Friday, April 10, 2020

Cross Words 7 - Peace (Luke 23:46)

My first year at secondary school was a shock to the system. You see, my school was known as a rugby playing school. For something like ten years in a row, Dromore High had won the High Schools’ Cup. So while I wanted to be playing football, we all had a crash course in the basics of rugby - drill after drill of throwing and catching the ball.

Mr McAleese, our PE teacher would tell us why these drills were so important, even if we never played a minute of competitive rugby. “You’ll want to be able to catch whatever is thrown at you. You want to know that you have good hands.”

I never became a rugby player, and I might not be great at throwing and catching, but I never forgot that line about having good hands. Others talk about a safe pair of hands.

Just before Jesus died on the cross, he uttered one last word, which speaks of peace and safety and security, because he was placing his spirit in the best of all hands. Jesus said: ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’

Jesus is quoting from another Psalm of David - this time from Psalm 31 verse 5. David was affirming his trust in the midst of trouble. And Jesus takes those words on his lips as he affirms his trust in his Father as he comes to the end of his life, and completes his saving work on the cross.

Jesus is placing himself in his Father’s hands. For a while, he had been given over to the hands of wicked men, who pursued their evil plot to crucify him. As far back as Luke chapter 9, once the disciples have realised that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, God’s promised king - Jesus tells them ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.’ (Lk 9:44). And in Luke 24, as the angels explain to the women about the empty tomb, they remind them of what Jesus had told them: ‘Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again.’ (Lk 24:6-7)

Jesus had been delivered into the hands of sinful men. Indeed, he had chosen to surrender himself into their hands, to do all they wanted to do, to beat, and flog, and mock, and crucify. In their wicked hands, he was mistreated, and killed. They had done all that they wanted, and got rid of Jesus.

We would have done the same. How often we want to use Jesus for our own desires; to abuse him; and have him serve our plans. Our hands would have been just as ready to crucify the Lord of glory. Our hands are just as guilty, we are caught red-handed with Jesus’ blood on our hands.

But, having suffered all that men desired to inflict on him, and fulfilled the rescue plan, Jesus commits himself into his Father’s hands. The safest pair of hands in the whole universe.

Just after he says these words, he breathes his last, and dies. Yet Jesus shows us that, while his body is taken down from the cross, and buried in the tomb; his spirit is in God’s care and keeping. Now, it’s not that the body is worthless and it’s only our spirit or soul that really matters, and it’s just longing to get free of this bodily prison. No, far from it.

Jesus’ spirit is in the Father’s hands, awaiting resurrection, when body and spirit and soul are reunited and raised. For Jesus, that will happen on the third day, early on Easter Sunday. But because Jesus has died on the cross, that’s also true of all who believe in him.

So if you’re trusting in Jesus, when you breathe your last, your spirit is instantly with God, while you await the last day and the resurrection to the new heavens and the new earth. And that’s true of your loved one who believes in Christ. They are not lost - you know exactly where they are, through the death and resurrection of Jesus; they are in the safest place they can be - in the hands of God, in his care and keeping. As Jesus says in John 10: ‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I am and the Father are one.’ (Jn 10:27-30)

There is eternal safety and security for those held in the Father’s hands. Are you held in his hands today? Have you entrusted yourself into those good hands?

Jesus dies, not in despair or distress, but in peace, fully trusting in the Father’s power and protection. And he gives us that same peace - for our loved ones and for ourselves - when we’re in the Father’s hands.

The seventh cross word is a word of peace.

Jesus says: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit..

Let us pray.
Heavenly Father,
in your keeping are all those who have departed in Christ.
We thank you that your hands are love and they are good.
Help us to know the peace that only you provide,
as we entrust ourselves into your hands,
now, and in the hour of our death,
through Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for us. Amen.

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