“It is Finished” … “Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit”

Posted: April 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

In their Gospels, Matthew and Mark both tell us that as Jesus died, he cried out with a loud voice, but neither records what he said.  John’s Gospel tells us that what Jesus said was “It is finished.”  Many view this statement from Jesus as an expression that his life was slipping away.  “It is finished.”  On the surface, this statement can be interpreted as finalwordsa cry of defeat, an admission of failure, finally an end to the humiliation, pain and agony.  In the book, Rev. Hamilton lists several things that would indicate that this interpretation is wrong.  “Jesus told his disciples on multiple occasions that he was going to Jerusalem to die.  His arrest, torture, and crucifixion were no surprise to him.  He had come to Jerusalem for this purpose.  This was not a cry of defeat.  Another clue that, when he spoke these words, Jesus did not mean that he was defeated is the fact that he shouted these words.  This would be something similar to what Michelangelo might have said when he looked up at the Sistine Chapel after he had completed the last brush stroke: “It is finished!”  Something astounding, amazing and awesome was finished as Jesus died on the cross – a masterpiece of love and redemption.”

What exactly was accomplished on the cross?  When we talk about the significance of the death of Jesus on the cross, we come to one of the most important doctrines in the Christian faith – the doctrine of atonement.  First of all, what is the meaning of atonement? “The word ‘atonement’ is one of the few theological terms derived basically from Anglo-Saxon. It means ‘a making at one’ and points to a process of bringing those who are estranged into a unity.  When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, it caused a separation between God and humanity.  God wanted us back and the only way to accomplish this was to send his Son to take our place and pay the price for our sins.  The death of Jesus is often associated with the forgiveness of sin, and that is true.  But there are other things to consider.

     

There are several different theories as to how the Atonement was accomplished and what it means.  The debate goes on between denominations and between scholars and theologians, but I believe that God’s plans are so far above us that we could never completely understand.  Why try to reduce such a magnificent thing to facts and logic.  Why not just appreciate the awe and wonder?  Rev. Hamilton says, “At some point I came to realize that the cross is not math or science; it is poetry lived out in human flesh.  The cross is a divine drama in which God, through Jesus, is revealing the darkness of the human soul and the relentless grace and love for the human race.  It is a sculpture that when seen from one angle is so horrible and repulsive you can hardly stand to look at it, but when viewed from another angle is so beautiful you cannot help falling to your knees in utter amazement.  It is a masterpiece in which the Artist has painted at one and the same time a self-portrait revealing his character and a portrait of you – your need for mercy and his willingness to offer it to you.  It is a love story that moves you to tears – one that begs to be read again and again.”

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke in their accounts of the death of Jesus all provide an interesting detail.  They all tell us that when Jesus died, the curtain in the Temple was torn in two.  The temple had an inner court where only priests were allowed.  Within this inner court was the Holy Place, where priests would burn incense for various rituals.  Within the Holy Place could be found the Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy Place, considered the throne room of God.  Once a year, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies to atone for his own sins and the sins of the people.  An animal would be sacrificed and the blood would be sprinkled on the Mercy Seat, the throne of God, to make amends for sin.  There was a thick curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.  The curtain would be lifted to allow the high priest in and back out for the annual ritual.  No one else was allowed to enter that room.  When Jesus died, this curtain was torn in two, showing us that Jesus had made the ultimate sacrifice and there was no longer anything separating us from the presence of God.  “Through Jesus human beings could now come directly to God’s Mercy Seat, to the cross, to ask for mercy and receive God’s grace.

After the Temple curtain was torn, Jesus offered one final statement, and once more, his dying words were a prayer.  His first statement from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” was a prayer.  Then around noon he prayed from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”  Some believe that “I am thirsty” was also a prayer.  Then at the end of his life, Jesus offered one final prayer: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  These words are from another Psalm, Psalm 31:5, which tells us that Jesus was likely reciting this psalm silently as he died.  Here are the first 5 verses of Psalm 31:

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
    come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.

Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit”

“This was Jesus’ dying prayer.  It was a beautiful prayer of absolute trust in his Father.”

            In his New Testament commentary, William Barclay suggests that this prayer from Psalm 31:5, “Into your hands I commit my spirit” was a prayer Jewish children were taught by their mothers as a bedtime prayer.  Isn’t it a beautiful thought, that Mary  may have taught this prayer to Jesus when he was a boy, and that Jesus before he died offered this simple prayer to his heavenly Father?

            On the cross, Jesus was again teaching us about prayer.  “When we’re facing darkness and despair, when we’re facing the valley of the shadow of death, when we’re facing the unknown, how should we pray?  “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

            In these six weeks of Lent, we have examined the final words spoken by Jesus from the cross.  In the process, Jesus himself has taught us how to live and how to pray.  We learned from him to pray for those who wrong us: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  We saw that even in his pain and agony, Jesus was reaching out to seek and to save the lost.  We joined the thief on the cross in praying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” and we heard his words of promise, not just for the thief, but for all who call upon him, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”  We heard Jesus ask John to take care of his mother, and his mother to take care of John, and we understood this not only as a call to take care of our parents, but a call to take care of any of the “least of these’ who need our help.  We heard about the anguish and feeling of abandonment Jesus experienced when he prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  In this we recognized that Jesus identifies with our suffering and pain, and we learned that even in these dark times Jesus was still praying and seeking God.  In his cry of “I thirst” we saw the physical thirst of a real dying man.  We also saw a call to God that his soul was thirsty and dry.  In our spiritual thirst we join him in this prayer.  We heard his shout of victory, “It is finished!” as he completed the mission that God had sent him to perform to us, securing our forgiveness and making God accessible to us.  Finally, we heard the prayer his mother may have taught him as a little boy, a prayer of confidence and surrender to God.  This prayer from the cross enables us to live each day not in fear, but in confidence and hope.

            Lord, thank you for the beauty, the majesty and the wonder of the cross.  Thank you that it was for me, and for each person here.  In response may our daily prayer be, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  Yes, Lord, into your hands I commit my spirit.  Amen.

Link to entire sermon:

Comments
  1. KEDoty says:

    Thank you Kevin for sharing! I really appreciate all you do for your congregations and for me personally.

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