Jesus Leaves Us A Legacy
April 1st, 1983 @ 12:00 PM
JESUS LEAVES US A LEGACY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-1-83 12:00 p.m.
And today the legacy, a legal connotation, The Legacy Our Lord Has Left Us. And being Friday, and Good Friday, I may go a moment or two longer than 12:30. So if you have to leave, you feel free to do so. We will all understand, and most of all will I.
The Legacy Our Lord Has Left Us. In John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
The legacy our Lord has left us. That Word I have just read is in the very center of this incomparable message of Jesus to His apostles and to us, recorded in the fourteenth and fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the Gospel of John [John 14:1-16:33]. They were spoken in the upper room and as He walked with His disciples to Gethsemane [Mark 14:26-32].
This is the way that the discourse began:
Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God—
believe also in Me—
and we shall—
In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
Then it closes with these words: “These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” [John 16:33].
There’s a something in the life of our Lord that makes these words doubly, trebly, quadruply meaningful, effective. It is this. They were spoken on our Thursday night. In the Jewish evening-and-morning of a day, it was spoken in the evening, the beginning of Friday. Within a few hours, within a very few hours, our Lord was betrayed and arrested and tried [John 18:1-19:15]. And at nine o’clock the next morning, He was nailed to a tree [Matthew 27:32-50; John 19:16-30].
Yet, before that awesome commitment on the cross, He speaks, “Peace I leave with you, My peace give I unto you . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” [John 14:27]. The peace of our Lord, He says, is so different from that of the world: “Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” [John 14:27].
You couldn’t go through Russia, walk through their parks and down their streets, and not be sensitive to something that you find everywhere. There are monuments and there are statues; there are bronzes; there are marbles; all of them labeled “Peace.” And on the marble statues, they will have carved doves of peace. And on their bronze statues, they will have cast likenesses of doves of peace.
But beyond that kind of a peace is bloodshed and war and turmoil and carnage and anguish. All through this world there are communist organizations. And in most of them, they have the word “peace.” Their peace is one of terror and turmoil and trouble. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
But the peace of our Lord is not like the peace of the world. It is a real peace. For a troubled heart, for an anguished soul, for a life in decision, for a world in prospect, He gives us real peace.
First of all, He gives us peace with God. So many lives are lived in antagonism, in actual warfare with the will of God, troubled, never at rest: a warfare with God Himself and God’s will for the life. When you read, in the conversion, thrice-told in the Book of Acts [Acts 9:1-18, 22:6-16, 26:12-19], of the turning of the apostle Paul, Saul of Tarsus, when he meets the Lord in the way, the Lord says to him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” [from Acts 9:4-5]. It is difficult, Paul, for you to thrust yourself against the goads, the sharp spear points, of God’s call and God’s will for your life. And Saul bowed in the presence of the Lord and said, “Lord, what would You have me to do?” [Acts 9:6].
And thereafter his life, though one of persecution, he being persecuted and stoned and beat [2 Corinthians 11:23-25], finally beheaded, he writes in his letters of “the peace of God that passeth understanding” [Philippians 4:7] and, again, “the peace of God that passeth knowledge” [Ephesians 3:19].
Peace, real peace. Thrust on the inside of a dungeon, having been beaten, he and Silas pray and sing praises to God [Acts 16:23-25], peace, real peace: peace with God.
Not only does our Lord give us peace with our great Lord and Savior, God in heaven, but He gives us peace in ourselves, in our souls, in our hearts. It is no uncommon thing to find people at war with themselves. They’re at cross-purposes with themselves, and their lives are filled with anguish and indecision. He gives us peace in our own hearts and in our deepest souls.
I one time saw a picture labeled Peace. And without doubt, it is the most violent, turbulent, troubled picture that an artist could draw. It’s a picture of a storm at sea, with its thunder and its lightning, and the fury of the wind is dashing the water and the waves against the rocks of a tall cliff. Dark and foreboding, a tempestuous storm, yet the artist labeled it Peace. And when I looked at the painting more closely, up there in a cleft of the rock in that gigantic cliff against which the sea was pounding and beating, the artist had drawn a little bird with its head under its wing, fast and sound asleep. Peace, inward peace: the quietness of a soul that is committed to God.
He hideth my soul in a cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land.
He hideth my life in the depths of His love
And covers me there with His hand.
[“He Hideth My Soul,” Fanny J. Crosby]
Peace, inward peace: a quietness that passeth all description in ourselves. That’s an incomparably precious and wonderful gift of our Savior.
About a month ago, in preparing a sermon for a morning hour here, I had read of a martyr, a Christian martyr, who was burned at the stake in England and the judge who was supervising the arrangements for the burning at the stake. The martyr said to him, “Come here. Put your hand on my heart and see if my heart beats fast. See if I am in anguish or excited.” Then the martyr said to the judge, “Put your hand on your own heart and tell me who is in anguish and who is in perturbation.” Peace, inward peace.
It’s a gift of God. It comes from Christ. Whatever the exigency and the providence in life, in Him we have perfect peace, a precious rest [Isaiah 26:3]. Not only is the legacy of our Lord this peace that passeth understanding toward God [Philippians 4:7], and not only is it inward in our own souls, but it is outward with all others: peace.
