Cries from the Cross

A Cry of Submission

Pastor Lutzer | April 15, 2001

Summary

Jesus sets the example of how we should die: in the presence of God and with the protection of God.

Selected highlights from this sermon

With a loud voice, Jesus cried His last cry from the cross then dismissed His Spirit into His Father’s hands. Jesus was in charge of when and how He died. The fact that He died was His decision. He had the power to take His life and to resurrect Himself. Though it may have looked like He was powerless on the cross, Jesus was always in control. 

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I’d like to begin today with a question. How are you going to die? The question isn’t whether you will die. The question isn’t even when you will die because we don’t know the answer to that question. I’m asking you how will you die? Our example of how to die is the Lord Jesus Christ as we shall see. And not only does he teach us how to die, but His resurrection is the prototype. He is the first fruits. His body, with which He was raised from the dead, is a body like the one we shall someday have.

So this message today is for two kinds of people. First, it’s for those who are going to die quite soon, those who are about to die, and there may be more here today than we realize who fit into that category. But then it’s also for those who will die someday in the future. Did I include you in that? That’s why there was an undertaker in Washington, D.C. who used to sign his letters, “Eventually yours.” (laughter)

Today we come to the last cry from the cross. This has been a series of messages on the cross. Jesus uttered seven cries from the cross, and today we come to the last. It’s recorded for us in Luke. We have these words in Luke, chapter 23, verse 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.”

Remember that Jesus was crucified at 9 o’clock in the morning. For the first three hours on the cross there was sunlight. The last three hours there was darkness. For the first three hours He suffered under the hands of men. For the last three hours He suffered under the hands of God. And now it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon and He is about to die, and He is dying, and His last words are, “Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit.”

What I’d like us to do for the next few moments is to be able to see how Jesus died, and what we can learn as our example of how to die. First of all, I want you to know that He died, as we can see, in the Father’s presence. He died in the presence of the Father.

Seven cries from the cross! Cry number one: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He cries to God in the middle one, number four: “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” And He gets to the end now and He again says, “Father.” His fellowship with the Father was restored. The Father had turned His back as Jesus became an offering for sin, but now everything was fine again. He said, “Father.”

The word Father was always on the lips of Jesus. As a boy of 12 years old in the Temple, when His parents came to see Him, He said, “Do you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Those are the first recorded words of Jesus in the flesh. Isn’t it interesting that the first words have the word Father, and the last words of Jesus in the flesh have the word Father?

That word Father was constantly upon His lips, and one of the reasons that He could die in the presence of God is because He was also dying with a promise from God. Those words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” are actually taken from Psalm 31, verse 5. David, writing many years before, said, “Into your hands I commit my spirit. Redeem me, oh Lord, God of truth.”

When Jesus quoted it here on the cross He makes two changes. First of all, He adds the word Father because in the Old Testament not many people, including David, called God Father. When Jesus said to His disciple that He had made known the Father’s name to him, He meant that He was introducing him to the Fatherhood of God. And so He adds the word Father, and He omits the words, “Thou has redeemed me,” because Jesus did not need redemption. He dies in the presence of the Father.

Remember his words to Mary after the resurrection: “I ascend to my father and to your father, and to my God and to your God.” What He was doing was inviting all of us who know His Son personally to be able to call Him Father.

Listen to me carefully. When you suffer, always remember if you are a child of God that you have a compassionate Father. You have an omnipotent Father. You have a loving Father. You have a caring Father who sees even the sparrow fall to the ground. His agenda is different from ours so sometimes it’s hard for us to understand His ways. But we look up and we say, “Father,” and that’s how we die.

We have a friend whose mother was found dead in an apartment. She had been there for several days. And because there was some evidence that perhaps she had suffered, this friend said, “Oh, to think that my mother died alone.” We understand what he means. I don’t want to die alone. I prefer to die with somebody next to me, preferably somebody who is alive. (laughter) That’s my personal preference.
But we were able to say to that friend that because his mother knew Christ as Savior, she did not die alone. She died in the presence of God.

Could I say that Jesus also died within what we could call the providence of God? God’s providence! I know that Luke simply says that He breathed His last. The Gospel of Matthew which carries the same account puts it more interestingly. He says that Jesus cried with a loud voice, and Matthew is referring to these words: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” And then Jesus dismissed His spirit. I like that. He was in charge. He was in charge of when He died. He died exactly when the Passover lambs were being slain so that He could represent being the Passover Lamb.

He not only died according to His timetable, but the very fact that He died was His decision. He said, “No man takes my life from me. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again. I have the power to die, and I also have the power of resurrection. All of that is in My hand.” Jesus died willingly. He was always in control. Always in control!

He was in control when He was sleeping there in the boat on the Sea of Galilee and the storm came up. He was in control when the soldiers came to arrest Him. He said, “I could call and there would be legions of angels that would be sent to deliver Me.” He was in control. He died willingly within the providence of God’s governing of the world.

