************ Sermon on Luke 23:46 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 18, 2014
"Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit"
Good Friday - 2014
Did you note the seven things that occurred at the time Jesus died? First, according to Luke, darkness came over the land for three hours. Second, the temple curtain was torn in two. Third, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." Fourth, Jesus died willingly. Fifth, the centurion declared Jesus to be innocent. Sixth, the people who came to see the spectacle began to drift away; Luke says some of them "beat their breasts" (which is a sign of guilt and shame). Seventh, our Lord's friends watched from a distance; following Christ, you see, is dangerous so it is best to keep one's distance.
This year for Lent we have been looking at the words of Christ from the cross. So, we will concentrate today on the word Jesus cried out as He died: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
Did you know this seventh word from the cross is a line from Psalm 31:5? And, did you know Hebrew children were taught to pray this prayer every day? When we put our children to bed at night we teach them to pray the same thing, albeit with different words: "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep ..." Undoubtedly, Mary taught Jesus this prayer when He was a little boy. Very likely this is the first prayer He had ever learned, one that had stayed with Him throughout the years. And now that same Son, grown to manhood, climaxing His ministry on the cross, says the words again. Jesus can find no better way to say farewell to life than with the words He learned at His mother's knee. "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." So, in His final moments of suffering Jesus spoke a childhood prayer.
I Fellowship With God
A "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." We cannot hear these words without calling to mind what Jesus had just suffered. For three awful hours the perfect fellowship between the Father and the Son, between the first and second persons of the Trinity, was broken. The light of God's presence was removed from Jesus and there was darkness over the whole land. Jesus was cursed and forsaken by God as He bore our sins and our guilt. For this reason Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46). And for this reason Jesus said He was thirsty for God and His presence (cf Jn 19:28; Ps 42:1-2).
Up to the cross there had been perfect and unbroken fellowship between the Father and the Son. During the Last Supper, for instance, when Jesus prayed His High Priestly prayer, He could say to the Father, "All I have is yours, and all you have is mine ... you are in me and I am in you" (Jn 17:10,21). In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus could pray to His Father: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Lk 22:42).
Jesus' first word upon the cross was to the Father: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk 23:34). And now His last word is to the Father: "Father," He says, "into your hands I commit my spirit." But between this first and last word He hung on the cross for six hours.
Now all is done. "It is finished," was His cry (Jn 10:30). The cup of God's wrath is now drained (Lk 22:42). The darkness is over. "Father," He says, "into your hands I commit my spirit."
B This seventh word of the cross shows Jesus to have fellowship again with the Father. The Savior is once more in communion with the Father. He can once more speak to the Father because the Father is no longer removed from Him.
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." "Father." How often this word was upon the Savior's lips. His first words recorded for us by Scripture are, "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Lk 2:49). In the Sermon on the Mount He speaks of the "Father" seventeen times. In the Upper Room discourse of John 14-16 the word "Father" is found no less than forty-five times. In the next chapter, John 17, which contains Christ's High Priestly prayer, He speaks to and of the Father six more times. And now, now in His last word before death, He speaks to the Father again: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
C He Whom Jesus calls Father is also our Father because of Christ and His work upon the cross. How wonderful this is! How unspeakably precious that I can look up to the great and living God and say, "Father, my Father." What comfort is contained in this title! What assurance it conveys! God is my Father. He is my Father and He loves me, He cares for me, He supplies all my needs, He works out all things for my good, He numbers the hairs on my head. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us," says the Apostle John, "that we should be called children of God!" (1 Jn 3:1). Like Jesus, we pray to the Father: "Our Father in heaven," we say, "hallowed by your name."
II In the Hands of God
A "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." This seventh word shows Jesus going from the hands of men into the hands of God.
Christ had foretold He would be in the hands of men. Three times He said to His disciples,
(Mk 10:33-34) "... the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, (34) who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him ..." (cf Mk 8:31, 9:31)And, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said,
(Matt 26:45-46) "... Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (46) Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
(Cf Lk 24:6-7)
It would have been easy for Christ to avoid going into the hands of men. A simple look of His was enough to lay the arresting soldiers on the ground (Jn 18:9). And, as Jesus Himself said, at His disposal was more than twelve legions of angels – any or all of whom Jesus could have called to His defense (Mt 26:53). But, in obedience to Scripture and the will of God, Jesus allowed Himself to be delivered into the hands of men (cf Mt 26:54,56). The appointed hour had come. The time when He should submit Himself to be led as a lamb to the slaughter had arrived. So He delivered Himself into the hands of sinners.
