“Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit”

Luke 23:44-46                                                                               July 15, 2007

 

INTRO:  We had a wonderful vacation to Black Mountain, North Carolina.

On our way to the mountains we stopped at the North Carolina visitors center

   and picked up a bunch of brochures of things to see and do.

 

Any time you go on a trip you want to find out about the place you are going.

   That’s especially true if you have never been there before.

   If you had never been out West, or to Europe—it would be especially important

   to you to find out what it is going to be like when you get there, what to expect.

 

Well, there is a journey that you are going to take one day.

   Of course, I’m taking about your death. 

   One day, you don’t know when, you will cross the river to the other side.

What will it be like?  What can you expect?

 

The Bible does not give us lots of details.  But it tells us the basics. 

   It tells us the most important things so that we can face death,

   and know what it is, and what we will experience on that last journey.

 

The passage that we read this morning is Jesus’ last words from the cross.

   You remember that Jesus spoke several times from the cross.

   In fact, the Gospels record him speaking seven times.

Those seven times he spoke are sometimes called the seven last words of Jesus.

   About five years ago we studied those seven words in weeks leading up to Easter.

 

This is the last of the seven words and it is a very important one.

   Jesus was just about to die.

   And he speaks about his death, what he expected when he reached the other side.

But the reason this last word is so important is because it’s not just about His death,

   its about the death of all believers. 

When Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

   He was talking about your death as well. 

By virtue of your union with him, His life is your life, his death your death. 

So this is a very important passage.

   We have Jesus Christ himself speaking his last words—

   and they are about his death and your death.

 

Before we begin, two things need to remember:

1.  I’m going to address what happens to believers when they die because

   that is who Jesus is concerned about.  Will mention unbelievers, not focus.

2.  Everything Christ and the Bible reveals about what happens after death

   must be received by faith.

 

What we’re going to study doesn’t have anything to do with near death experiences

   where people claim to have seen white lights and felt warm feelings.

What we will study is truly the unseen world. 

   In this life seen only by eyes of faith on the pages of Scripture.

 

Three truths about your death emerge from Christ’s last word.


MP#1  When you die, your body and your spirit will be separated.

The Bible teaches that death is an unnatural separation.

   When God created human beings, he made us unique in all the universe.

We are not angels.  Angels are all spirit.  They don’t have bodies.

   Sometimes angels have appeared in a visible form, but not

 

We are not animals.  Animals are all body.  They don’t have souls or spirits.

   Animals don’t go to heaven.  I’m sorry if that disappoints you animal lovers.

   Now, it is clear that there will be animals in the new heavens and new earth—

   but that’s another subject.

 

So we aren’t angels and we aren’t animals.

Human beings are a perfect union of the physical and the spiritual.

   There is a physical part of us—that’s our body.

   And there is a non-physical part.

 

The Bible uses three terms for this non-physical or spiritual part of us.

   It is called the heart, the soul, and the spirit.  These are not three different things.

   You don’t have a heart and a soul and a spirit.

Three ways of referring to the same thing.  Non-physical part of us.

 

Bible uses the term heart primarily to contrast the spiritual with the physical.

   To talk about the inside, invisible part of a person that you can’t see.

Matthew 15:8  These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

   Can see lips, hear words (physical part) can’t see heart (only God) non-physical.

I Sam. 16:7  Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”

 

Bible uses the term soul primarily to speak of the unity of the spiritual and physical.

   It’s a way of referring to the human person as a spiritual being.  

Gen. 2:7  The Lord God made man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his

   nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.”

   Movie Titanic:  “How many on board?”  “2,500 souls sir.”  Human beings.

 

Bible uses the term spirit primarily to speak of the spiritual part of the person alone. 

The reason the Bible says “God is spirit” is because He doesn’t have a body.

   Angels are spirits.  No physical aspect.  Wouldn’t say God is soul, angels souls.

When Jesus appeared after resurrection—thought he was a ghost (spirit).

   Touch me, a ghost (spirit) doesn’t have flesh and bones.

When Jesus was about to die—“Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

   About to die, at death body and spirit separated.

   Didn’t say, Into hands commit my body.  Up to Pilate.  Gave to friends.

   Spirit commended to God.

 

This separation of body and spirit is violent and unnatural.

   The book of Ecclesiastes describes death as the silver cord being broken.

   As if a silver cord binds body and spirit together—this is snapped at death.

Death is not what God intended for human beings when He created us.

   Intended for us to live with body and soul untied forever.

   Death is the result of sin.  Part of the curse.

 

So even though death is good for believers—as we will see in a minute.

   Death is not good in itself.  It is a breaking apart of what should not be broken.

