaven? -- It is nothing other than the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God! That's what Jesus says.
16. The fact that God gives the Holy Spirit, put another way, means that God has entered into us by doing that. In addition, it also means that [God] has entered into our lives. It means by using our bodies, by using our lives, God loves [us] and God performs his work of salvation.
17. As I said just ago, our becoming aware of [our] shortages in a true sense is the time we first turn our eyes on others in need of salvation. When the church comes to be aware of its own poverty and powerlessness, it is the time when the church will become conscious of the fact that it has been sent into the world. Thus then, when we come face to face with the reality that we cannot do a thing on our own power, then we find out how to just ask and seek God in a true sense. Then it will be important that we pray asking for specific help. In some cases we might have to pray for [our] economic needs to be met. But what is the greatest need [we have]? Isn't it that we be filled with the Spirit of God? Isn't it that God himself be at work through us? Isn't this truly the best thing that God gives to us?
18. When Jesus said, "Ask. Keep asking. If you do, then it will be given to you," what the Lord wanted most for his disciples to ask for was to be filled by the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. And so they did actually ask for [it]. They kept asking. Then what does the scripture tell us? "Whereupon, the group was filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke in the languages of other nations as 'the Spirit' caused them to speak," (Acts 2:4). The main thing is not the strange phenomenon that took place there. It is that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. They, who were poor, were filled. And God inaugurated a movement through them, who were filled with the Holy Spirit.
19. Today is Pentecost (The Celebration Of The Descent Of The Holy Spirit), when we commemorate the events that took place on The Fiftieth Day Celebration [from The Old Testament]. And during this Pentecost worship service, the Lord is speaking to us as well. "Ask. If you do, it will be given to you." The main thing in that is the awareness of [our] shortcomings and of [our] hope in God.