In this afterglow of Easter, I have been thinking about the legacy of our Lord, which we find in the gospels, in the promises of Jesus to His sorrowing disciples during the last week He spent with them. They were sorrowful because He had told them He was going away, and where He was going they could not come (i.e. could not go with Him at that time), but He told them He would return for them, that He was going ahead to “prepare a place” for them in HIs Father’s House. (John 14)
It is important to understand that a legacy does not become effective until the death of the one who has left it prior to his death. It is a promise. It is a vow. It is a pledge that depends upon the trustworthiness of the one who leaves the legacy. It is an inheritance, but the inheritance is worthless unless the person leaving it was honest in preparing it, promising only what he or she was able to deliver.
“In Christ we have obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ (i.e. the apostles) might live for the praise of his glory. In this you also (i.e. all other believers), when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge (i.e. the guarantee) of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-14)
“He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems us from the transgressions under the first covenant (i.e. the covenant of the law). Where a will (a legacy) is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will only takes effect at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.” (Hebrews 9:15-17)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whose mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time….You have come to trust in God, who raised Christ from the dead and gave him glory.” (I Peter 1:3-5, 21)
Jesus had promised his followers everlasting life. He had called Himself “the resurrection and the life.” He had told them that all who believed in Him would “never die,” and that He was going away to “prepare a place” for them in His Father’s house, which has many “dwelling places.” I have always thought of the whole of creation as our Father’s house, and heaven is just another room in “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Most everyone knows that the skeptics and critics of Christianity have referred to this promise as “pie in the sky bye and bye,” and referred to Christians who take such promises seriously as those adhering to a faith that is “so heavenly minded that it is no earthly good.” However, nothing could be further from the truth, for God has set eternity in our hearts.
Although we live in a secular society, a society that has glorified human reason, most people are still interested in the basic questions for which human reason has no satisfying answers: “Why are we here? Where have we come from? Where are we going, and where will we be when we get there? Is there life after death? Is there any eternal purpose to life? Can we find any real meaning any longer in the world of work? Is there somewhere a God who really cares, a God who actually hears and answers prayers? Is the distinction we make between good and evil, right and wrong, an objective transcendent distinction, or does it simply reflect a cultural prejudice? Is this distinction merely subjective? Is there such a thing as truth? Who decides what is true and what is false? Is there, in truth, a word from God? Can we, in this age of such pervasive human anxieties and fears, really find serenity and security, comfort and contentment, and personal peace?
For those of us who are believers, the only satisfying answers to such questions are found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, not only in His promises, but in His person—in a personal relationship with Him: as our Lord and our Redeemer; as the One who is our peace, as the One who is our life; the One who is our hope; the One who is both the center and circumference of our lives; the One who gives us a purpose for life that is worthy of us as persons created in the image of God; the One who gives point to our prayers and stars to match our striving; the One who assures us that we were made for a destiny in eternity; the One who promises us that we will be reunited with Him forever in His everlasting kingdom in the presence of His Father in heaven, “…in my Father’s house.” (John 14:2) He said, “If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am there you may be also.” (verse 3)
Does it sound like a lie to you? Either Jesus was speaking the truth, or He was lying? Do you believe He was a liar, or do His words have the ring of truth? For all who do believe, this is the legacy of our Lord, and we are called to reflect in our character and conduct the implications of this legacy. We are called to share this good news with others, at every opportunity. We are called to be “ambassadors for Christ,” “doers of the Word and not hearers only,” working to “pull down the strongholds of evil” in this world, “doing justly, showing mercy, and walking humbly with God,” as servants of our Servant Lord. This is our vocation, this is our reason for being, this is the mission for which we have been placed here on earth, in the course of which our risen and reigning Lord will be with us, working in us and through us, just as He promised: “I am going to the Father….but I will not leave you desolate” (the Greek word is “orphans”) — i..e “I will not leave you as orphans in this world.” (v. 18)
This promise is also an important part of the legacy of our Lord, as well as this promise also found in John 14: “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it, that my Father may be glorified in the Son” (verse 13). That sounds almost too good to be true, but it is too good not to be true! The key to understanding this promise is found in the three words “in my name.” His name represents His character, and it means praying according to His purpose, His sovereign will. Prayer in the name of Jesus is not some kind of spiritual magic wand, not a way to get God to do what we will; it is rather submitting ourselves to the doing of His will, praying as Jesus Himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” It is what the New Testament calls “praying in the spirit,” which brings us to the final part of our Lord’s legacy. (v. 17, 25-26)
“This is the Spirit of Truth…..You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in
you…I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything” (i.e. everything you need to know, including how to pray in His name, praying in the spirit).” And last, but by no means least, Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you…Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (v. 27) The very same peace that Jesus knew on His way to the cross He was leaving with His disciples. This is the peace they were going to need; not peace that is the absence of trouble, but peace in the midst of trouble (remember how their hearts were “troubled”).
The peace of Christ is the kind of peace that Jesus had in the midst of a terrible storm on the Sea of Galilee, when Jesus and His disciples were in a small boat being tossed by the wind. The disciples were so afraid, but Jesus was sleeping. His peace is the kind of peace we find in the midst of life’s worst storms, like the peace that is found in the eye of the hurricane.
It is the peace that enabled Jesus to face the worst this world could do to Him, unafraid. It is the peace He knew on His way to the cross, and the peace He knew on the cross, when He prayed for those who had nailed Him to that horrible instrument of death, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It is the only peace that will be adequate for us when we are called upon to face the most difficult experiences of life.