True Belonging: Heirlooms

Among other possible titles, I dubbed 2020 “The Summer of Moves” — my parents moved to a retirement community, my sons to an apartment, my husband and I to a new state. Boxes, packing paper, and tape ruled our evenings and weekends for months. 

One box slipped into the fray that I didn’t open till September. A box of my Great-Grandma’s teacups. I’d kept this box of treasures in a special place where the fragile contents could be safe until I was ready to make room for them in my new kitchen. I cleared two shelves, popped open the box, and delicately pulled out and unwrapped each cup and saucer.

Always one for a good puzzle, I enjoyed matching saucers and cups, reading the maker’s print on each one of them. After I hand washed and dried each one, I carefully stacked them in my cabinet, where they await my first neighborhood tea party.

When I opened that box, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting — vintage, family heirloom teacups. But what I found at the bottom of the box took my breath. Wrapped in old newspapers, a bowl, two glass cups, a men’s razor — like the kind that unfolds! — and aged women’s handkerchiefs revealed themselves to me. On the chance I were to wonder whose these were or where they came from, my thoughtful grandmother had written notes, labeling each one. So, now I have these treasures, including the notes in her handwriting. 

Call me sentimental, which I am, but that box was by far my favorite I’d opened, maybe ever. My mom and my grandma had taken care of these family gems, then with great trust passed them on to me. Can I just say how much I love them? And how giddy I am imagining myself doing the same with my granddaughter someday? (no, she isn’t born yet, but I can hope) 

John 17:6-8

Our John 17 passage for this week continues the given theme we uncovered last week, but it also offers us a glimpse into God’s heart behind sending Jesus. Read on! 

6 “I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, 8 for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.”

John 17:6-8, NLT

Do those “give” words jump right out at you? 

Twice Jesus prays aloud to His Father about “the ones You gave me,” reiterating a phrase later, “You gave them to me.” Both of these phrases find their origin in the Greek verb, ekokas, meaning that God is actively doing the action. He is giving us — His children — to Jesus. At the time, God was giving the disciples to Jesus. Today, He continues to give us to Jesus.

The repetitive nature in this chapter emphasizes its importance of our givenness but also insinuates how this idea in Jesus’ day would have been received by the hearers. The disciples, over whom Jesus originally prayed this, would have needed to be confident of this truth — they were given by God to Jesus — because their faith would soon be tested with Jesus’ arrest and execution. Quite intentionally, Jesus poured on this idea of their having been actively given to Him by God so that when they looked back, they’d remember. They’d be assured. Their faith would hold strong. 

Revealing God

Digging a little deeper into these verses, we observe Jesus revealing God to the disciples. Take a minute to think back over all Jesus did and said while He ministered on earth — All the miracles. All the times He spoke aloud about God’s kingdom being here, now. All the lessons about loving enemies, expanding boundaries of what defined a neighbor, and how the first would be last and the least the greatest. In ALL of that, Jesus was revealing God to His disciples. 

I’ve never stopped to consider Jesus’ motive in all He did beyond assuming it was to prove who He was. But as I read these words, a prayer straight from the mouth of Jesus, I realize the truer motive was revealing God the Father. 

All Jesus’ teachings reflect the truth of who God is.
All Jesus’ healings demonstrate the power of God.
All Jesus’ miracles — like water to wine — reveal the goodness of God.
All Jesus’ words speak of the love of God — even the angry ones.
All Jesus’ actions — like dining with sinners — show God’s heart for everyone.

The next time we have a few minutes, we should reread the Gospel of John with eyes looking for all the ways Jesus reveals God. Perhaps we’ll come away with a better understanding of who God is. And when we do that, our trust in Him will break into all of our reactions and responses until — have you guessed it? — we begin to reveal God in all we do and say.

Oh, sister, let that soak in.

Gifts

Reading in the NLT, verse seven describes everything God had given Jesus as a gift. While still holding true to the given theme of the chapter, the Greek word usage here is different than in verses six and two. The word, dedōkas, means to give or gift, so whatever version we read, the idea is the same — everything Jesus possessed was given to Him by God. An added inference behind dedōkas is that this gift has “the intention (aim) that motivates the giving and the chain-reaction of giving-and-responding” (Bible Hub). In other words, Jesus knew God’s intent behind all the giving, and He responded accordingly. 

When I received those teacups and other heirlooms, I knew they were a gift from my mom and, by virtue, my grandma. I also knew my mom’s heart, or her intention, behind the gift held an expectation that I’d love and treasure these heirlooms. And because I had such understanding, the gift meant more and has evoked in me a grateful and loving response.

Because of Jesus’ intentionality to tell His disciples that He’d been given all things by God, we are able to witness Jesus’ humility and focus. Jesus never once took credit. He never lost sight of His mission. Instead, He took what God had gifted Him, put it all to good use, and pointed back to His Father at every step.

Then. Then, He passed it all to His disciples. Like an heirloom, Jesus handed His followers all those gifts — like knowledge and love and authority — His father had given Him. 

And they knew it. 

And Jesus was sure of it because the disciples had come to believe God had sent Him.

Do you wonder what all Jesus had been given? One way to know is to look at what He did. People have written books upon books on that subject. In fact, John ended his gospel with these words, “Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25, NLT). John acknowledges the vastness of all Jesus did. Now we know every action Jesus took came from all He’d been given, with the heart of passing it along.

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

Go and Do Likewise

So, reach on out, sister. Stretch that hand out to receive all that Jesus has for you. And as you do, remember that every single ounce of love and grace and wisdom and patience came first from God, through Jesus, to you. You are an heir! And you’ve been handed the very best of gifts. Take them. Use them, reflecting God as you do. And in that way, you’ll keep passing them on.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bits-and-pieces-1-e1630621292882.png
  • Thinking about all Jesus did, what do you see as some of the gifts (like love or authority) God gave Him? Write a list in your Journal then write a prayer of gratitude, thanking God for the gifts in our life. Then ask Him to show you how you might pass those on.
  • I hope you’ve been making it a practice to say — no, pray — the words, I belong to Jesus. Do it. Trust me.
  • There’s a fun song on the Belonging playlist called “Here In Your Love” by The Belonging Co. (how perfect is that?) that celebrates the truth that, because of Jesus, we’ve been gifted the ability to be in God’s love. All the time. And THAT is exactly where we belong!

Featured photo by Heather Barnes on Unsplash

Published by Shelley Johnson

Follower of Christ, wife, mother of three, daughter, sister, friend. Seeker of ways to share the love I've found in Jesus with others.

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