…into your hands…

Today’s Last Word is, literally, the last word spoken on the cross.

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.

Luke 23.46

We have seen that right until the very end, Jesus was others-focused (John 19.27), and here we see that until the very end Jesus was prayer-focused, focused on communing and communicating with the Father.

The work being done, Jesus rested in the hands of the Father. Nobody took His life from His, He laid it down for you. He trusted and rested in the hands of the Father as He laid down His life willingly. Knowing His body was to be laid aside, Jesus committed His spirit to the Father in one final act of trust and obedience and communion.

Perhaps this is the most poignant Easter week since the original. The world looks like it is falling apart, doesn’t it. Everything that people had stood on for stability, built on for prosperity, or clung to for identity is just melting away before their very eyes. This produces in people an overwhelming sense of anxiety and stress.

Contrast this to the last word of Jesus during His earthly incarnational life and ministry, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” and we are presented with a polar-opposite choice to make; are we going to try and work our way out of this pandemic, trying to rebuild everything with our own commitment and convictions, or are we going to commit ourselves to a known, personal, loving God who has a proven track record of taking what is broken and restoring it to life?

If you have never done so, there is never a better time to echo the last word of Jesus and pray “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit, my whole life, take it and use it as you will, for your glory.”

It is finished

Today’s Last Word is also the Scripture we will look at on Good Friday at Saar Fellowship. We would love you to join us for church online this Friday at 10am Bahrain time (GMT+3).

A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19.29-30

A lot of people are caught up in works-righteousness, whether they know it or not.

If I could just…go to…do…say…be…then that would be enough…

The last word here is one of completion, utter completion. It is finished means exactly that, it is complete, totally complete. It is finished means that there is no more work to do to be reconciled to God, there is no more work to do to pay the debt that our sin has accumulated. It is finished means that there is nothing to be done anymore. 

Friend, there is nothing left for you to do but believe; not go, do, say, or be. Believe in Him. Believe Him when he said “It is finished“. This was not the exasperated cry of a criminal getting what their deeds deserve, this was a triumphant shout of victory. In the original language of the New Testament, it’s one word,

Τετέλεσται

‘Te-tel-es-tai’ = It is finished.

It means the bill has been paid in full, literally. Rest in this truth!

I thirst

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”

John 19.28

What is so interesting here is that before Jesus said “I thirst“, we see that He knew that all was now finished. The work had been done, the price had been paid, He was now ready to share that with people and needed a drink to prepare His voice for one more momentous utterance.

Let’s keep this short and to the point: to receive the Good News into our lives, we need to accept the bad news about ourselves. We need to see ourselves in the cold light of day in order to admit that we too thirst. We are not great, we are not good, we are not the pinnacle of existence as we like to think we are. When we admit this, the worst is over, the biggest hurdle to our submission to the Lordship of Jesus has been overcome and we can come to Jesus and say “I thirst“. 

As He said “I thirst” knowing that all was now finished, so we too come to Him and say “I thirst, Lord, for the life you died to provide“. We say this knowing that we have reached a point in our lives where we need to drink of the living water He has to offer (John 7.37-39), and that He gives freely to all who ask.

…why have you forsaken me?

The next last word we see is found in Matthew 27.46,

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This is actually a quotation from Psalm 22, a wonderful Messianic Psalm. Louis A. Barbieri Jr. wrote on this and said that in this moment, Jesus was sensing “a separation from the Father He had never known“.

Friend, because He was separated from God the Father in this moment and because He who had never sinned became sin so that the holy and perfect justice of God may be satisfied, you and I need not ever be afraid of experiencing this separation. 

This was the moment, the beginning of the greatest spiritual transaction to ever take place; Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the entire universe past, present, and future, He took it upon Himself to drink the cup of God’s wrath (Psalm 75.8, Isaiah 51.17, Jeremiah 25.25), He endured spiritual and relational separation from God, He did all of this so that you don’t have to. 

Why did He endure all of this? For you, so that you never have to.

