March 17, 2024 . . .“Bible prayers: Father, into Your hands” Luke 23:46

March 17, 2024 . . .“Bible prayers: Father, into Your hands” Luke 23:46

March 17, 2024

“Bible prayers: Father, into Your hands”

Luke 23:46

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

It was March 4th of 1841, and William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of our United States, delivered the longest inaugural speech in history, containing a little over nine thousand words. (That’s somewhere between five and six Sunday sermons all at once, in case you’re counting). That’s a long speech!

Now President Harrison must have been rather proud of his speech because, in spite of the fact that it was raining and unseasonably cold, he refused to shorten it by even one word. He was the president, after all! So there he stood for two solid hours, delivering his long, boring speech.

Unfortunately, because of his stubborn long-windedness on that bitterly cold day, President Harrison caught pneumonia. He died one month later on April 4th of 1841.

Today, historians wonder if there was ever a president who has said more, but done less.

And today, as we view our Savior dying on a cross, we find the very opposite is true. For there has never been One who has done more and said less.

And these are His cries from the cross:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

“Truly I say to you, today you’ll be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

“Woman, behold your son” (John 19:26).

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

“I thirst” (John 19:28).

“It is finished” (John 19:30).

“Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).

No one has ever done more and said less than Jesus.

I’ll read the words of Luke chapter 23: “It was now about the sixth hour, and the sun’s light failed. The curtain of the temple tore in two. 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 23:44-46).

The day began at the crack of dawn. The temple guard, under the command of the high priests Annas and Caiaphas, brought Jesus to the Praetorium, before the judgment seat of Pontius Pilate.

“He incites the people to rebellion,” they said. “He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a King!” (Luke 23:2). And if that wasn’t enough, the Bible says, they accused Him vehemently.

But as Pilate took a bowl of water and washed his hands, he said, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood. It’s your responsibility” (Matthew 27:24).

“Let His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25), they said.

So began the long walk to Calvary. The cross was heavy, besides the white-washed placard that hung around His neck. “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” it read. And holding His arms and feet securely to the wood, soldiers nailed Him down to the cross. And as they stripped Him of His clothes and lifted Him up for all to see, He cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Slowly, one hour turned to two hours, that turned to three. A criminal hanging beside Him turned and said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). And Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, today you’ll be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Finally, at 3:00, the ground shook, the temple curtain tore in two, and Jesus cried out with a loud voice: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” (Luke 23:46).

Is it any surprise that Jesus would speak these words? It shouldn’t be. It’s the way He always said it would be. He said in the book of John, “The reason My Father loves Me, is that I lay down My life…no one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord” (John 10:17-18).

No one could take Jesus’ life away--not Annas or Caiaphas, not Herod or Pilate, not the soldiers or the taunting crowd. So He cried with a great voice, with every ounce of strength that remained, “I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).

And to whom is He crying out with such a great voice? He’s crying to His Father who loved Him, who was well pleased with Him, and who, for a time, because of our sin, turned His face away.

How He loved His Father! As a twelve-year-old boy confounding the teachers of the Law, He said to His mother Mary, “Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). To the moneychangers in the temple, He said, “How dare you turn My Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:16). And with His face turned toward heaven, He prayed, “Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began” (John 17:5).

How He loved His Father and how He longed to go home.

And what does He cry to His Father? “I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Throughout His thirty-three years of life, He had always been in the hands of men. Mary and Joseph held Him as a baby and nurtured Him as a boy. An old man named Simeon and an old woman named Anna took Him up in their arms and blessed Him. The teachers in the temple placed their hands on Him, amazed at His understanding of the Law. John, who baptized Him, held Him close as he poured water on His head and the Spirit descended like a dove. His disciples touched Him. Even little children wrapped their arms around Him. And now, as His great earthly mission is done, He rests His life in His Father’s hands.

And so it was done. All that the Father had asked Him to do was done. All the words He should speak, all the people He should heal, all the dead He should raise, all the wonders He should perform, were done. Everything the Father asked Him to do was done.

So now, in His last moment of life, He prayed, “Father, dear Father, My work is done. There is but one thing more to do, and that is to commend My life into Your hands.”