Now you and I can’t choose the time we are going to die like Jesus did, but we also fall within the bounds of God’s providence. We know that we are not subject randomly to tornadoes and to cancer and to accidents. These things, of course, happen, but what we need to do is to understand that even that is of God, because God rules providentially, and especially where His children are involved, and death is the chariot that He sends to take us home to Himself.

If you were to go to the Drake Hotel today, you would find a man at the door willing to help you in. And the Drake Hotel, I think, is open at least 24 hours a day. In fact, I think it would be difficult to be open longer than that, come to think of it. But in the very same way, God sends someone to bring us. And death is the means by which we enter into His presence, and we die within that providence, the providence of God.

I want you to notice also that He died within the protection of God. Let’s look at the phrase, “‘Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit,’ he said with a loud voice.” Into thy hands. There are two kinds of hands in the life of Jesus. One is the hands of men. He said in the Gospel of Matthew, explaining to the disciples, “Soon I shall be delivered into the hands of sinners.”

When Peter was preaching on the Day of Pentecost he said these words, that God delivered Christ up into wicked hands. Wicked hands! It was wicked hands, you see, that lacerated His back. It was wicked hands that led Him so that He would be beaten. It was wicked hands that shoved Him. It was wicked hands that plucked out His beard. It was wicked hands that put on Him the crown of thorns. That all was done by wicked hands, but there comes a time, my friend, when wicked hands can do no more. And He committed Himself into the hands of His loving heavenly Father.

In fact, even when He was in the hands of men, believe me that those evil hands were ultimately in the hands of God. And that’s why it says in Psalm 31 (which Jesus quoted from), “My times are in thy hands.” Ultimately we are in the hands of God, and Jesus committed His spirit to safe keeping in the Father’s Hands.

Listen to what Jesus said. He said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. Neither shall anyone pluck them out of my hands.” And then He said, and this is a continuation, “My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hands.” So here you have hands in harmony. You have the hand of the Son, and you have the hands of the Father. Unitedly they hold those who are theirs. That’s security. That’s protection.

What was God’s’ response to the words of Jesus? What did the Father think when the Son finally, in such obedience and submission, said, “Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit”? The Father, knowing that the Son now would speak no more in the flesh, now decided to speak in a language of His own. One thing that happened is that the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And it began at the top and it ripped to the bottom because God was doing it. And He ripped that veil aside because he said that those things, the veil that separates sinners from God, has now been taken away. The issue of sin has been conquered. It’s been taken care of. That was one response of the Father.

The second response of the Father was the resurrection, the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead, and we celebrate that and we rejoice in it on all days, but particularly today, and the recognition that the resurrection was God’s amen to what Jesus did on the cross. And God was saying, “Now at last sin has been conquered. The veil of the temple has been torn in two. Death has been conquered because Jesus was raised from the dead.

You say, “Oh yeah, sin and death are still with us.” Yes, they are with us but they are temporary. And that’s why we already read today, “Oh death, where is your sting? Oh grave, where is your victory?” And that which is so ugly, and that which is so reprehensible, and that which we try to avoid, namely death, becomes now the gateway into the entrance of heaven. And as our spirits go to God, even as the spirit of Christ went to God, we shall be raised, and we shall be like Christ. That’s the kind of body we will have someday.

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” And that’s the great hope of the resurrection. That’s the great hope of believers, the wonder and the truth of God entering our world, coming in the person of Jesus, dying for our sins and being raised again for our resurrection and the assurance that we have of the eternal life that He grants.

Let’s help each other now by trying to nail this down by three very important lessons. First of all, it is obvious that death does not end everything, does it? Death does not end everything. “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” Let’s think that through. Jesus Christ’s body, though it was lacerated, His spirit went to God. And your spirit will go somewhere when you die, and that spirit is the real you. It’s personality. It’s the ability that you have to communicate. It is all that you are as a person. It is your memories. That all goes somewhere after death.

Recently I was on a plane and someone said to me, “I don’t believe in life after death.” I guess this person would classify himself as a skeptic. And so whenever I am on a plane I always pray and say, “Lord, please send somebody next to me that needs to hear what I might be able to tell them.” And so God sometimes puts these kinds of people next to me. And I keep saying, “Lord, bring ‘em on. Bring ‘em on.”

And I said to him, “You know, you force me to make a decision (He was interested in that remark.) because you do not believe that there is life after death.” I said, “Now I have to choose between your view of reality or Jesus Christ’s view of reality.” And so I said, “Who do you think has the best credentials to arbitrate this decision? Who do you think knows best?”

You know, there are people who die today and then they come back and they say, “Well, you know, we found out that there is no judgment. We have had this near-death experience.” Well, isn’t it wonderful? Wouldn’t you rather trust somebody who wasn’t just near death, but somebody who was actually dead and has the keys of death and of Hades?”

And so we trust the Lord Jesus Christ because, you see, He is the one who is the conqueror of death. And He tells us that there is an eternity coming. The soul does not die.
“The body they may kill. God’s truth abideth still.”