There’s not anything that consumes the soul like personal bitterness towards someone else. Dislike and hatred: it eats; it gnaws; it devastates; it destroys. He gives us a peace in our hearts toward all others.
There’s not a more scathing denunciation of wrong and hypocrisy in human literature than the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” [Matthew 23:23]. And they encompassed His death. They delivered him to the Romans to be crucified [John 18:28]. But how did He die? On the cross, He prayed, saying, “Lord, forgive them; they know not what they do” [Luke 23:34]. No personal rancor or bitterness or hatred.
I think when the Lord said to Saul of Tarsus: “Why persecutest thou Me? It is hard for you to kick against the pricks” [Acts 9:4-5]—I think the Lord referred mostly to Saul of Tarsus as he watched Stephen die: God’s first martyr [Acts 7:55-60]. He saw his face, as it had been the face of an angel [Acts 6:15] and he heard him pray, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” [Acts 7:60]. And then, the Bible says, “He fell asleep” [Acts 7:60]. Without rancor or hatred or bitterness, peace, quiet, rest, toward all those around us.
And one other: He gives us peace and quiet and rest as we face the great beyond—beyond life, beyond death, beyond the grave: “Peace I leave with you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” [John 14:27]. Peace.
A little girl in our Sunday school here at the First Baptist Church in Dallas was sick and dying. And as the little thing was dying, she lost her eyesight. She went blind. And the little child cried to her mother, saying, “Oh, Mother, Mother, it is growing dark. And I am afraid!”
And the mother held the child closer to her heart and answered, “There, there, my sweet little girl. Jesus, Jesus is with us in the dark, just as much as He is with us in the light”—Quiet, rest, as we face the world to come.
In this beautiful Word, there are more tears that have stained the pages of the Bible at the fourteenth chapter of John than in any other place in God’s Holy Book. What He says, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again to take you to Myself” [John 14:2-3], that word there is t-o-p-o-s, translated “place.” And throughout the Bible, anywhere that word is used, it means a definite place.
We are not going to be absorbed into some universal life element. We’re going to a place, a definite place. John saw it descending from heaven. When God makes the new heavens and the new earth, there will be a new beautiful city [Revelation 21:1-5]. And that is our eternal home—a place, a definite place.
And we shall be introduced to it either by resurrection [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], or by rapture [1 Corinthians 15:50-52, 55]. Either one, it is triumphant and glorious. If by death and resurrection, then God sends his angels for me to bear me on snowy wings to my heavenly home above [Luke 16:22]. If it’s by rapture:
This I say, brethren, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
But I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we, we shall all be changed—either by resurrection or by rapture.
O Death, where now is thy sting? O Grave, where now is thy victory?
[1 Corinthians 15:50-52, 55]
The cry of those who are raptured, “O Death, where is thy sting?” as they mount upward with our Lord. And the cry of those who are resurrected: “O Grave, where now is thy victory? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [1 Corinthians 15:55, 57]; peace, whether I’m resurrected or whether I am raptured. Don’t you wish we could be here when He comes?
O joy! O delight! should we go without dying,
No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying,
Caught up with our Lord through the clouds into glory
When Jesus comes for His own.
[“Christ Returneth,” H. L. Turner]
One other: We’ll be real people. We won’t be shadowy phantoms. He says, “I.” He says, “You.”
“I will receive you unto Myself.” That “I” is our blessed Lord, and that “you” is you, and I [John 14:3]. We will be real people. You will be you, and I will be I.
Paul calls that a great mystery [1 Corinthians 15:51], unfathomable to us but in the omnipotent purpose of God, beautiful and precious. My predecessor in the church before I came here was a distinguished man of God like George Truett here. I heard him say one time, “People often ask me, ‘Will we know one another in heaven?’” And he would reply, “My brother, we won’t really know one another until we get to heaven. For the Scriptures say, ‘Then shall I know even as also God knows me’” [1 Corinthians 13:12].
Those disciples knew Elijah, they knew Moses, by intuition, by spiritual intuition, a knowledge that comes from the goodness of God [Matthew 17:1-4]. When the sainted apostle John was on the Isle of Patmos, he heard a great voice like a trumpet behind him [Revelation 1:9-11]. And turning to see the voice that spake unto him, he saw the risen and glorified Lord [Revelation 1:12-16]. And he fell at His feet as one dead. And then, he writes, “And the Lord put his right hand upon me” [Revelation 1:17]. The same Jesus:
He put His right hand upon me and said, Fear not; I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore… and I, I have the keys of Hell and of Death.
“Be not afraid; neither let your heart be troubled. Peace, I leave with you” [John 14:27], the legacy of our Lord.
I’ll sing you a song of that beautiful land.
The far away home of the soul.
Where no storms ever beat on the glittering strand,
While the years of eternity roll.
O how sweet it will be in that beautiful land.
So free from all sorrow and pain.
With songs on our lips and with harps in our hands.
To greet one another again.
[“Home of the Soul,” Ellen Gates]
The legacy of our Lord.
Our Master, in this life to have peace with Thee in our souls and in the life to come, the legacy our Lord leaves us, an eternal home where with Thee and one another [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:1-5], we shall praise our living Lord, forever and ever world without end, blessed praise be to His glorious name, amen.