How do we know that someone loves us? If we want to be nice and proper we might say it is by the actions that the other person does, what he/she speaks, the care that he/she shows etc. But if we are brutally honest we will add, also by what gifts the other person gives us, isn’t it? Don’t we all show our love and affection by giving gifts and other material things to our loved ones?
Let me stretch that a bit more. And I am doing this because today is a death anniversary. On a death anniversary of a person, is it appropriate for us to measure how much a person has loved us by what inheritance he/she has left us with? Even if we might not “want” an inheritance from someone, the amount of inheritance that the person has left us will tell us the nature and abundance (or otherwise) of that person’s love towards us. Isn’t it?
How does one leave an inheritance? It is automatic if you are his/her legal heir. But if, by the law of the land, you are not that person’s legal heir, the only way the person can leave their inheritance to you is by writing a will and getting it notarized or registered in the registrar office isn’t it?
I studied some of the strangest wills written by some of the rich and famous. Let me just quote a few of them.
William Shakespeare left his wife only the “second best bed” in his will. Most of his estate he left to his daughter. Creator of the Star Trek series Gene Roddenberry, left instructions in will that his wealth should be used to send his mortal remains to the space (which was actually fulfilled when the space shuttle Columbia carried his mortal remains in 1992). Harry Houdini, probably the best known illusionist and stunt performer (from whom the term “Houdini act” is derived) insisted in his will that his wife carry out a séance on every death anniversary of his so that he can send her contact her with some secret message from wherever he was. George Bernard Shaw left his entire wealth to fund the development of a new alphabet that he wanted to replace the roman script with. (He called it the Shavian alphabet, and it never succeeded)
Would we have thought these folks as loving? Did they demonstrate their love? If they did, what or on whom did they demonstrate their love on?
Today is celebrated as the death anniversary of Jesus Christ on the cross, that is why we are here, celebrating it as Good Friday. How did it become “good” Friday? Did Jesus write a will? Did you and I inherit something from him? Through him? We probably know the answer to that, but let us look a little deeper into that topic today.
Please open your bibles to John Chapter 17. Would you be surprised if I told you that I consider this as Jesus’s will? Let me establish that.
Wills are generally written before death. This is certainly true in Jesus’ case. He knew that His hour has come, and He makes it clear in the first verse itself.
All wills starts with the identity of the person who is writing the will. John 17 starts exactly like that. In verses 1 to 6 He firmly establishes his identity, that He is one with the Father, and He was with the Father before the world began, and that the Father had given Him all authority.
After establishing the writer’s own identity, the next section of the will is where the writer describes the person on whom the inheritances are to be endowed upon. Jesus does that in verse 6. He says they were yours but you gave them to me. I had inherited the people from you.
The next section of the will is where the writer describes all that has already been endowed upon the beneficiary and what more should be endowed upon them after his death. In Jesus’ will, He does that in verses 11 to 22. Jesus affirms that He has given them the Father’s Word, and has protected them till now. Based on that He prays that the Father will keep them, sanctify them and glorify them after His death.
And then finally the author of the will comes to the highlight of the will, which is the main inheritance after His own death.
John 17:23-26 (NKJV) 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. 24 Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
In this last section of His will, Jesus affirms (three times) that the Father’s love for the Son is the same as the same love that the Son has for the people. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine someone loving us as much as themselves? If we were all “good” people, it would still have been OK? Here we are, all messed up, unworthy, disobedient most of the times, undeserving, not able to get out of evil ways, yes.. that is us.. and the Trinitarian God loves us as themselves? And because of that love, Christ is asking the Father “I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world”. Can you think about a greater inheritance than that?
And we also know that by earthly laws the author of the will needs to die for the will to become effective. Hebrews 9:16-17 (NIV) 16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. So what does Jesus do? He willingly walks to the Cross after writing His will, bequeathing all of His possessions, and positions, hangs on the cross and dies for you and me.
For me, that is the Wonder of Christ’s love. This morning, as we celebrate the death anniversary of this author of the will, let us rejoice in this Wonder of Christ’s love for us. A love that enabled him to bear all the insults and pains and sufferings, so that the ones that the Father loved, you and me, may be with Him where He has gone.