Summary: In his final word, Jesus teaches us how to die well. He points us to an intimate relationship with a Heavenly Father, to a life that continues after death, and to a completion of all that God has for us in this life.
Seven Last Words from the Cross Part 7 * Luke 23:44-46
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Today we tackle an unusual topic for an Easter Sunday. Usually we talk about life and life everlasting. We’ll get there, but first, let’s consider where that life comes from: death on a cross. The one certainty about life is death. The human condition is 100 percent fatal! Unless Jesus returns first, we’re all going to die. That’s a pretty cheerful thought, right?
I’ve been around death a lot. I’ve helped people prepare to die, I’ve sat with folks as their loved ones have died, and I’ve talked with people who are missing their loved ones. I’ve seen death in the Army, death in the VA, and death in lots of different church families. We are all going to die. Yes, death is not fun, but can we learn to die well? As we conclude a series of messages of Jesus’ last sayings from the cross, I believe the answer is “Yes!” Jesus can teach us how to die well.
Here’s the setting: Jesus has been on a Roman cross for six long hours. For the last three hours, darkness has covered the land. Then, as suddenly as it came, the darkness dispelled, to reveal Jesus moments away from death. He said he thirst, and the soldiers gave him a drink. He shouted, “It is finished,” and then Doctor Luke alone notes his very last words. With a loud shout, he said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” And he breathed his last. An on-looking soldier commented, “Surely this was the son of God!”
In his last word from the cross, Jesus shows us how to die well. I have broken down his statement into three parts on the outline in your program. Please note first that Jesus models for us to...
1. Trust a relational God – “Father”
It’s in the word “Father.” Hours earlier, in his first statement from the cross, Jesus had said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Later, he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He used a more formal term there for God, as all the sin of the world fell on him in that moment. And now, at the end of his life, as he prepared to come home, he returned to this term of endearment and trust, as he said, “Father,” or in the Aramaic, “Daddy.”
Some people struggle with calling God “Father.” Perhaps they had less than an ideal dad here on earth. My dad certainly wasn’t perfect. Come to think of it, I wasn’t a perfect dad either. Please don’t let your view of your earthly father mar your view of your Heavenly Father. He is the dad you never had. Imagine every good quality in a father: provider, protector, tough and yet caring, love for you unconditional. All of these images are wrapped up in God as our Heavenly Father.
When it comes to dying, trust your Heavenly Father. No one knows their allotted time, but your Father does. And the God who made you will guide you through the valley of the shadow of death. It’s a relationship you build with your Heavenly Father now, and continue every day until your last day on this earth, and even then, as you trust him to bring you safely home. Trust a relational God, and...
2. Know where you’re headed – “Into your hands”
Jesus said, “Father, into your hands...” He placed his life, his future, his everything into his Father’s hands. Pastor Ray Pritchard makes an interesting comparsion between the Father’s hands and all those human hands that had whipped Jesus, had plucked out his beard, had pushed a crown of thorns down on his head, had pounded stakes into his hands and feet, and had lifted him up on a cross. Their hands had gambled for his clothing and cupped their mouths in shouts of derision. Human hands had pointed at him with false accusations and had stirred the crowd into a frenzied mob. All these hands against him. Yet, now he could commit himself into the hands of the One who would care for him forever. Jesus was reuniting with his Father. He was coming home.
As Jesus died, he didn’t go just cease to exist. No, he went back to his God and Father. Know where you’re headed. Do you know the Heavenly Father personally? If not, begin a relationship with him today. Invite him to become your spiritual father. As you do so, you will find there is no need to fear death, because you know where you’re heading. And then finally,
3. Finish well - “I commit my spirit”
Jesus died completing all that he had come to do. His mission was over. He had no bitterness or unforgiveness lingering in his heart, no regrets, no unfinished business. He had prepared his disciples for what lay ahead. He had stayed connected to his Heavenly Father through thick and thin. He had drunk the cup given him, even though it brought pain and suffering. He took on the sins of the world, and made peace between believers and God forever.