Silence: Our Suffering Saviour Is Speaking!
Reading Luke Chapter 23 v 39-49
Preached By Ken Humphries,
There is on record a story of a bygone King who had a Court Jester, who sometimes said very foolish things, at other times of course he would have said very wise things. On one occasion the Jester said something very foolish in the presence of the King, the King beckoned the Jester to his bedside and said, "Jester, I want you to take this staff of mine, I want you to keep it until you find a bigger fool than yourself."
Some years later the King was lying very ill and indeed, dying. His courtiers, advisers, family, servants and others were called around his bed that they might witness the dying words of their King.
The King said to all gathered, one of which was the Court Jester, "I am going on a very long journey and I shall not return to this place, so I have called you all to my bedside to bid you farewell." It came the Jesters turn to come near the King’s bed; "may I ask a question your Majesty?" "Of course Jester, ask away." "Sire, when you have journeyed in the past you always sent ahead of you some of your servants to make preparations for you, what preparations has your Majesty made for this amazing journey?" "Alas!" replied the King; "I have made no preparations for my journey Jester." "Then" said the Jester, take this staff with you Sire, for now I have found a bigger fool than myself." A. Naismith.
We come now to this wonderful and powerful seventh saying from the lips of our dear Suffering Saviour on the cross.
"Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!"
The preceding six sayings have been a great help and blessing to us for going through life, and how we all need that kind of help. This final saying is somewhat different in that it gives us great help in death, and my word we all need that kind of help when it comes to death that we glorify our dear Saviour even then. This final statement from our dear Saviour is a prayer. What an example this is to all of us. It is a wonderful thing when a persons thoughts and words flow Godward in dying moments, unlikely though if prayer was not our daily practice in life.
Dr. Lehman Strauss gives this very telling illustration.
"I read of a man who became famous through his restaurant business. He established eating places for thousands of miles from New York to California and from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. When at last he was dying and on his deathbed, his family gathered about his bed to hear his final words. And while his last words may seem humorous, they were really tragic. As he lay dying he was heard to whisper over and over, cut the ham thin, cut the ham thin!" End quote!
There was nothing wrong with what he said. It means only that the ruling passion of his life showed up clearly at death.
Dear folks, over the years of my ministry I have stood by many a deathbed and listened to many different statements we could call deathbed sayings. Of this much I am sure, a deathbed without the presence of Jesus Christ is a fearsome place to be. It seems to me where almost all are concerned, people die as they live. Whatever takes their fancy in life is almost always what is on their minds at death and I tell you this, some of what is uttered around the deathbed is heart rending.
Listen beloved, listen, if the favour of God is going to shed light on the valley of the shadow of death, we must know Him and have fellowship with Him in life. Any individual who wishes to die the death of the righteous must first live the life of the righteous. If it is unnatural for a man or woman to walk and talk with God when living, in good health and well provided for, it is most unlikely they will want to turn to God in the hour of death. You say, but I’m a Christian! Listen folks, I have sat with people at their deathbed, and they knew it, but the last thing in the world they had any interest in was the Word of God or the prayers of God’s people. It was like an irrelevance to them, they couldn’t care less. And that beloved is tragic for any child of God. When Jesus was breathing His last, His deepest interest was His Heavenly Father!
- This Was A Cry Of Faultless Faith! "Father"
This is not a moan for mercy, this is not a plea for pity, this is a cry of faultless faith in His Heavenly Father. As I have indicated earlier in these studies on ‘The Sayings of the Cross’, as the Lord Jesus Christ hangs on that old rugged cross He makes great use of the Scriptures. Why? Because the Scriptures are not just a nice book to turn to in times of trouble and trial, but because they are the very Word of God, they are the very Life of God, from them we draw the very stuff of life. They are life, light, guidance, direction, solace, strength and much, much more and as the Lord Jesus hangs from that old Roman Gibbet we see Him---
- He’s Pondering The Scriptures!
The "loud voice" cry is not the screaming of despair; rather it is the cry of unshatterable confidence. As the momentary sense of estrangement from God subsides in a hushed realisation that God’s intention has been fulfilled and God’s heaven is opening its doors to Him, His voice again grows strong, His mind is saturated with the Hebrew Scriptures, His cry rings out through all Heaven, all Hell, and all Humanity, "Father, into they hands I commend my Spirit."
You see the Scriptures have been His great source of strength and satisfaction, who knows how many times He had repeated Psalm 31 v 5 "into thy hands I commit my Spirit." To those words he only had to add the word of address: "Father." His is a victorious death; no man had taken His life from Him. He had reminded us of that very powerful fact in John 10 v 17-18.
