Father into your hands I commit my Spirit
Over the last 7 weeks we’ve been looking at the cross, specifically Jesus’ last words on the cross. We’ve devoted a sermon to each of his last sayings. One of the reasons I wanted to do this is to really get us to think on it. There’s a dangerous thing that can happen when we are always close to the things of God. We begin to take them for granted. Familiarity with things sometimes breeds complacency and that’s a horrible thing to happen in the church. I think of Judas who was close to Jesus but missed out on what Jesus was doing. I don’t want that to be the case with anyone here in church. We say so often that Jesus died for our sins that I don’t want us overlook how much He loved us. So if you’re one of those people that have been close to the things of God, but missing out, one of those people that have been coasting for a while I want to encourage you to confess and repent and and ask God to remind you anew this morning how much He loves you.
The first saying was “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus forgiving his enemies, the very ones that nailed him to that tree. Then he said to the thief, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” He offers salvation to someone that can do nothing to earn it, which is kind of the point. Then “Behold your mother and behold your son” to John and Mary. Christ taught us that what we do on earth matters in eternity. Then the cry of desperation, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Jesus was forsaken so that we never have to be. Then “I Thirst” reminded us of the physical anguish Jesus went through. Last week was the “It is Finished” one word in the Aramaic, Tetelestai, paid in full. We have worked up quite a debt with our sins against a holy God and with His work on the cross he writes on our account paid in full.
Today Jesus says “Father into your hands I commit my Spirit.” He yields his spirit to his father in heaven. Jesus dies. A statement that we utter a lot in this building, but we forget how profound it is. It’s true though. Without death there would be no resurrection. A lesson to Christians that want Easter Sunday without Good Friday. Who want Christianity without a cross. A crown without suffering, there is no such thing. Paul tells us in Philippians that Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient, to the point of death even death of the cross. Jesus obedience was costly, the ultimate sacrifice. Indulge me for a second here please and let me jump to application right here in the introduction. It’s a little unorthodox, but I want you to see that obedience is costly. I was talking to my kids the other day and explaining to them that discipline is often doing the things you don’t want to do or don’t feel like doing to get where you want to be. Too many in church only serve God when it is convenient and the weak, powerless church is what you get. That kind of church becomes a punchline, evidence of hypocrisy and fuel for the haters. When we were saved we put yourself up on that cross with Jesus. We died to ourselves. We offered our lives as living sacrifices. The only problem with a living sacrifice is it tends to crawl off the altar. Jesus wants followers who have already laid their yes on the table, whatever he says I will do, where ever he sends I will go. Followers who have given him their lives as a blank check. I see way too much of people serving God only when it’s convenient. Serving God when they have time. What if we made serving God the priority and built our schedules around that? What if God was the reason we canceled our plans on not the other way around.
I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let’s look at our text for today.
Let’s look at how Jesus dies, what His death means, and how people respond to it. So we’ll start centered on the saying in vs 46 and then we’ll branch out to the details into the other verses.
Jesus dies with scripture on his lips in prayer to God. We don’t get to choose how or when we die, but man this is how I want to die. After all of the agony Jesus dies in peace. He quotes Psalm 31:5. Turn there with me to see it. Into your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. Listen to this, tradition says that Jewish parents would recite this verse as they prayed with their children before bedtime. I read that this was probably the first verse many Jewish children ever learned. It’s comparable to the modern bedtime prayer of “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray to God my soul to take. How fitting that Jesus dies like a child falling asleep in the arms of His father. He is entering the rest of His father. 7 days of creation and on the sixth God finished and on the seventh He rested. 7 sayings of Jesus, the sixth was it is finished and now he rests. Now notice he changes it a bit. First, He says father. This is a prayer of intimacy, of relationship. Just a short while ago on the cross Jesus uttered, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Which was significant because that was the only time Jesus called God God and not Father. Here the fellowship is restored. He calls him father again. Notice Jesus also leaves out the second part of that verse. You have redeemed me. Why? Jesus wasn’t being redeemed He was redeeming. Not only does he quote the scriptures, He understands the scriptures and interprets them rightly. I’ve seen my fair share of people die and when it happens in peace it’s a glorious thing. Let me say this, the only way you will have scripture on your lips when you die is if you have scripture in your heart now. I want you to be in the word and so badly I want the word to be in you. If you pricked Jesus He bled bible. The whole time on the cross he’s quoting the Psalms. Why the Psalms? They cover the whole range of emotions.
Jesus dies in control and in confidence. Notice He says I commit my Spirit. You see Jesus’ life wasn’t taken from Him, He gave it up. He could have called down the angels to rescue Him from the cross, but He didn’t. He was in control. We don’t get to choose when we die, Jesus did. He died in control relinquishing His Spirit to God. He had voluntarily left himself in people’s hands over the last days. He let them lead him and torture him. He chose to be passive and take what they were giving. Now he passes from men’s hands to God’s. Into your hands. In essence this is what sleep is every night. It’s an act of faith, it’s entrusting ourselves into our father’s hands. The hands of God are a safe place to be.
John 10:27-30 My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. And I give them eternal life and they shall never perish;neither shall they anyone snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My father’s hand.
Christian you are always in the hands of God, but upon death you will feel it more than ever. I remember patting one of my kids before they went to sleep one time. I was planning my escape and patting lighter and lighter and they reached out to my hand and clamped it down on them. I was touching them, but they wanted to make sure of it. That’s how the Christian life is much of the time, but upon death it’s as sure as anything. Jesus died in complete confidence and control.
Let’s take a look at what is happening when Jesus dies. Look at vs 44-45. We’ve talked about the darkness before, but it’s worth mentioning again. God is judging sin in this 3 hours of darkness. He who knew no sin became sin for us. Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood. Sealed my pardon with his blood. Hallelujah! What a Savior.
