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April 20, 1984 (Good Friday service)
Bethlehem Baptist Church
John Piper, Pastor


"Into Thy Hands I Commit My Spirit"
Luke 23:44-46 (ESV)

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land
until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple
was torn in two. 46 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.

Paul said in Phil. 3:10 that the passion of his life was to know the power of Christ's
resurrection and to share his sufferings and become like him in his death. I think we
should follow Paul in this. We should long to draw from Jesus the power to live and
die like he did. Surely that is one of the reasons the gospels show us so much of
Jesus' death. God's will for us is that we learn from Jesus how to die.

It is a strange and terrible perversion of the gospel to say that since Jesus suffered
for me therefore I don't have to suffer - I can be comfortable and prosperous. The
stumbling block of the cross is removed if we say he became homeless that I might
have the finest of houses. He was rejected by men that I might be admired among
men. He lived in poverty that I might live in luxury. He endured suffering that I might
enjoy ease. Jesus taught just the opposite: "If any man would come after me, let
him take up his cross daily and follow me." If we suffer with him we shall be glorified
with him (Rom. 8:17). Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you
should follow in his steps (1 Pt. 2:21).

Therefore, when we see Jesus die we see two things: the price paid to bring us to
glory; and the example given for how we are to get there. So let's learn from Jesus
how to die, by focusing on Luke 23:44-46.

1) When you come to die, remember that God reigns.

"It was about the sixth hour and there was darkness over the whole land until the
ninth hour, while the sun's light failed and the curtain of the Temple was torn in
two."

Who saw to it that the sun's light failed? Who ripped the temple's curtain from top to
bottom? Over and around the death of Jesus Christ is the ruling hand of God. He
has not fumbled the ball. There are no loose ends. Luke made it crystal clear in
Acts 4:27f, "Truly in this city there were gathered together against thy Holy servant
Jesus both Herod and Pontius Pilate and the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel to
do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place." It is true that
Jesus said to the mob who arrested him in Gethsemane, "This is your hour and the
power of darkness." But what a sovereign statement that is. The power of darkness
will not be given an hour by the Almighty God. Pray, who reigns when Satan must
await his hour and when his limits are appointed by Another? God reigns -- in life
and in death.

"See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me, I kill and I make
alive, I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand" (Deut.
32:39).

"It was the will of the Lord to bruise him. He has put him to grief. We esteemed
him stricken, smitted by God and afflicted" (Is. 53:10,4).

When you come to die, remember God reigns and nothing has slipped between his
fingers.

2) When you come to die, remember God pities.

We have not risen in our thinking to the magnificence of God if we think that
because he rules in life and death he cannot pity. What was the meaning of the
darkness at noon and the rending of the temple curtain? Was it not God's clothing
his world in the color of grief and rending the garments next to his heart? "It was the
will of the Lord to bruise him" -- but not without pity, not without grief. "As a father
pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. He knows our frame, that
we are dust." The nails and spear and rod and crown of thorns did not feel like pity.
Neither do intravenous needles, respirators, tubes down your throat, and hand
restraints. All the more reason to remember that God reigns and that as a father his
child, so he pities you in your dying.

3) When you come to die, remember that you have a spirit that will live on.

"Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit."

Jesus knew and we should know that death for God's people is not the end nor even
a sleep for our conscious personalities. Paul put it like this in 2 Cor. 5: "We are of
good courage and would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord."
Phil. 1:23, "My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." We will
die like Jesus if we remember that like him we have a spirit which at the moment of
death does not die but lives on with God.

4) But that implies a fourth thing to remember when we come to die.

We should remember that God's arms are open and his hands extended to his
dying children. "Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit." Not: into the grave. Not:
into the void. Not: into the dark unknown. But: into the hands of God.

One of the great temptations at the hour of death is to believe that our death is a
horrible blow from God and that therefore we are under his wrath and cannot commit
our spirit to his care. Let us learn here from Jesus. His death was a horrible blow
from God. He became a curse for us. But Jesus did not abandon faith in God's love
for him.

1 Cor. 11:29-32,

"Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks
judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill and some have
died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are
judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along
with the world."

This is a startling statement. Sometimes the Lord takes the life of a believer
because of sin. But Paul says that we should view it as a chastisement to save the
believer from something worse. Therefore, even if we come to our death believing
that we are being chastised by the Lord -- even then we can and should commit our
spirit to him. For his purpose for us is love.

5) Therefore, finally, when you come to die do not murmur or complain or
rage against God.

He reigns, He pities, His loving hands are open to your spirit. And in those hands is
Paradise immediately after you die.

COPYRIGHT John Piper