Friday, April 13, 2012

"Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit" sermon

"Father, into Your Hands, I commit My Spirit"

Luke 23:44-24:6, Psalm 31

Luke 23:44-24:6 – “44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” When He had said this, He breathed His last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew Him, including the women who had followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the Kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how His body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

  1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you…”

Right before Jesus died, it says that the curtain of the Temple was torn in two. Well, what does that mean? What’s the significance of that? Why did that happen?

In the Old Testament, there was a curtain in the back of the sanctuary that walled off a room called the Holy of Holies. Behind that curtain and inside the Holy of Holies was the ark of the covenant. It was a chest that had the two stone tablets that God had written the Ten Commandments on and then given them to Moses. It had a piece of manna in it, the bread-like substance that God used to feed the Israelites in the desert when they crossed the Red Sea and came out of slavery in Egypt. And most importantly, the Bible tells us that God’s holy Presence hovered over the ark of the covenant.

No one was allowed to go into the Holy of Holies and see God’s Presence except for the high priest once a year. And when he went into the Holy of Holies, he had to have his assistant priests tie a rope around his ankle, because if he went into God’s Presence with any unconfessed sin, or with any sin that he hadn’t offered a sacrifice for, he would die, and the other priests would have to pull on that rope to drag him out.

God’s Presence was walled off by that curtain and only a sinless priest could go in and see God. But when Jesus died, that curtain was torn in half. Jesus’ sacrifice for us, Jesus’ blood, cleansed all of us of all of our sins and so now we can all enter God’s Presence without fear because we have all been forgiven. We have all been cleansed.

Before, only the priest could enter into God’s Presence, but now the way has been opened for all of us to approach God.

1st Peter 2:9 – “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

You are the priesthood. Every believer is a priest. You don’t need a priest or a pastor or any other person to get to God. You can enter into God’s Presence yourself any time you want to because you have now been made a priest as well.

Hebrews 10:19-22 – “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

The curtain of the Temple was torn in two. Jesus’ death opened the way for you and I to come to God personally, one on one, any time we want to because Jesus’ death took away all of our sins and purified us to enter into God’s Presence. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Then Jesus said, “Father, into Your hands, I commit My spirit.” We usually think, “Oh, that’s a nice sentiment. He’s trusting God to take His spirit to Heaven when He dies,” and when a normal person says that or prays that – “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit” – that’s exactly what they mean.

But that is not what Jesus meant when He prayed this prayer. Jesus was quoting one of the psalms, written by his ancestor, King David. King David was the warrior-king. He was the one who slung a stone and killed the ten-foot-tall Goliath. He’s the one who conquered Jerusalem and made it the capital of Israel. David was always at war, and here’s one of the prayers that He prayed to God:

Psalm 31 – “1 In You, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in Your righteousness.2 Turn Your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. 3 Since You are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of Your name lead and guide me. 4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for You are my refuge. 5 Into Your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.”

When David prayed, “Father, into Your hands, I commit my spirit,” he wasn’t praying to be taken to Heaven when he died. He was praying for God’s protection because he knew that only God could save him from his enemies. Now, Jesus is echoing His ancestor because He knows that only God can save Him from the greatest enemy of all – Death!

Death had claimed every single person who ever lived, except for three – Enoch, who God took into Heaven; Elijah, who was taken to Heaven in a chariot of fire; and Moses, who was resurrected and taken to Heaven as soon as he died. No one else had ever gone to Heaven.

If you said, “Heaven,” to a Jewish person in the Old Testament, they would have said, “Oh, yes, that’s the sky, space, the place where God and the angels live, and those other three saints that got to go there.”

If you said, “Hell,” they’d say, “That’s an interesting new word you’ve got there.”

Because, you see, for the Jewish people of the Old Testament, death was the end. They knew that Enoch and Elijah and Moses had gone to Heaven, but they never imagined that their spirits would ever go to Heaven, or to Hell. That’s because their spirits didn’t go to Heaven or Hell. Their spirits went to death. Their spirits stayed inside their bodies, in the grave, in a kind of sleep/hibernation state.

Psalm 6:5 - No one remembers You when he is dead. Who praises You from the grave?

Isaiah 38:18-20 -  "18 For the grave cannot praise You, death cannot sing Your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness.  19 The living, the living—they praise You...”

The people were dead and, for all intents and purposes, their spirits were dead too. Their spirits couldn’t leave, they weren’t aware of anything, they were just there, sleeping, waiting.

Waiting for what? Waiting for Christ. Waiting for their Maker to come wake them up!

All humanity was trapped in death. That was the punishment for sin. But then the Creator, the Judge Himself, became a person, put on human flesh in the form of Jesus the Christ, and died, taking our punishment for us.

1 Peter 3:18-20a – "For Christ died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through Whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison...”

The King, the Creator of Life, descended into death. He woke those souls up, He preached to them, and because it is impossible for God, the Source of Life itself, to remain dead, He rose.

With Him, rose the spirits of all those He had awakened. He had taken the punishment of death for them. They didn’t have to serve out their punishment anymore. When we die, our punishment has already been taken, so our spirits don’t have to stay dead either. They go to the place we’ve decided for them to go, either to Heaven or to Hell.

When Jesus died, He faced humanity’s greatest enemy, death, and He completely broke it forever. It has no hold on our spirits. When Christ returns, He will also raise our bodies. That’s the miracle of the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus defeating the power of death is the miracle of Easter.

When your body dies, your spirit doesn’t. It returns to God. When Christ comes again, He will bring your spirit back from Heaven with Him, He will raise your body new and healthy from the ground, from the ashes, from decay, and He will reunite your body and spirit, making you a whole person once again, who will live forever and ever with Him.

Easter is what broke death. Easter, Jesus’ resurrection, was the first step toward our resurrection when Christ returns. Amen? Amen.

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