Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lenten Midweek 6

Lenten Midweek VI[1]

March 24, 2010

Text: Luke 23:46 (ESV): 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.

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” The dying Word of Jesus is a Word of trust, of total surrender into the hands of the only One who can help, into the hands of the eternal God. Though Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, He totally surrenders Himself into the authority and control of the heavenly Father for our sakes. Knowing that the work of redemption has been finished, knowing that the Scriptures have been fulfilled, knowing that the time has come to breathe His last, our Lord Jesus prays Psalm 31:5, which reads in full: “Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.” God is faithful to all His promises, and the proof is the dying Man on Calvary’s cross. His faithfulness leads Him to place His Son where we belong, in punishment, in suffering, in death, in the hell of the cross, and so accomplish the redemption of the world from sin, death, and the devil. Our Lord speaks this Word in His death for us, in our place. In commending His spirit in His death, He commends us and our spirits to God. For now reconciliation with God is made complete in the flesh of Christ. Because He has borne our punishment, we can place ourselves into the hands of God without fear of His wrath. Thus this dying Word of faith is a Word of life for us, placing us as children into the hands of a reconciled, loving Father.

Jesus speaks this Word in neither a whisper nor a whimper. He cries out in a loud voice. It is a victorious shout. Death is in its death throes in the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. This cry changes death forever. For now, the believer in Christ can go to his or her death in confidence, knowing that Christ has commended every believer to the Father and the Father, in accepting Christ, accepts every believer. This means that you and I can go to our deaths with the victorious cry of our Lord Christ upon our lips: “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” We need not fear when the time has come for us to breathe our last. Because Christ died for us, our death is but a portal into heaven. Death is a peaceful slumber for the believer in Christ. When a believer dies, the soul goes to heaven to be with Jesus and in the hands of the heavenly Father, while the body rests in the grave. And then that Day will come when our crucified and risen Lord Jesus will raise all the dead and give eternal life to all believers in Christ. He will reunite our souls and bodies to live with Him forever in a new heaven and a new earth.

But beloved, that eternal life does not only begin the day we enter heaven. That eternal life begins for us in our Baptism and continues throughout our lives on this earth and throughout all eternity. You have eternal life now, albeit in a hidden way. It is hidden by the death that surrounds us on every side. It is true, every one of us will die unless our Lord Jesus returns first. And we live lives of daily death. That is to say, our bodies age. We get sick. We get injured. We watch our loved ones pass away. This very world is dying. Not just the physical world. This world is a world of death. Bad things happen. Trust is broken. Hearts are broken. Relationships are broken. Governments are corrupt. Nations war against nations. Nature itself rebels against man for whom it was created. And all of this because of sin. The wages of sin is death.

Thus the prayer, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit,” is not only a prayer we pray with our dying breathe, but a prayer we pray daily. We pray it daily as we suffer the changes and chances of this world, as our bodies fail, and as we daily mortify the old sinful flesh in us, turn again and again from the sins that weigh us down to God in faith that He forgives us for Christ’s sake. “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” There are no other hands that can help. There are no other hands that are safe. When we rebel against God in our sin, when we break His commandments, when we turn to other people or other things for help in time of need, we do the opposite of this prayer. And placing ourselves in any other hands only leads to death, physical, spiritual, and eternal. But God’s are the hands of life. God’s are the hands that created us. God’s are the hands that redeemed us and sanctify us. When we commend ourselves into God’s hands, we confess that we cannot free ourselves from our bondage to sin. Nor can anything else free us. But God can, and He will to do so, and He does so, in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thus in life and in death, this is our cry of victory, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” Luther enjoins us to pray this prayer every morning and every evening in the Small Catechism: “For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things.” The Christian begins and ends each day with these words, for to commend yourself into God’s hands is to cast yourself entirely on His mercy alone, which is the only safe place to be. Indeed, as Christ says, no one is able to snatch you out of the Father’s hand (John 10:29).

So Jesus prays this prayer for you and for your salvation. And having said this, He breathes His last. He breathes His last, only it is not His last breath. For while He truly dies, the Father, into whose hands He has just commended Himself, raises Him from the dead on Easter. And even as you are baptized into His death, commended into the hands of your heavenly Father, God will also raise you from the dead on the Last Day, and has raised you now spiritually, and given you who once were dead the life-giving breath of His Spirit. “Father, into Your hand I commit my spirit; for You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Now you too, in life and in death, can surrender yourself in total trust into the hands of the only One who can help, the hands of your eternal God and Father, His innocent Son, your Savior, and His sanctifying and life-giving Spirit. For He is ever faithful. And He has redeemed you. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] This year’s Lenten Midweek series is taken from Words of Life from the Cross (St. Louis: Concordia, 2010). The focus and the thematic material come from the series, but the final form of the sermon is my own.

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