Now there’s another event that happens here that we haven’t seen yet. The veil of the temple was torn into two. Now the way our text reads it seems like this happens before Jesus dies. Both Matthew and Mark say that Jesus cries out with a loud voice and then the veil is torn. Tim Chaffey of Answers in Genesis straightens us out with this solution, There is a rather simple resolution to this issue: the temple veil tore at the same moment Jesus died. If three eyewitnesses were to record two simultaneous events, would they be forced to list the occurrences in the same order? Of course not. The individuals would be allowed to choose which one to report first. In this case, Matthew and Mark chose to highlight the death of Christ before mentioning the tearing of the temple veil. Luke chose to mention the veil before reporting the death of Christ.
But doesn’t Luke clearly state that Jesus died after the temple veil was torn? No, he doesn’t, but it appears that way in some English translations. This is one of the difficulties of the translation process. In each of the passages, the word translated as “then” is the Greek word “καὶ” (kai). This particle is a conjunction which can have either a copulative or cumulative force.1 In other words, this word can be used to join together two words or groups of words, and it can also be used when the writer wants to build one idea upon another. The word is often translated as “and,” “also,” “even,” “both,” “then,” “so,” or “likewise.”
The versions that translate kai as “then” seem to give the impression that one of these events happened and then the other event occurred; hence, the apparent contradiction.2 However, many Bibles translate kai as “and.”3 This rendering reinforces the idea that Christ’s death and the tearing of the temple veil took place at the same time.
Why did I bother with this explanation? Truth matters to me and I don’t want to be the kind of church that is encouraged to check their brains at the door. One good thing from this is often people accuse the gospel authors of colluding. If they were colluding they probably would have wrote it the same way.
With that out of the way, let’s see what’s going on. What is the veil? The Jewish temple was designed in such a way that there were different areas. Only certain people were allowed in the areas. The most special area was the holy of holies. This was where the presence of God was thought to dwell. It had the commandments, the ark, the manna, the rod that budded, the mercy seat and so on and so forth. The curtain was meant to represent that we were separated from God because of our sin. There was distance between sinful man and a holy God. This was a physical reminder at the temple. The barrier communicated that you couldn’t just waltz into God’s presence. It was about 60 feet wide, 30 feet high and 4 inches thick. Once a year on the day of atonement the high priest would enter into the holy of holies. This is only after meticulous washings and readings. In order for the high priest to enter they had to take off their normal priestly garments and put on different ones. Before entering he would have a bull for his sin offering, 2 male goats for the people’s sin offering, and 2 rams for the burnt offerings. Before entering he would burn incense to make the room smoky. This was to protect the priest from the holiness of God. I wish we thought the same of the holiness of God. The high priest would then take the blood of the bull and sprinkle it on the mercy seat 7 times. Lots were then cast for the goats. One would be killed and one would be driven into the wilderness symbolizing their sins being carried away. This one was called the scapegoat. It was a big deal and Jesus fulfilled all of this in His death. Upon His death he began his ministry as high priest.
Hebrews 9:23-10:4, 11-22
Jesus became our high priest, Jesus walked into the holy of holies and sat on the mercy seat with His blood. Jesus became the sin offering. He died like the goat, He carried our sins away like the scapegoat. His flesh was torn like the veil and now there is nothing separating us from being in God’s presence. We can be in the presence of God in all of His holiness because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. He doesn’t have to keep going once a year, it was done once and for all. To top that off He still lives as high priest making intercession for us all of the time. This is the significance of the veil being torn. Not only this I think it’s Matthew’s account that tells us it was torn from top to bottom. Why does that matter. God tore it. God made it possible to be in His presence through the blood of His son. We cannot work our way to heaven, we cannot devise a plan to climb Jacob’s ladder, we cannot work our way towards God, but God came down and made eternal life possible. There’s a lot going on on the cross. Jesus is fulfilling all of the shadows of the OT.
Real quickly I want to look at the way people reacted to all of this. First in verse 47 we have the centurion. He was a captain of 100 men. He was there supervising the killing of Jesus and something about how Jesus died moved Him.
Then you have the crowd. Many in the crowd were just pawns rallied to do the religious leaders bidding of crucifying Jesus. Vs 48 says they beat their breasts and returned. Beating your breast was a sign of mourning, sorrow. The crowd wasn’t quite repentant, but they wondered if they had a mistake. I think most likely that a lot that were in the crowd were saved on Pentecost weeks later.
Then you have Jesus’s friends. They stood at a distance. Some of His disciples had made it back to Him. There were women there. None of them could have been called brave, but behold their salvation was being accomplished as they watched. It reminds me of the story of David and Goliath. We teach that to children and tell them to be brave like David. Truthfully, David is an example of Christ in that story. If we want to identify with anyone in the story it needs to be the cowardly, whiny Israelites sitting on the sidelines. They watched David their savior do something they couldn’t do and he was doing it for them. Today we stand at a distance looking at our hero give His life on a cross so that we could live forever with Him. He does the saving and we’re in need of rescue. The cross is where it took place. What will your response to the cross be? Will you proclaim Jesus as righteous? Will you feel a little bad and then return to life as normal? Will you stand at a distance? Will you bow before the throne?
Jesus is doing more than setting an example here, He is more than a great teacher dying. He is accomplishing our salvation.
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important." - C. S. Lewis
What is your response this morning? WIll you worship Him, will you obey even when it’s costly, will you entrust your life into His hands and trust Him over all else. Will you trust Him no matter the consequences? Will you learn His promises? Will you hide His words in your heart that you might not sin against Him? Will you boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence so that you might find mercy and help in your time of need?