Handling Legacies Well | James Stevenson

John 17 

Jesus Prays to Be Glorified

17 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Jesus Prays for All Believers

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

John 17

As a church, there are three legacies which we need to handle well. To do so will mean fixing our eyes on Jesus and his glory, rather than focussing on any competence and brilliance of our own.

First is the legacy of Jesus’ Word, that we find in this chapter of John’s Gospel. It is Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, for himself, his disciples and all believers. A community of faith started by John handed this legacy down to the following generations, and we can read it today.

How are you handling the legacy of Jesus’ Word in your life? Do you read the Scriptures for your convenience and comfort, or do you come to them as daily bread – something you need desperately?

Second is the legacy of Jesus himself: the Word of God revealed in Christ. Jesus prepared the way to the Father through his death on the Cross. That sacrifice was enough to make it possible for every one of us, however sinful, to relate to God as our Father in a way that will last for ever. Thanks to this legacy we can walk in his footsteps, strengthened by his Spirit and offering our own sacrifice of praise and worship.

Do you know that in Jesus you can be forgiven and restored to a relationship with God the Father?

Third is the legacy of our church. Jesus speaks of his disciples being sent out, and also of them being ‘one’. We see the truth of this as Christians in countries all around the world are sent out to reach others, and we know that in God’s eyes we are ‘one’ in spite of all the denominations. In Bristol, B&A is one with other churches as part of the Diocese, and we are sent out as disciples in our localities. We gather on Sundays as ‘one’ and through the week we are sent out into the Little Churches.

How are you participating in the legacy of our church?

At present, as we raise funds to enable us to have more space for the church to do this, there is a danger of proceeding in an egocentric way – focussing on what we are achieving, how well we are doing. Instead, we need to model our approach on Jesus, who sacrificed himself for us. What can we lay down for him, without expecting some of the glory for ourselves? The church buildings came to us thanks to the vision of people long ago, and we want to hand on a legacy fit for the generations that will follow ours. But it needs to be all about Jesus’ legacy in his church, not ours. The glory going to him, not to any of us.

James Stevenson