Saturday, March 22, 2008

If the witch understood the true meaning of sacrifice, she would have interpreted the deep magic differently.

Each year Providence Church holds a Good Friday service where we spend time in prayer and focus our thoughts on the cross with 7 devotional meditations on Christ’s 7 sayings on the cross.

I spoke to the 7th saying, the final recorded words of our Savior prior to His death.

The final saying of Jesus on the cross is recorded in Luke 23:46:
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

The preceding context has the temple curtain torn in two (23:45), signifying access to God through Christ.

As I pondered the words of Jesus, I wondered why Jesus felt the need to say them out loud. Surely, the text could have said something to the effect of, “Jesus committed His spirit to His Father.” Why did He need or want to call out with a loud voice? Surely, it wasn’t for God’s benefit.

I think it was not even primarily for our benefit that those words had to be spoken, but for the benefit of those eye witnesses.

“He spoke that all might hear, and that His enemies who judged Him destitute and forsaken of God might know it was not so any longer, but instead, that He was dear to His Father still, and could put His Spirit confidently into His Father’s hands.”
-Arthur Pink, The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross, 127

Jesus made it clear to them that He was not beaten and that things were once again right with Him and His Father.

What about the words themselves? What can be gleaned from Christ’s words?

First, they are a recitation of Psalm 31:5. Psalm 31 is David’s call to God to be saved from his enemies.
1 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! 2 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!
3 For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
4 you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God. (ESV)

It wasn’t that Jesus couldn’t think of anything original to say, but here He identified with David’s sentiment and confidence that God would deliver Him.

Second, these words show us how important Scripture was to Christ.

We have seen the importance of Scripture in the life of Christ as He fulfilled it. But we also see the importance of Scripture by His use of it.

For example, during His time of testing, the devil's 3 propositions were met with 3 responses from Scripture.
  1. His challenged with a test to turn stones into bread, but He quotes Deut 8:3, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” (Luke 4:4)
  2. He is offered all the kingdoms of the world if He would bow down to the devil, but He quotes Deuteronomy 6:13, saying, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” (Luke 4:8)
  3. He is tested by Satan’s use of Scripture to cast Himself down from a lofty place since God will send His angels to protect Him, but Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16, saying, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:12)
In Luke 23:46, we see the last words on His lips prior to His death were Scripture.

Third, we see in the words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” the contentment of Christ.
“These words set before us the last act of the Saviour ere He expired. It was an act of contentment, of faith, of confidence, and of love.”
-Arthur Pink, The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross, 127
I appreciate the HCSB’s translation of “entrust” (παρατίθημι). Christ’s commitment of His immaterial part to the Father is an act of faith and trust. Moments before Jesus had cried out asking why His God had forsaken Him (Matt 27:46), but after the wrath has been absorbed, He expresses great confidence in Him who had been His tormentor.

I find in that thought great comfort and conviction.
“We must show that we are freely willing to die, that we firmly believe in another life after this, and are desirous of it, by saying, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
- Matthew Henry
We often pray for sick people to get well, but without a realization of how to pray should God not be so inclined. We forget to pray for “dying grace.”

We want our lives to be an expression of our faith, but our deaths should do that as well.

We recently had a family member die of cancer. She was doing rather well at Thanksgiving, but then took a dramatic turn for the worse shortly after Christmas. She was being kept alive artificially and was asked by her family if she was ready to go.

With great confidence in Christ to save, she said she was. After the disconnection, she was dead within minutes.

Paul says the last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Cor 15:26) Because Christ has conquered it in His resurrection, we can face it as well. When we face death in the face, will we be able to confidently say, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”?

Scripture often speaks of the hand of God with regard to power, but also with regard to security. Jesus tells us in John 10:29 that, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.”

There is security and contentment being in the hand of God for the believer. Christ has absorbed the wrath that was due us, for it is finished.

However, the same is not true for those who are not Christ’s. In fact, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:31)

Fourth, in Christ’s words we are reminded of the voluntary and authoritative nature of His death.

Jesus had said in John 10:14-18
14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may 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 I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

In Christ's words, He initiates the separation of His material and immaterial parts. Christ had been given into the hands of the Gentiles, and they would still have His body for a few days. However, His spirit they will not have, nor did they break.

His material and immaterial parts will be joined again at His resurrection and in the same way, our bodies await redemption in the grave until they are reunited with our immaterial part.

Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”

If we are in Christ, we commit ourselves, our lives, and our deaths into the hands of our Father, longing for the day of our final redemption.

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6 Comments:

At 23 March, 2008 06:26, Anonymous Lance said...

"We forget to pray for 'dying grace.'"

Wow. A good word.

And as you touched upon, Jesus was in control of his time of death in these final words. He was not just delivered up; He delivered Himself up---and He would determine when all things were complete.


Today we rejoice that death has been swallowed up in victory.

 
At 23 March, 2008 08:10, Blogger GUNNY said...

Lance wrote:
"Today we rejoice that death has been swallowed up in victory."

Word up!

 
At 23 March, 2008 16:15, Blogger Jesus Girl said...

She showed great faith in her life and in her death. Praying for her healing was more of a selfish act than something that was best for her. I have trouble grieving the loss of her other than the first few days because I know that she is better. I know that she is where she wants to be. She is where we are all striving and hoping to be one day. I am proud of her and feel no sadness in her passing anymore. I am touched that she was mentioned in your blog for her great faith in Christ as she was so ready to die knowing that our Lord is faithful to keep his promises.

 
At 23 March, 2008 16:43, Blogger GUNNY said...

Albeit inadequately, I shared her story during our Good Friday service.

God is glorified in the death of His saints and we do not mourn as the world, as though we had no hope.

Sad for us, but joyous for the saints who precede us.

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints."
- Psalm 116:15, ESV

 
At 23 March, 2008 18:16, Blogger Jesus Girl said...

you are too kind. I might have to listen to that, wait did you record it? I was also honored that you said "a family member." I'm glad you knew her, I wish you had seen more of her faith in action. She was strong in her battle against cancer. She was so strong in her battle against the difficulties that this world had thrown at her. I never understand her until I became a child of God, then I saw why she made the decisions she did. Anyway, thanks.

 
At 24 March, 2008 10:28, Blogger Oilcan said...

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Good Friday Evening of prayer is a great service to remember our Lord's sacrifice - I encourage you to come to Providence Church and partake next year, Lord Willing. Gunny, I think we should return to capping the evening with the Lord's Supper.

I find it very odd that Good Friday is so ignored by most churches and Christians. My employer says Good Friday is a good Friday to work.

 

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