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TEXT: Luke 23:46
SUBJECT: Last Words #7: Father, Into Your Hands
Jesus Christ went to Mount Calvary at nine o'clock in the morning and died there at three in the afternoon.
From nine to noon He suffers the wrath of man and devil. Not satisfied with crucifying Him, the rulers also torture and humiliate Him. If He is a Prophet, they put a bag over His head, punch Him in the mouth, and demand He tell them who did it. If He is a King, they dress Him in purple, crown Him with thorns, and kneel before Him in mock reverence. If He is the Savior, they urge Him to save Himself, come down from the cross and receive their worship.
They were cruel men who sent our Lord to the cross, but they did not act on their own, for Satan was behind their envy, malice, and rage. What a hateful creature he is! Think of what he did to the people we read of in the New Testament. For eighteen years, he bent a woman double. He blinded a boy and made him unable to speak. He ran a man out of his mind. He grievously afflicted a little girl. He even drove pigs to mass suicide! If the devil is this way with boys and girls, men, women, and animals, how cruel must he have been to the Son of God? These were hard hours for our Lord, harder than any He had faced so far.
But harder ones were still to come. For the next two hours and fifty-nine minutes or so, darkness covered the earth, a gloom so thick and heavy that men stopped abusing our Lord and even hell became quiet. This was no relief, however, for if God was holding back the wrath of man, He was releasing His own which burst on our Lord with the fury of a broken dam!
No one was meeker or more patient than our Lord was, or complained less than He did. But under the weight of those dark hours, even He screamed,
My God, My God,
Why have You forsaken Me?
The two hours and fifty-nine minutes of darkness were long and dreary for Christ, but they did not last forever. When they were past, He quit screaming, and asked for a drink. Then, recovering His voice, He shouted again, but this time in victory: It is finished! indicating His sacrifice had been fully offered to God and--fully accepted.
He now has nothing left to do but to die. He will do that in no more than ten or fifteen seconds. But it is worth noting: Luke does not say He died, and neither does Matthew or Mark or John.
Matthew says He yielded up His spirit. Mark says He breathed His last. John says He gave up His spirit. Luke, like Mark, says He breathed His last. These might be nothing more than polite ways of saying, 'He died', but I don't think so. The grammar of the verses suggests an intentional 'giving up' of His life. This is just what He said He would do. In comparing Himself to a good shepherd, He doesn't say, 'The good shepherd may be killed for his sheep', but something quite different: 'The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep'. A bit later He says,
I lay down My life.No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.
In short, His life was not taken for us, it was given for us. It was given to God for your salvation and mine. Our Lord was not a reluctant Savior, but a willing and eager one. If God loves a cheerful giver, He must have a special regard for His Son who gave His all-not grudgingly of or necessity-but from the heart.
If the Father loves His Son, the Son also loves His Father. The final thing He said from the cross is full of love and confidence. The last words are spoken to God, but they were spoken loudly enough that others could hear them--or more than 'could hear them'--others must hear them! What needs to be heard? This:
Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!
Soon His Lord's body will be taken down from the cross and laid in a rich man's tomb where it will rest for three days and three nights. But if His body went there, it went alone. His spirit did not go to the tomb-and it sure didn't go into hell! His spirit went back to His Father's loving embrace.
How dear the reunion must have been, both to Father and Son. Our Lord's greatest parable tells of an unfaithful son who leaves his family, throws away his fortune, and heads home in rags, hoping his father will make him his slave. When he's still a good ways off, the father spots him, runs to meet him with open arms, and welcomes him back into the family with the biggest party you ever saw.
God is the father in this story, and if He welcomes runaway sons this way, how do you suppose He welcomes His Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased?
Is this the end of the story? No it isn't. 'Going to heaven' is not our Lord's final goal-and it is not ours. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, which is far better. Yes it is-absent from the body is better than the life we now have.
But God's generosity is so great that better isn't good enough: He wants the best for His Son, and this means: Resurrection! From the time He died until late the next Saturday night, the Lord enjoyed a happiness we cannot imagine. But Sunday morning He got a lot happier. Psalm 16 describes it-
In Your presence is the fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures
With the Resurrection I'm getting ahead of the story. Let's go back to the cross and hear again the last words our Lord spoke from it-
Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.