For more than twelve hours Christ was in the hands of men. How He suffered then! You all know what they did. They gave full expression to their hatred for God. They crucified the Lord of glory.
Of His own free will, then, Christ delivered Himself into the hands of sinners.
B Notice, in our text, what Christ does now: He delivers Himself from the hands of men into the hands of the Father.
Do you know what this means? Never again will Christ be in the hands of men. Never again will He be at the mercy of the wicked. Never again will He suffer shame. Into the hands of the Father He commits Himself, and the Father will now look after Him.
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." What happens to Christ in the Father's hands? In three days God will raise Him from the grave. Forty days after that the Father will exalt Him to the highest place and give Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11).
But that's not all. One day the tables will be turned. When Christ was here on earth men dared to judge Him and condemn Him, but there will come a day when He shall judge and condemn men. He will sit on the Father's throne (Rev 3:21) waiting until His enemies are a footstool for His feet (Ps 2:1). Once He was in the hands of men, but at the end of time all men shall be in His hands. Once men cried out, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!" (Jn 19:15), but there will come a time when He shall say, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire ..." (Mt 25:41).
III Voluntary Death
A "Father into your hands I commit my spirit." This seventh word from the cross displays the voluntary nature of Christ's death: namely, that His life was not taken from Him; rather, He laid it down of Himself. But, then, didn't Jesus say this is the way He would die? Consider His words in John 10:
(Jn 10:17-18) The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. (18) No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.
The other Gospel accounts of Christ's crucifixion and death support this. Matthew's Gospel says, "And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit" (Mt 27:50). According to John's Gospel Jesus said, ""It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit" (Jn 19:30).
The end was now reached. Perfect master of Himself, unconquered by suffering, pain, and death, He cries out with a loud voice and delivers up His spirit into the hands of His Father. No one else ever died this way. His birth was unique; His life was unique; and now His death is unique too. In laying down His life, He died of His own free will. Who but our Lord could have done this? With Jesus it is proof of His perfection and uniqueness.
B Why did Jesus willingly die? Why did He willingly give over His spirit and pass from life to death? On account of our sins! Two things are necessary for Jesus to remove the guilt of our sin and appease the wrath of God. First, He must be judged and suffer – this He has already borne. Second, He must taste of death. With the sinner it is death first, and then the judgment; with the Savior it is first judgment and then death. This He did in order to save us. Hallelujah! what a Savior!
IV Eternal Security
A "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." In this last word from the cross Jesus shows us the only place where a man's soul is eternally secure: with God.
At the moment of death Christ put His spirit into the hands of the Father. Why? Because there, and only there, that spirit is forever safe and secure.
Following this example, Stephen committed his spirit to God at death saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59).
B When we face death it isn't the body we should be concerned about but, rather, the spirit. When we face death we don't say, "Lord Jesus receive my body." Rather, we say, "Lord Jesus receive my spirit."
Why do I say this? Because the most precious thing belonging to each one of us is our spirit. It is far more precious than our homes, dairies, businesses, bank accounts, cars, computers, bikes or whatever else you care to name. The spirit within is a precious treasure and our main care in life is to see it secure and in safe hands. That's why our relationship with God is the most important thing in life. That's why we faithfully come to worship services every Sunday. That's why we diligently spend time each day in Bible reading and prayer. That's why we attend study groups and society meetings. That's why Christian parents read Bible stories to their children and teach them God's ways. That's why Christian parents send their children to Church School and the various youth societies. That's why we, as a church, strongly support Christian education for our children and youth – for the soul or spirit of our children and youth is so precious, so valuable, and we want their souls, like our souls, to be kept secure and in safe hands.
When you face death, my brothers and sisters, will your spirit be safe and secure in the hands of God or will it be lost? If your spirit is in God's hands when you die it is safe and secure. If it isn't in God's hands, it is eternally lost.
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." We see in this last word from the cross that death is not the end for Christ. The body may die and be buried but the spirit lives on. This is the second time in the words from the cross that Christ has clearly indicated that death is in no way the end. Remember what He said to the thief: "Today you will be with me in paradise." Jesus again shows He expects to live after death. Even in the midst of His suffering and death upon the cross Christ displays hope and expresses His confidence in His continued existence.
Thanks be to Christ for in Him we too can have that same confidence. Death is not the end for us. After death our spirit continues to live. And, someday, our body will be raised. My prayer is that your spirit and my spirit will live with God for the other possibility is too horrible to even contemplate.
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
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