And so this story here reminds us that death is not the end. And since we’re speaking about the resurrection today, the Bible says that everybody is going to be raised, some unto the resurrection of life, and some unto the resurrection of damnation. But the same indestructible body that Jesus has will eventually be given to everyone. Now it’s not going to look exactly the same, but it is going to be an indestructible body. This was predicted already in the Old Testament, and confirmed in the New, that death does not end all. In fact, if we could look at this life it would be but a sliver on the whole (What shall we say?) spectrum of eternity.

Let’s look at a second lesson. If your spirit does not go to God, your spirit will go to Hades. Those are the only two options. Jesus told the story about a rich man, and He said that he died and was buried and was taken into Hades. And then He talks about Lazarus who was a believer, and it says he was carried away (He gets special treatment.) by angels into Paradise, into Abraham’s bosom. And so what you have is these two places, and Hades is eventually cast into hell.

Now folks, this becomes very solemn (doesn’t it?) because if there’s anything that you want to be confused about, don’t let it be this point. We can be confused as to whether or not the Cubs are going to win a World Series, though some of us I don’t think are confused about that. You can be confused about the value of Social Security. You can be confused about what the government may be doing in some of its departments, but please don’t be confused about the issue of eternity.

One day there was a man by the name of John Hus who was taken to the Council of Constance in 1415, and tried for heresy. Actually he was guaranteed safe passage to the council, but when he got to the council, the emperor, who at that time was Sigismund, said that he did not have to keep his word to a heretic. But before Hus was burned the anger against him was very strong because he believed in this idea that one must trust Christ alone for salvation, and that all the rituals and all the good works that we can add to the work of Jesus Christ actually detract from it. And he understood the Good News of the Gospel. But they said to him, “Hus, we are committing your soul to the devil.” But Hus died by saying the marvelous words, “Into Thy hands, oh Lord, I commit my spirit.” John Hus knew that his faith was in Christ and he could die confidently in the presence of God and the providence of God and the protection of God. He belonged to the Almighty.

So I need to ask you today, do you have that assurance? Oh you say, “Well, just before I die I’ll say, ‘Into Thy hands I commit my spirit.’” No, no, no. You will probably die just as you have lived, because it’s only those who trust Christ who know their spirit will go to the Father.

Let’s look at a third lesson, and that is that God does not promise a calm passage, only a safe landing. He doesn’t promise a calm passage, just a safe landing. Let’s look at the body of Jesus Christ and see how bruised it was. See how disfigured it was. In fact, the Scripture says in the book of Isaiah that He was more disfigured than any other man, so much so that you could scarcely recognize Him as being a man. The suffering that He endured physically is incredible. That’s the way the path to death sometimes is, is it not? I’ve seen cancer take a 200-pound man, healthy and strong, and reduce him to a hundred emaciated pounds.
I’ve known of car accidents where the bodies were so mangled that the relatives were not allowed to look at them. I’ve known things that have happened to people where their bodies have been so deeply scarred, cut up in pieces. Who knows where those bodies are?

It’s not a very calm passage, but if they know Christ as Savior they have a safe landing, because in the end their spirit goes to God, and it is in His hands that the spirit rests for safe keeping. I think that’s maybe what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he said, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

So, my dear friend, I have to ask you today: how will you die? That’s the question. Will you die with the assurance that your spirit is going to the Father? Will you die like Voltaire who, on his deathbed said, “I am going to hell”? And it’s not just skeptics that go there. It’s good religious people who have never understood that they must trust Christ as Savior. And we contrast someone like Voltaire with D. L. Moody who, before he died, said, “Earth is receding. Heaven is opening. If this be death, it is glorious.”

You remember Shakespeare writing Hamlet. Hamlet gives that soliloquy. He says, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” What he is saying is, “Should I commit suicide, or should I not?” And he begins to contemplate suicide because life is so miserable. And finally he says to himself, “But in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil?”

Hamlet is saying that this life is terrible, and if I commit suicide, who knows? The life to come may be even more terrible than this miserable existence. Contrast that with the Apostle Paul. He said, “I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better.” He said, “I want to die and go to be with Jesus. Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you,” so he says, “To live is Christ; to die is gain.”

Now look at the contrast. Hamlet said, “Live or die, I lose.” Paul says, “Live or die, I win,” and it is Christ who made the difference.

No wonder we sing hallelujah! No wonder we give Him our praise and our adoration because He is our Savior. He is our king, the only one who is able to rescue us from our sin and from our death, and take us to be with the Father forever. So do you know Him today as your Savior? Have you trusted Him as being your own?

Let’s pray.

Our Father, we pray for those who may be here who have never trusted Christ as Savior. They have never believed on Him personally. Intellectually, but they have never transferred their trust! Cause them to do it today, Lord. We cannot overcome the resistance of the human will, but You can. Show them the wonder of Jesus.

And now before I close in prayer, I want you to pray, and if you’ve never trusted Christ as Savior, and you do not have that assurance that you belong to Him, you can pray a prayer something like this.

Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I thank You that You died and that You were raised again. And I accept You now as my sin bearer. I accept You as the one who died for me. I commit my spirit to You for safe-keeping. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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