   That’s the reason we grieve when someone we love dies.

We know this is not right.  We know this is not how it is meant to be.

   Death is not how things should be.  There is no comfort in the “Lion King” movie

   when Mufasa says to Simba, Death is natural, we’re all a part of the circle of life.

 

But even though death is a violent and unnatural separation—

   your spirit retains its identity.  The Bible is clear about this.

   You are yourself after you die.  Don’t get absorbed into God.

Retain personality.  You retain your memory.

   And you are able to communicate with other spirits—

   with the spirits of other believers, with the angels.

 

I remember when my children were little and they asked questions about death—

   that they knew this arrangement was strange.

How can you just be a spirit?  How can you be you without your body?

   Remember one of my children asked:  How can souls see?

   I don’t know, but I know they can.

 

So death will be a strange.  You’ve never known life without a body.

   But you will pass through death

   into a conscious, fully personal, rational existence.

   Jesus experienced it and you will too.

And now we get to the good part.


MP#2  When you die, your spirit will be taken into God’s presence.

Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

   Teaches us, above all, that at death your spirit does not go into a dark,

   unconscious place, but into the presence of God the Father.

Look at each part more carefully:

 

Jesus calls God Father. 

Remember the 3 hours of darkness, 3 hours of God’s wrath.

   At the end, all Jesus could say was, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken?”

   The fatherly presence of God was removed from Jesus during that time.

   He suffered the unmitigated wrath of God for the sins of his people.

But finally, the divine, judicial wrath of God for our sins was satisfied.

 

Jesus said:  “It is finished.”  Work of suffering he came to do was over.

   The sins of his people had been paid for.  His suffering was over.

Once again, the Father’s loving presence was restored.

   Jesus knew that at death, His spirit was going to be with the one who loved Him.

   By committing His spirit to God, Jesus had full confidence that God the Father,

   would receive Him with joy and would glorify Him.

 

Now this is the great part for Christians—only true for Christians.

Your spirit will get the very same reception by God the Father that Christ’s did.

   This is the reason.  Christ’s death was a representative death.

   All his work on the cross was done in union with his elect people.

   So all the benefits of the crucifixion are yours if you are trusting Christ.

 

That means that when Christ said, “Father, into your hands commit my spirit.”

   He was also committing your spirit to the Father.

As certainly as God the Father received Christ with joy and glory into presence,

   He will receive you into His presence.

   All your guilt.  All you failures.  It doesn’t matter—Jesus’ death is your death. 

 

Furthermore, it appears that God the Father has granted to Jesus Christ 

   the work of receiving your spirit when you die and presenting you to the Father.

In Acts 7, we read the account of the first NT martyr, Stephen.

   As Stephen was being stoned to death for his faith in Christ,

   do you remember what he said? 

“I see heaven open, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Then he copied the first and last words of Jesus.

   “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  (Father, forgive them.)

   “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

   Not, Father, receive my spirit.  But, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

So Stephen, speaking by inspiration of Holy Spirit, reveals that it is now

   the Lord Jesus himself who receives the spirits of believers.

   And, of course, other places in the NT make this even more clear, 2 Cor. 5

 

So you see why being taken into the presence of God at death should not

   be a frightening thing for Christians.

Not only did Christ commit your spirit to God when he committed his own,

   Not only will God the Father receive you as He received His own Son,

   But it is Jesus Christ himself, the one who loved you enough to die for you,

   who will actually receive you and present you to the Father.

 

There will be a welcome there that will be so loving, and so affirming

   that I know it will surprise us.  Jesus’ welcome and the Father’s welcome.

As a boy, one of my pleasant memories was my dad coming home winter evenings.

   He always walked home from the church, and wore an overcoat.

   He would hug me and I would hug him, and that coat felt so cold and good.

That’s just a tiny picture your soul’s welcome. 

 

You know that old children’s bedtime prayer:

   Now I lay me down to sleep,

   I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

   If I should die before I wake,

   I pray the Lord my soul to take.

What a simple but profound prayer.  Into your hands.

 

One more thing we glean from Christ’s word is that your spirit will be changed.

   Only holy spirits can live in the presence of God.

So there will be a transformation at death that will free you forever

   from the presence and power and corruption of sin.

   That means you will experience a peace you’ve never known.

 

But we can’t stop here.  As wonderful as it will be to be welcomed by Jesus

   and the Father into heaven—that is not the end of the story. 


MP#3  When you die, your body will rest in the grave until the resurrection.

I want us to look past Christ’s final word to what happened on Easter morning,

   and the implications for us who die in the Lord.

Jesus died, his spirit went to be with his Father,

   his body was taken by friends and laid in the tomb.

