← Back to Study Guides
The Greatest Sermon Ever Told | All You Have to Do Is Ask
January 21, 2024
7“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
12“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst
To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships
To participate in God’s mission to the world
Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities; and in all our dangers and necessities, stretch forth your right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Responsive Prayer—Psalm 18
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
My shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.
In my distress I called upon the Lord;
To my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
And my cry to him reached his ears.
Summary and Connection
As Jesus begins to draw his sermon to a close, he summarizes his teaching with one of the most well-known moral exhortations in the history of the world: “So, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” It is pithy, quotable, and admirable. Yet, rather than admire the Golden Rule, we want to know how to practice it. And the first clue is in the little word, “So,” which can be translated, “Therefore.” Because of all that Jesus has already taught, therefore love others as you love yourself. Somehow, loving others must depend on how we pray, and how we relate to God.
We are going through the Sermon on the Mount, which is Jesus’ teaching on the good life. It is the life we lead not to get into the kingdom of God, but because the kingdom of God has gotten into us. In Matthew 7:7-12, Jesus tells us we need to know God as our generous, loving, Heavenly Father. If we know God this way, we will be continually asking, seeking, and knocking, which means we will be continually praying, fully assured of God’s responsiveness to us. If we pray this way, Jesus says we will also be loving others as we love ourselves. And this love is not just some fortuitous result, this love is in fact the same thing as the Law and the Prophets.
The connection between praying and loving may not be obvious at first, but on reflection it is eminently practical. Prayer is how we speak with God, how we process our lives before him, how we ask for help, and how we mourn, lament, and seek his comfort, both as individual Christians and as gathered churches. Prayer is one of the main ways we receive the good things of God. And here is where it becomes practical: You can only give what you have received. When you fly on a plane, you are instructed that if the cabin pressure goes out, you must put on your oxygen mask first before helping others. We can misuse this fact to justify our selfishness, but it remains true that we cannot share what we do not have.
That is why this promise is so incredible: According to Jesus, we can have every good gift from God! If our earthly parents give us good things, how much more will our perfect Father share his wealth? Martin-Lloyd Jones said about this passage, “I cannot imagine a better, more cheering or a more comforting statement with which to face all the uncertainties and hazards of our life in this world of time than that contained in verses 7-11.” Yet, if this promise is so good, why do we make so little of it? Why do we have tepid prayer lives, or fail to treat others as we know we would want to be treated? Why aren’t we overflowing with the goodness of God and sharing it with everyone we meet? What can change us? The answer is in the one who started this sermon proclaiming that he had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (5:17), which ultimately required far more than his admirable life.
1. Looking at the Bible
Observation: Read the passage privately. What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage?
- Read verses 7-8.
- Does Jesus mean that everything we ask for will be granted?
- Would it be a good thing if God gave you everything you’ve ever asked for?
- Read verse 12. What does it mean that treating others as you wish to be treated “is the Law and the Prophets”?
2. Looking at Jesus
At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.
- Paul draws this connection from Jesus’ death to our topic, in Romans 8:32: “[God] who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” How does Jesus’ sacrifice:
- Change how we pray?
- Change how we love others?
3. Looking at Our Hearts
The following are personal application questions based on the stages of growth in Christian faith.
- In light of Jesus’ promise regarding prayer and given his sacrificial love for us, what prevents us from living this kind of life? What smothers our prayers? What is getting between us and loving our neighbors? Finally, how would we counsel ourselves with the gospel?
4. Looking at Our World
- What does Matthew 7:7-12 tell us about sharing the gospel with others?
God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.
View Study Guide Notes
Question 1a. We have to admit that no, it would not be a good thing if God had given us (or anyone else) everything we ever asked for. This is an admission that we must, often, want the wrong things. And Jesus does call us “evil” in verse 11. It would not be loving for God to give us everything we think we want, so it follows that not everything we ask for will be granted. But what will be granted? What should we pray for? We should pray for what God wants to give us, what is in his nature to give us, which is above all himself. That is why Jesus in the parallel passage in Luke 11:13 says, “how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Martin-Lloyd Jones says,
“You see now why we should thank God that asking, and seeking, and knocking, do not just mean that if we ask for anything we like we shall get it. Of course not. What it means is this. Ask for any one of these things that is good for you, that is for the salvation of your soul, your ultimate perfection, anything that brings you nearer to God and enlarges your life and is thoroughly good for you, and He will give it to you.”
This incredible promise should motivate not only growth in our relationship with God, but righteousness in our relationships with others.
Question 1b. Treating others as you wish to be treated is one way that Jesus distills the Bible’s teaching on loving your neighbor. The whole Law is often summarized as “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength … You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). So the Golden Rule is the point of all of the Law and the Prophets. One commentator writes that this may be better stated as “The Golden Vision” because it is a virtue rather than a regulation. “It is an invitation to virtue by giving a vision of how to relate to other people. In this sense it is properly considered both a “greater righteousness” and the fulfillment of the whole Law (5:17–20), as well as being another way to describe how to be.”
Question 2: Jesus not only lived the Golden Rule, but also he died to fulfill it. Jesus prayed that his Father would take away the cup, which is the cross, but Jesus heard “no.” As Timothy Keller writes, “We know God will answer us when we call because one terrible day he did not answer Jesus when he called. … Jesus’ prayers were given the rejection that we sinners merit so that our prayers could have the reception that he merits.” Therefore we can expect from God everything that we truly need, beginning with himself. That is why Christians have the Holy Spirit, God himself, living within us. Significantly, it is the Holy Spirit who helps us when we pray (Romans 8:26). When we see God as our perfect Father, it changes how we pray and how we experience God’s love. Being loved by God and loving him in return is intimately connected with loving others well. In fact, we can only begin to love others well as we see how much God in Jesus has lavished his love on us: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Question 3: These are personal application questions. It may be appropriate to share this quote from Martin-Lloyd Jones, or at least to share the sentiment: “Why are we all what we are in view of such promises? Why is the quality of our Christian living so poor? Everything we need is available; why then are we what we are? … The central trouble with the whole of mankind is that we do not realize our need…we hate to regard ourselves as paupers, and we do not like to feel our need.” Whether Christian or not, we all go through times when we feel as if we are competent enough, spiritual enough, mature enough to handle things. Coincidentally, our lack of need leads to a lack of prayer. Jesus’ love calls us to repent of our self-sufficiency and return to relying on God, confident that he will give us everything and more.
Question 4: This is a personal application question. We should be both enthusiastic and discerning about sharing the gospel, and always do so with confident, eager prayer to God.