You know, when children go to bed at night, there’s a prayer they often pray. As they fold their hands and close their eyes, they pray, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep. Angels watch me through the night, ‘til I wake by the morning light.”

But in Jesus’ day, faithful Jewish parents taught their children a different prayer to pray. As a trusting Jewish child laid his head on his pillow each night, this is the prayer he prayed. It comes from the words of Psalm 31: “Into Thy hands I commit my spirit” (Psalm 31:5).

So now, as Jesus breathes His last breath, powerfully, willingly, He commends His life into His Father’s hands.

In June of 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani became the king of the Afghans. And even though many tribal leaders were at war with one another, he managed to bring peace. And as the story goes, he led his people to live in a secret valley that he had once discovered on his travels, a vast plain, bordered on all sides by sheer cliffs. And to protect their new peaceful way of life, he said it was imperative that no one should ever reveal the hidden passageway into the plain.

Until one day, a very nervous lieutenant approached him. He said, “Emir, we caught someone revealing the location of the secret passageway.”

The king gasped in amazement. “The most important law?” he said. “You caught someone disclosing the entrance to our city?”

“Our secret is safe,” said the lieutenant. “We arrested the traitor and killed the spies who paid for the information.”

“Now as to the traitor,” said the king, “let’s make an example of him. Tie him to a column in the middle of the city to receive one hundred lashes. No man dare put his desires over those of my people!”

“Yes, my king,” said the lieutenant. “I was afraid you were going to say that. But, you see, it wasn’t just anyone we caught. It was your mother.”

A look of horror flashed across his face.

Now the lieutenant promised he could release his mother and hush the whole matter up by killing the guards who had captured her, but the Shah knew this would only make matters worse. Sooner or later, word would get out and everyone would learn that, even though his mother had jeopardized the whole nation’s security, she got off scot-free. And once it became known that he had abdicated his responsibility to treat everyone the same, his kingdom would descend back into chaos.

But at the same time, how could he publicly execute his own mother?

He sighed, then told the lieutenant he would make his final ruling in the morning.

The next morning, as the sun burst over the cliff wall and shed its light across the rocky plain, everyone gathered in the square to await the king’s judgment. The accused was brought forward, bound in chains. The lieutenant called for quiet, as absolute silence fell across the crowd.

The king looked haggard and unkempt. He hadn’t slept a wink all night. He spoke softly, but the gravity of his voice could be heard by all. “He simply couldn’t allow anyone to risk the security of the whole city,” he said. “The prisoner must be punished,” he said.

Women shrieked. Men hung their heads low.

The old woman was shoved to the center of the square, her hands bound above her head to the column. The executioner stepped forward, his whip in his hands. Then he tore the dress from her back and began his dreadful punishment.

The first lash slapped against her frail body, leaving a fiery welt. The second drew blood. Her legs began to buckle. She wouldn’t last much longer.

But as the third stroke was about to fall, the king suddenly broke down.

“Stop!” he screamed, raising his hands. Then he shouted once more: “The penalty for my mother’s crime was a hundred lashes. She has paid two of them. I will pay the other ninety-eight.”

And with that, he removed his shirt, walked to the column and gripped it until his knuckles turned white.

Not a soul moved as the executioner flailed the ninety-eight strokes across the king’s back. Finally, when the punishment was over, he fell to the ground in a bloodied heap.

And in that moment, everyone knew that their king would not choose between love and justice. He would remain faithful to both.

And so, Jesus’ work was done. A few more horrific details will come. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea will beg Pilate for His body. They’ll lower it down from the cross, wrap it in a fine linen cloth and lay it in a new garden tomb. They’ll roll a stone across the entrance and soldiers will secure the grave. Women will weep, and disciples will hide in fear of the Jews.

But Jesus will rest, peacefully and triumphantly, in His Father’s hand.

And someday, by the grace of God, so will we.

We thank You, dear Father, for all You have done for us, by sending Your Son to die on a cross. Grant that we too may rest in Your almighty hands, for Jesus’ sake. Amen