Sermon: Into Your Hands

I invite you to open your Bibles with me to Luke 23:46. Luke 23, verse 46. Luke is in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Luke 23, verse 46. We have been listening this Lenten season to Jesus’ words from the cross – the seven statements the gospel record Jesus saying as he died for us and for our salvation. It is the fourth of these statements that will occupy our attention this morning. But before we hear God’s word, please take a moment to pray with me.

Father, you promise us that all scripture is God-breathed – has the breath of your Spirit in it – and is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Fill us with your Spirit this morning, open us to your work in us, and then send us out as your people, participating in your mission, for the sake of your glory. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

These are the very words of God from the book that we love:

Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

I simply want us to notice two aspects of Jesus’ prayer this morning that I believe are good news for us. First, Jesus gives up his life willingly.

Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

into your hands, I commit my spirit.

Jesus willingly, with full knowledge and full intent, places his life in the Father’s hands. Jesus freely gives up his life on the cross for sinners.

This fact of the crucifixion is emphatic in all four gospels. No matter what else they have to say – Mark and Matthew show vividly the agony and abandonment of the cross, Luke shows Jesus’ forgiving spirit, and John Jesus’ clear sense of purpose and mission – whatever else the gospel writers want us to hear, they each want to make sure we know that Jesus went to the cross willingly.

Despite outward appearances, Jesus went to the cross because he chose to. Yes, he was arrested. Yes, he was beaten and placed on the cross by others. But Jesus was not overwhelmed. He was not taken by surprised and forced to the cross against his will. Instead, he walked the path he knew would lead there and walked it faithfully to the end. And at the end of it, Jesus cried out in a  loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus commits his life to God, his life is not taken from him. He gives it freely.

We know the difference between doing something willingly or under compulsion – because we feel we need to, are supposed to, or are simply doing our duty.

Let’s play a game, I’m going to name an activity and then I’m going to ask you to raise your hands on whether you might do this because you want to, because your heart is in it, or because you have to.

– Pay taxes (willingly? because you have to?)

– Change a dirty diaper (willingly? because you have to?) – I’m thinking of you, Dennis.

– Clean your room (willingly? because you have to?)

– Cook dinner (willingly? because you have to?)

– Watch the Superbowl (willingly? because you have to?)

We know the difference between doing something willingly or under compulsion. And Jesus gave up his life willingly. Jesus didn’t go the cross like we pay our taxes. It wasn’t ‘well, I guess it needs to get done, I might as well get it over with.’ Instead, he went intentionally and willingly, knowing what it would cost. Jesus didn’t go to the cross like we change a diaper. ‘Well, if I don’t do it, things are only going to get worse. Someone has to do, so it might as well be me.” No, Jesus gives up his life willingly. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

His spirit, his very life, the core of his being, his hopes, his dreams, his desires – with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind, and with all his strength. Jesus places it in the Father’s hands. It is not taken from him.

We know the difference between doing something willingly and because we have to. It is what Jesus was talking about earlier when he spoke to his disciples in John 10:

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and they shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. 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.”

I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.

Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Jesus lays down his life willingly for you and for me, that we might be reconciled to God and be restored to fellowship with him. Jesus does it all, knowing what he will go through.

Because you see, Jesus’ words here on the cross are borrowed words. They come from Psalm 31, verse 5:

Into your hands I commit my spirit;

deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Jesus prays Psalm 31 – a pray of deliverance from one’s enemies. But it is significant what he doesn’t pray. Jesus only prays half of this verse. He places his life in God’s hands, but does not pray for deliverance at this time. Jesus stops before finishing the verse, I believe, because he knew what he would undergo. He knew that there would be deliverance, but not this side of the grave.

The Father took Jesus’ life into his hands, and he did deliver him, not by preventing death, but by raising him from the dead. Jesus prayed, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit and entrusted his life to the Father – willingly undergoing not only suffering, but death, trusting that God would raise him from the dead.

This is the first aspect of Jesus’ prayer I want us to notice this morning: Jesus goes to his death willingly, placing his life in the Father’s hands.

The second aspect is this: in praying Psalm 31, Jesus prayed in the midst of suffering and evil what he likely would have prayed every day.

Psalm 31 is one of the first prayers that Jewish mothers would teach their children. It was a childhood prayer, a bedtime prayer in particular. Where we pray, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,” Jesus would have learned to pray, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

This would have been a prayer he prayed daily as a child – and likely daily as an adult. Into your hands I commit my spirit. When the days were good, when with childlike simplicity he could run through the streets – he would likely have come home and prayed, Into your hands I commit my spirit. And in the tough times, when this prayer of deliverance from evil would have feel quite poignant, he would likely have prayed, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

It is one thing to commit your life – your hopes and dreams, your soul, your heart of hearts – it is one thing to commit them into God’s hands when life is good. It is another to pray this prayer surrounded by evil and suffering.

Jesus prays this bedtime prayer from the cross. He places his life in the Father’s hands in the thick of evil, when the world seemed at its darkest.

For us, it is one thing to pray this prayer along with Jesus when life feels secure. It is one thing to place our life in God’s hands when the bills are getting paid, the children are behaving, and church attendance is up. But it is quite another thing to pray along with Jesus when the bottom begins to fall out.

It can feel a bit like playing Kerplunk. It is one thing to being trusting and confident when all the marbles are on the top and you have plenty of sticks holding them up. It is quite another when one by one those sticks are pulled out and the marbles come tumbling down.

Praying along with Jesus is an invitation to pray Father, into your hands I commit my spirit, even when the marbles come crashing down. It is an invitation to pray when life seems still and content and when you feel life has begun to hydroplane and no amount of counter-steering will keep you out of the ditch.

Praying along with Jesus is an invitation to pray where and when he prayed, not just how. Jesus prayed Father, into your hands I commit my spirit in the midst of immense pain, suffering, and evil.

And yet, Jesus prayed it willingly. And I believe one of the reasons Jesus could willingly place his life in the Father’s hands on the cross was because he did it daily.

When we wake up every day and pray to place our lives in God’s hands, we learn to trust God when the harvest is good and when there is standing water in the field. We learn to trust when we get a raise and when our hours get cut. We learn to trust when our children make us proud and when they keep us up at night.

Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Jesus didn’t finish the verse he was praying. He willingly went to the cross and didn’t pray, deliver me, O Lord, my faithful God. Instead, he trusted in God to deliver him from death through the resurrection.

Jesus willingly placed his life into the Father’s hands. And because Jesus prayed this, so can we. God raised Jesus from the dead and promises to raise up to eternal life all who belong to him. Because was faithful to Jesus and faithful in Jesus, we can pray along with Jesus.

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

Because of the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians do not have to place their lives in God’s hands like they pay their taxes. Because Christ went willingly to the cross for us, we can willingly place our lives in his hands – not because we have to or feel we are supposed to, but because our hearts find rest and peace in no other place. And when we do, we can know in our bones the truth of Heidelberg Catechism question and answer 1:

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. 

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my father in heaven, in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

[pause]

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Jesus Christ, wholeheartedly and willingly laid down his life, placing it in the Father’s hand, so that we might be wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

May each of us pray along with Jesus, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s