The self-centered perspective of Jesus
A portion of Jesus' statement - made to his closest disciples - has been taken out of context and used surreptitiously by those who have failed to understand Jesus' message.
Sectarian interpreters have taken the phrase "ask and you will receive" as though it is some kind of license suggesting that we can simply treat Jesus as some kind of waiter or genie: Where we order anything and everything up and he delivers it to us.
For this reason, we see sectarian teachers telling us that we should be asking Jesus to make us wealthy or help our football team win - or virtually anything else we want.
This perverted teaching has also been taken to the extreme by modern sectarian teachers, as they proclaim that Jesus' only purpose of coming to the earth was to die for our sins. As though Jesus is some kind of sacrificial lamb whose gruesome murder at the hands of the Jewish high priest and the Romans was all about giving us the gift of cleansing so we don't have to be responsible for our selfish activities.
This self-centered view of Jesus' life simply mirrors our disease: We think the universe revolves around us, and if we believe in God, that God and Jesus are meant to deliver things to us. Their existence and activities revolve around me.
Jesus' teachings are diametrically opposed to such a concept.
Just consider this important statement by Jesus
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:22-23)And consider this clear statement:
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matt. 20:50)What does doing "the will of my Father" mean? Does it mean asking God or Jesus for whatever I want? No.
Jesus taught doing God's will
Jesus' teachings weren't about us asking God to do our will, and thus become our servant. He was asking us to renew our original relationship with the Supreme Being as one of His loving servants, and thus do His will.
This is what a loving servant does. Just consider what a caregiver does as he or she takes care of someone. They do what the other person wants. They don't ask the person they are serving to do what they want.
This relationship by its very nature assumes freedom because there is love. It is not like an indentured servant. None of us are forced to serve God. In fact, the reason we are each here in the physical world wearing these temporary physical bodies is that we decided we did not want to be one of God's loving caregivers.
So He designed the physical world and these temporary physical bodies so that we could get away from Him and try to enjoy life by ourselves.
And the culmination of this chase for our enjoyment is to see the Supreme Being as our servant, centered around giving us what we want so that we can enjoy. This is a perversion of our relationship with God and Jesus confirmed that with the two statements quoted above.
It also perverts the meaning of Jesus' sacrifice as he gave his life for his teachings - to indicate clearly to us just how important his teachings were, that he was willing to die for those teachings. That is why his physical body was murdered. His body was murdered because of his controversial teachings, which contradicted the fundamentalist teachings of the ecclesiastical Jewish priests.
And that is what will save us by the way - understanding the importance of, and trying to follow, Jesus' teachings. So yes, the murder of Jesus' physical body does have the ability to save us - but only if we understand that Jesus was serving God and was willing to die for his service to the Supreme Being. Understanding that and acting upon that is what will save us.
What does Jesus' statement mean then?
So what did Jesus mean here with his statement, "Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete"?
The key to understanding this is not only the context of the statement - the statements surrounding it - but the meaning of the Greek word translated to "complete" - πληρόω (plēroō).
πληρόω (plēroō) means to become full. The lexicon says it means "to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full".
We are talking real fulfillment here. Will money fulfill us? Will fame fulfill us? Will winning a football game or other sports match fulfill us? Will becoming one of the richest and most powerful persons in the world fulfill us?
We can see this from the fact that those who have received those things are still not happy. They are still not fulfilled with whatever amount of wealth, fame and power they have accomplished. How do we know? Because they always want more. We can see this in our lives as well. Whatever we have, it isn't enough. We want more.
This means that we are not fulfilled by these things. Why not?
Because we are not these physical bodies. These physical bodies are temporary vehicles we drive. Trying to become fulfilled by dressing them up well and feeding them is like a hungry car driver putting gas in the car and thinking that gas will satisfy his body's hunger.
In other words, the material things of this physical world do not reach us. They do not reach the spirit-person who drives this physical body and leaves it after the physical body dies.
This is a scientific fact - that the spirit-person leaves the body. It has been proven in numerous clinical death studies. The spirit-person rises up over the body and looks down upon it following the death of the body in the hospital. If the body is resuscitated the person comes back into the body and describes what they saw after they left the body.
We are each spiritual by nature. We are not physical. Therefore the only things that will fulfill us are spiritual things. And what is the central "thing" of the spiritual realm? That one thing that we always seem to be reaching for, waiting for, hunting for as we look for our soul mate or gather together for our family dinners? It is love. Love is the "thing" of the spiritual realm. It is what we each need in order to become fulfilled.
Yet we are never fully satisfied with the "love" of the physical world. This is why there are so many divorces and breakups, and why there are so many heavy arguments at the family dinners.
It is because we are trying to place our love on those who do not fulfill our need for love. We can only be satisfied when we place our love on the Supreme Being. And we can only be satisfied when we are acting on that love - when we are rendering loving service to the Supreme Being.
This is what Jesus wanted his disciples to ask for. This statement: "Until now you have not asked for anything in my name" is mistranslated. Jesus did not say this. The word translated to "anything" is οὐδείς (oudeis) which actually means "nothing."
What Jesus really said was:
"Until now you have asked nothing in my name."
This has a very different meaning
This is a very subtle difference but it is significant. It puts the emphasis on asking in Jesus' name. Asking for something in the name of one's spiritual teacher means what is being asked for is specific to the teachings of the teacher: In Jesus' case, this is love for God. This is what Jesus has been teaching his students, and this is what Jesus wants them to be asking for.
This and only this can give them "complete" "joy" in Jesus' name. Jesus is talking about them asking to become one of God's loving servants, and asking for this in Jesus' name means following in the footsteps of Jesus. It means becoming God's loving servant just as Jesus is God's loving servant.
Certainly, Jesus' disciples have asked Jesus many things as they followed him and asked him many questions. So it is not as if they hadn't asked Jesus for anything. But asking for something in his name means asking him for what he has been teaching them.
"Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete" is clearly a statement specific to asking for something that will give them complete joy. This is love for God. This is loving service to God. This is also why Jesus' most important instruction was:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)