But Jesus did not remain a spirit without a body, his body was resurrected.

   And you will not remain a spirit without a body, your body will be resurrected.

 

Christ came to redeem us as whole people, body and soul.

   That is how God created Adam and Eve in their perfection in the Garden,

   and that is how God intends for us to spend eternity.

When you die, your body be buried and there it will decay.

   Your spirit will be met by Christ, and ushered into God’s presence.

   Your spirit will be glorified, freed from all of the corruption, weakness of sin.

   Your spirit will be holy and beautiful.

 

But even in that perfectly glorious condition, you will be incomplete,

   because you will not have a body.

God made man as a physical/spiritual being, not to exist forever without body.

   We do not become angels in heaven.  We aren’t angels.  We are men and women. 

 

In the Bible we see hints of this incompleteness that you will sense in heaven.

   2 Cor.  “We do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.”

   Revelation, the cry of “How long?”

Reason is that you will be in the presence of Jesus Christ.

   And what does Christ have now?  A glorified body.

   One completely free of the curse of sin.

Jesus was not a sinner, but he came “in the likeness of sinful flesh.”

   The body he lived in while on earth was subject to the weaknesses.

   He was hungry, thirsty, tired, tempted, he died.

Now his body is completely glorified.  It is as God intended man’s body to be.

 

What is Christ’s glorified body like?  Hints and rumors in the Bible.

   Even before Christ’s resurrection, see glimpses of his resurrection body

   walk on water, power over storms, able to control nature

What was he like when resurrected?  Like himself but changed.

   power over his resurrected body—able to bend to will of spirit

   passed through walls, appeared suddenly—not a ghost, ate fish, touched

Resurrected body glorified further when ascended into heaven

   Apostle John saw Christ, records this vision in Revelation 1.

   Christ was such a dazzling, overwhelming, awesome figure

   John fell down as if dead, Christ put right hand on John, do not be afraid.

 

It is God’s plan is for you to have a body like Christ’s.

   The Bible calls Christ, the firstborn among many brothers.

In heaven you will look at him, worship him and long to be complete as He is.

   And you will be, at the Resurrection, when Christ returns.

   His resurrection is a guarantee that you will be raised.

 

Some day you will be like Christ, not only in spirit but in body.

   You will have a glorious body like his with a divine glory, shines from within.

C.S. Lewis once said that if you could see the person sitting next to you in church

   as he or she will be at the Resurrection, you would fall down and worship.

 

And C. S. Lewis also wrote a wonderful description of our resurrected bodies,

   that I’ve read many times on Easter Sunday.

Compares Christ’s resurrected body to a great winged horse, Pegasus.

   Compares our present bodies to Shetland ponies.

God’s plan is not to get rid of our ponies altogether, but to use them to prepare us

   for the day when we get our winged horse, our resurrected bodies.

   Then we will ride with Christ in his eternal kingdom.

 

These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys.  We must learn to manage:  not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables.  Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King:  but how else—since He has retained His own charger—should we accompany Him?

 

What great plans God has for us.

The resurrection. 

   The new heavens and new earth will be greater than anything we can imagine.

 


CONC:  Just two concluding thoughts:

1.  Only believers in Jesus Christ have all of these assurances, not unbelievers.

Death is a terrible thing for unbelievers.  Your body and spirit separated.

And then what happens? 

The Scottish pastor, Alexander MacLaren said:

   “O dismal!  O deplorable case!  A poor soul is turned out of house and home, and knows not

   were to go; it departs, and immediately falls into the hands of justice. 

 

That is exactly right, justice.

   Your spirit is also brought before God. 

   But without the welcoming smile of Jesus Christ. 

And so you face God not as your Father, but as your Judge.

   Hebrews 10  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

 

And at the resurrection you will be raised, but not with

   a glorified body like Jesus Christ.

You will simply be raised by the bare command of God

   to stand before the judgment seat.

 

If you are not a Christian. 

If you have never repented of your sins, given your life to Jesus Christ,

   and put your faith in him, don’t delay. 

Today is the day of salvation.  At communion today call out to Jesus for salvation.

   Then tell someone.  Tell another Christian what you have prayed. 

 

2.  For all you Christians, if the Lord has all these wonderful things planned for you.

If your soul and body is safe in him, how confidently you can commit

   to him all the lesser concerns of your life.

What could you possibly be facing now that is greater than your death.

   If you can trust Christ for eternal life, how much more can you trust Him

   for the concerns you have in this life?

 

Jesus lives and so shall I

Death!  Thy sting is gone forever!

He who deigned for me to die,

Lives, the bands of death to sever,

He shall raise me from the dust:

Jesus is my hope and trust.