Death, life, virus’, pandemics, trials, tribulations, troubles, height, depth, angels, nor demons, will ever cause you to have to experience and endure what He experienced and endured that day for you. 

He was, in this moment, forsaken so that you never have to be. 

…behold, your son!

The hardest thing I have ever had to do as a Pastor, maybe even as a person, was be present in an ICU room when, individually, members of a family came in to say goodbye to a lady who was only alive because she was connected to a ventilator.

Her sister came.

Her friend came.

Her partner came.

Then her children came.

Thinking of this now still brings tears to my eyes. What do you say to a child saying goodbye to their Mum? Preaching the Good News to the assembled church multiple times each week is a huge privilege. Being there for moments like that is perhaps the most profound privilege we can have as ministers of the Gospel. 

Today’s last word is found in John 19.26,

“Woman, behold, your son!”

Making provisions for those we love for a time when we won’t be around may seem morbid, but it is maybe the most loving and practical thing we can do. Even on the cross, in the throws of agony, Jesus cared for and provided for others. He was, and is, so others-focused that some simply cannot believe it.

For those of us that do, we see His heart on display; others.

Even in His dying moments, He wanted to make sure that those He loved were going to be taken care of.

Brothers, sisters, please don’t wait until it is too late. Take actions today to care for and provide for those you love so that when a day begins without you, they will be ok. They will have enough to deal with, enough to organise, enough to do, enough to grieve over, enough to think about.

Please follow His example and do all you can today to provide for their tomorrows.

In Paradise

Our second last word of Jesus on the cross is also found in Luke 23 and is given in response to one of the criminals crucified next to Him (v.32).

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23.43

The only deathbed conversion in the Bible gives us hope that it is never too late to turn to the Lord, but, it is the only deathbed conversion in the Bible, so it shouldn’t give us a false sense that we can wait until the very last minute to ‘get religious’ as many people see it. 

Imagine floating down a river towards a waterfall and there is a big rock right on the edge of the drop that you plan to grab on to. Whilst you are floating towards the edge there is a man on the side of the river calling out to you with a life-saver but you reply ‘Don’t worry, I’ll grab that rock just before I fall‘. But in the course of floating down the river the current has taken you so far from the rock you can’t grab it. In the course of your floating you’ve also taken on so much water than you may not be physically able to grab it. The man on the side is willing and able to save you should you call out to him, but you never did, vainly hoping to wait until the very last second. 

Sadly, this is how many people view salvation and eternal life: ‘I’ll wait until I’m old and ready to die, then I’ll think about all that‘. Sadly, for many, they never get this chance meaning that decisions made in the here-and-now become all the more important. 

Friends, who do you need to talk to about salvation and eternal life today?

Who do you need to send this to and have them read it today?

These words spoken by Jesus on the cross are – like many others – a comfort and a challenge. For those that have trusted Him they are a huge comfort but the context they are given in brings a real challenge.

These words were painfully spoken during crucifixion but they were given nonetheless. It can be painful having these kinds of conversations with people, but follow His example and have one today.

Father, forgive them…

The first saying of Jesus on the cross is found in Luke 23.34 and we read,

…Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Even to the very end, Jesus was others-focused. This will come up again and again as we move through the last things He said in His earthly life. Others. Right up to the end, Jesus was others-focused. Right up to the end, Jesus sought forgiveness for those that did not deserve it. Is there a more poignant example of His grace in action than Jesus on the cross seeking forgiveness for those literally crucifying Him?

Don Stewart writes,

He came to earth for the purpose of forgiving sinners and He loved them and forgave them up until the end.

How about you?

Is there anybody you need to forgive? Is there anybody that you need to reconcile with? Is there anybody from whom you need to ask forgiveness? We are encouraged to seek forgiveness if we have wronged others (Matthew 5.23.24) and to forgive as we’ve been forgiven (Ephesians 4.32). Seek that today.

As we move through the words of Jesus on the cross and pause to reflect on this truly incomprehensible sacrifice, let us not overlook the practical applications in our lives. Here, as Jesus said “Father, forgive them…”, let us pursue forgiveness and reconciliation with those around us today.