For two thousand years Christians have plumbed these words and have not hit the bottom. I'll be happy to break the surface. The words say something about God, about Christ, and about ourselves.
About God, the words say He is faithful.
Of all the qualities the Bible ascribes to God none is more front-and-center than His faithfulness. Idols are as false and fickle as the men who make them. The Israelites must not trust in Baal, for example, because Baal is not worthy of their trust.
But the Lord is! He is the God they can count on, the One who never broke His word-and never will. His Word has often been tested and always proved true-
The words of the Lord are pure words,
Like silver tested in a furnace of earth,
Purified seven times.
At the cross God was put to the test, and for some time He seemed to be failing it. He swore to keep the Messiah, to be there for Him in all of His troubles, and now when His troubles had come to a head, He wasn't there.
Or was He?
Yes He was--our Lord said so. Into Your hands I commit My spirit means God was there for Him, it means God is faithful, that He can be trusted and that no one who ever trusted Him wishes he hadn't.
I don't know what it means to trust God because I have very little experience doing it, and what I have has been very poor. But if I cannot explain 'trusting God', I can name one thing it includes: Trusting God includes believing His Word.
Do you believe His Word? I'm not asking if you believe the right theory of Inspiration, but the Word itself. Do you believe what the Word says about forgiveness? If you did, your life would be better than it is. What does the Word say about forgiveness? It says,
If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
As long as this remains doctrinal, you believe it. But the moment it becomes practical, you quit believing it. You commit a sin, a terrible sin, maybe, or the same sin over and over. You sincerely confess that sin to the Lord and ask Him to forgive you. You then get up from your prayers.and feel guiltier than ever! You don't believe God's Word and this means you don't trust God. He says He is faithful to forgive your sins, but you don't think He is. Another sin, maybe, but not this one; the sins of other people, yes, but not your own. This is unbelief wearing the mask of humility.
God is faithful. He was faithful to Christ and He is faithful to you. His Promise never fails. Like our Lord, you can trust God, and He will be there for you, even when you cannot feel Him. His Presence does not depend on your feeling, but upon His Promise. And the promise is sure-
I will never leave you nor forsake you.
The last words from the cross certify the promise. The God who promised to be there for Jesus, was there.
Father, into Your hands
I commit My spirit.
If the words say something about God, they also say something about Christ. They say His work is done. Our Lord came to earth with an assignment from heaven. When He completed His work on earth He would go back to heaven. Well, what's He doing here? He's going back to heaven. Which means: His work is done.
His work was to save sinners. This was announced before His birth. Joseph was engaged to Mary, but they had been together. As the wedding date neared, he found his beloved fiancée was pregnant, he thought with another man's child. He was within his rights to divorce and humiliate her, but being a just man, he didn't want to. As he pondered what to do next, an Angel came to him with great good news: Mary has not betrayed her man, but is carrying God's Child. When the baby is born, Joseph has got to name Him Jesus because the name means,
He will save His people from their sins.
At the time, nobody knew how He would do it, only that He would do it. In the event, He did it by dying in our place. On the brink of doing just that, He yells it out for all to hear-
Father, into Your hands
I commit My spirit.
His work is finished: the Man has lived up to His name; He has saved His people from our sins, at the cost of His own life. This is what the Last Word say about Christ.
If the words say something about God and Christ, they finally say something about us. They say we are going to heaven.
Jesus Christ did not die as a Private Person but as The Head of the Church, which is His body. Where the head goes, the body follows. This means if our Lord committed Himself to God's loving hands, He committed us too!
Do you think God took Jesus or turned Him away? I say He took Him-in fact, He had to take Him because He had promised to and God keeps His promises! But if He took Christ, He took us with Him. For the believer is, in some mysterious way, in Christ. I'm not sure I can tell you what this means, but it seems to me if I have a tattoo on my hand and if I go somewhere, my tattoo goes with me. You might leave your keys behind or your wallet or maybe your belt, but no one ever went off and forgot his tattoo! And that's what we are: tattoos on the hands of Christ. I've got a verse for you, Isaiah 49:6-
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.
Believers cannot go to hell because Christ did not go to hell. Believers have to go into the Father's loving hands because Christ did and, by faith, we are in Christ.
Thus we can live and die without fear. Because in life and in death, our times are in His hands.
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