Journey Toward Easter: Into Thy Hands
Text: Luke 23:44-46
Theme: When Jesus said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" he was announcing his confidence in the Father to bring him and all he died for into fellowship with the Father.
Karl Barth was one of the most prominent and distinguished theologians in the history of Christianity. He authored over 20 books. His writings dominate the theology of the 20th century. Yet when he was once asked to sum up in a few words all he had written in the field of theology. This was his summary: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."
I'm not much of a theologian, but when I read this passage I too must conclude, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."
I. WHEN JESUS SAID 'FATHER, INTO YOUR HANDS' HE WAS REMINDING US THAT WE CAN HAVE COMMUNION WITH THE FATHER
Before the foundation of the world, Jesus lived in perfect fellowship with the Father. While he walked this Earth, Jesus maintained constant communion with the Father through the Spirit and through prayer. Now, in just three days his relationship with the Father will be perfectly restored. His death on the cross made it possible for you and I to have the same kind of relationship that Adam had with God in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the picture and we fell from grace
A. THE ONLY WAY TO COMMUNION WITH GOD IS THROUGH JESUS CHRIST
During his Earthly ministry among his disciples Jesus had proclaimed, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6. Now that's a bold statement. Then as now, there were many religious faiths in the world and many other religious leaders and would-be messiahs and prophets all proclaiming that their way was the right way. How were the early disciples and how are we to know that our faith is genuine and focused in the right direction? Our Lord himself gave us a clue to the validity of his claims. ILLUS. In the tenth chapter of John's gospel Jesus has a clash with the Jewish leaders. They confront him and ask him plainly "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."
Our Lord responds, saying, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, . . .even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father."
God Himself authenticated our Lord's claims when the curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Luke and Matthew are the two Gospels which record this supernatural event. This miracle affirms to me that Christ is the only way to Heaven.
The curtain separated the main hall of the Temple from the room called the Most Holy Place. In this room stood the Ark of the Covenant. Once a year the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place and sprinkle blood upon the lid of the Ark which was referred to as the Mercy Seat. This act made atonement for the sins of Israel and brought God's forgiveness.
The veil represented a "wall of hostility" for you and I. Ephesians 2:11-15 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles . . . were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,” Did you catch that phrase "by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations"? The veil of the Temple represented a religious code of conduct that you and I could never live up to. But Christ accomplished in his sacrifice for us what the Law could never due – the possibility of true righteousness before God.
The curtain itself was sixty feet long and thirty feet wide. It was made of seventy-two strands of braided linen strips and each linen strip contained twenty-four strands of linen. The curtain was as thick as a man's hand is wide – about five inches. As our Lord echoed his dying words, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" and breathed his last breath, the invisible hands of God reached down and tore that veil in two from top to bottom!
What a wonderful way for God to illustrate a profound spiritual truth and validate His Son's death both at the same time. The barrier – the wall of hostility – between God and man has been destroyed. The Temple and the old ceremonial form of worship were no longer needed. A new and living way has been opened into the presence of God. From that moment, the cross has become that which admits one to,/or excludes one from, fellowship with God. Hebrews 10:19-23 "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
The only way to communion with god is through Jesus Christ
B. OUR WAY OF MAINTAINING COMMUNION WITH GOD IS THROUGH PRAYER
The first statement our Lord made from the cross was a prayer. That first prayer was "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The last statement our Lord made from the cross was also a prayer: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit".
Jesus taught us that we maintain an ever-present relationship with the Father. During our Lord's life, a dedicated Jew prayed three times a day, but Jesus taught his disciples that they could live in a constant attitude of communion with the Father.
Christ taught his followers that when we pray, we are to talk to God as a child would talk to a loving father. Many of our Lord's parables address God as a Father who is passionately concerned about those who are His children. In Gethsemane, Jesus cried out "Abba." It's a word translated as "Father" in the New Testament. But it's a word which a small child would use toward his or her father and which we might more accurately translate as "daddy."
We can have this kind of relationship with God because Jesus died on a cross, giving his life as a ransom for ours and making it possible for us to have communion with a loving Heavenly Father. ILLUS. I love the story of a conversation which supposedly took place between former Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Ronald Reagan during one of Begin's visits to America. During his administration Reagan had three phones on his desk. One was platinum, one was red and one was gold in color. Begin questioned the president about these phones.
“Tell me, what are they really for?" he kidded the president. "Well, the platinum phone goes to Republican headquarters so I can keep track of political affairs. The red phone is a hot line to Russia so I can keep track of what's happening there. My gold phone is a direct line to God." "How much does it cost to call God?" Begin asked. "Ten thousand dollars, but it's worth every penny." Some months later when the president was visiting Prime Minister Begin in Israel, he asked the same question of Begin. “What are your three phones for?" Begin replied, "One's a hot line to Egypt, another's a hot line to Parliament, and the third is a hot line to God." "How much does it cost to call God from here?" Reagan asked the prime minister. "Ten cents," Begin replied. "It's a local call."
Don't you love that? The point? If you're a Christian, talking to God is a local call!
II. WHEN JESUS SAID 'FATHER, INTO YOUR HANDS' HE WAS REMINDING US THAT WE CAN HAVE CONFIDENCE IN THE FATHER
This last saying from the cross was not a word of resignation, but a prayer of confident hope in God. Like many of our Lord's words, these too have the Old Testament as their source. Psalm 31:5 "Into thy hand I commit my spirit; thy hast redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God."
A. JESUS HAD CONFIDENCE THAT GOD WAS IN CONTROL
Psalm 31:5 was the very first prayer taught to a Jewish child. From their earliest days they were taught to pray, "Into thy hands I commit my spirit." What a beautiful prayer to teach a child! When darkness or the unseen dangers or things that go bump in the night threaten, this prayer expresses a confident hope in a powerful God.
The calm, serene words reveal that from first to last Jesus never rejected the Father. He never questions why he is dying – he knows that it is for the sins of the world. He never questions what comes after death for he knows that he'll be in the safe in the hands of God.
B. YOU CAN HAVE CONFIDENCE THAT GOD IS IN CONTROL
God is in control of the world's agenda. Nothing that takes place in this world surprises God. Nothing that takes place in this world can thwart God from accomplishing His will and bringing about His eternal kingdom. Yes, the book of Revelation can be difficult to read and understand. But the central theme is obvious. God wins, the devil loses! The righteous will be rewarded and the unrighteous will be condemned.
God wants and needs to be in control of your agenda. Nothing that takes place in your life surprises God. But unlike the world, you can thwart God from accomplishing His will in your life through disobedience. I've never understood why we'll trust God with our eternal soul, but little else. Some of you have trusted God with your soul, but you've not trusted Him with you finances. Some of you have trusted God with your soul, but you refuse to trust Him with your children. Some of you have trusted God with your soul but you refuse to trust him in your relationship with others.
The reason some of you worry about what tomorrow may bring is because you really don't have confidence that God is in control! ILLUS. Some of you here this morning are much like the cartoon I recently saw of a little boy at prayer. He is kneeling at his bedside and is obviously disgruntled with God. He says, "God, Aunt Harriet hasn't gotten married, Uncle Hubert hasn't any work, and Daddy's hair is still falling out . . . I'm getting tired of praying without results!" You see, this little boy thinks that God is not in control because specific prayers have not yet been answered. May I make an observation? The reason it seems that God is not in control is because you've not given Him control which puts your life out of control! For which we turn around and blame God for letting things get out of control! ILLUS. In his book entitled "Jesus' Claims - Our Promises, Maxie Dunnam tells an interesting story about Loyd C. Douglas. Douglass is the author of the novel "The Robe."
Dunnam writes that when Douglas was a university student, he lived in a boarding house. Downstairs on the first floor was an elderly, retired music teacher, who had become infirm and unable to leave the apartment. Douglas said that every morning they had a ritual they would go through together. He would come down the steps, open the old man's door, and ask, "Well, what's the good news?" The old man would pick up his tuning fork, tap it on the side of his wheelchair, and say, "That's Middle C! It was middle C yesterday; it will be middle C tomorrow; it will be middle C a thousand years from now. The tenor upstairs sings flat, the piano across the hall is out of tune, but my friend, that is middle C!" The old man had discovered one thing upon which he could depend, one constant reality in his life. For Christians, the one absolute of which there is no shadow of turning is God and the absolute confidence we can have in him.
Jesus knew that God was in control of His life and thus He had confidence that whatever took place was within the will of God.