"Therefore doeth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father."
Sure, it’s true, He was "betrayed into the hands of sinners" Matthew 26 v 45, "delivered into the hand of sinful men" Luke 24 v 7, and slain by "wicked hands" Acts 2 v 23, but it was all voluntary on His part. It was all very much a part of God’s divine plan for His Son. He left heaven and became incarnate for this very reason. This was God’s amazing purpose for His Beloved Son. Now that that purpose was fulfilled, victory had been accomplished. If, as we listen to that shrilling fourth cry we see the serpent bruise the heel of the woman’s seed, then without any doubt in this final cry we see the seed crushing the serpent’s head.
Have you been pondering the Scriptures with me, did you notice what the Holy Spirit added to our Lord’s last words? "And having said thus, He gave up the ghost." Luke 23 v 46. He was not just helplessly yielding to human weakness, He was not just dying, "He gave up the ghost," He was commanding death to convey Him to the Father’s house. How precious must the Father’s Word have been to Him as He set course for the Father’s House?
B. He’s Proving The Scriptures!
"Do you know a book that you are willing to put under your head for a pillow when you are dying? Very well; that is the book you want to study when you are living. There is only one such book in the world."
That was Paul’s wise word of encouragement to Timothy 2 Timothy 2 v 15.
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth."
"Study to show yourself approved" said Paul. And we should remember that the greatest and final approval comes when life ends. When those tests and trials come, do we prove the Scriptures so that when the greatest trial and test comes we are able to reach into that great store house of God’s Holy Word and whisper or even shout "Father."
"I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless,
Ill’s have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where grave thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me!
Ah yes, the Word of the Lord is everything to us amid life’s disappointments, sickness, sorrows, trouble and temptation, but will it be so in the hour of death.
Did Henry Francis Lyte, the author of "Abide with me" really find his hymn was true as he was passing into the presence of his God? Just as he was breathing his last his family record his final words, "Peace! Joy!"
Francis Ridley Havergal crossed over with the full vision of Jesus before her eyes, exclaiming! "My King! My King! My Glorious King!"
"By all standards, death is the most dreaded event. Our society will pay any price to prolong life. Just one more month, or even another day. Perhaps our desire to postpone death reflects our dissatisfaction with God's ultimate purpose. Remember, His work isn't finished until we are glorified. Most of us would like to see God's work remain half finished. We're glad we are called and justified, but we're not too excited about being glorified." Erwin W. Lutzer.
O to be able to prove His precious Word even on our death beds.
C. He’s Preaching The Scriptures!
That is, He is testifying to the truth and power of the Scriptures.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God, not a mere collection of various writers’ opinions, ideas, philosophies, or "inspired" thoughts. It is most certainly not the result of a poll that asked what the public most wanted to hear or a compilation of the best insights from the world’s greatest thinkers. Scripture is nothing less than the written revelation of God and as such possesses certain qualities that ought to be commended to anyone unsure about the claims of Christianity.
What Jesus is doing here on that old rugged cross even at the moment of death is upholding the Bible’s infallibility. He is in effect saying, listen, listen; the Bible is God’s infallible Word, the only rule of faith and practice.
Those who make the Word of God their strength and stay in life will find it so in death.
2. This Is A Cry Of Freedom From Fear! "Into thy hands"
I sense in this cry the certainty of confidence. And why not? Is Christ not committing everything into the hands of the Father?
A. He Knew The Father’s Presence!
"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me."
In his book The Crisis Of Christ, Dr. G. Campbell Morgan points out that there are seven major crises in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. At each one of these crises the Lord can be seen at prayer. The disciples, impressed by the uniqueness of the Lord’s prayer life (so refreshingly different from the stilted, formal, ostentatious, and hypocritical prayer style of the religious leaders of His day), came to Him and said: "Lord, teach us to pray." He did. He taught them the basic principles of prayer and how to have an appreciation of God in prayer. (I draw this from Dr. John Phillips)
- "Our Father" That gave them an appreciation of God’s Person!
- "Thy kingdom come" That gave them an appreciation of God’s purposes!
- "Give us…our daily bread" That gave them an appreciation of God’s provision!
- "Forgive us our debts" That gave them an appreciation of God’s pardon!
- "Lead us not into temptation" That gave them an appreciation of God’s Purity!
- "Deliver us from evil" That gave them an appreciation of God’s protection!
- "Thine is the kingdom" That gave them an appreciation of God’s power!
But when we come to this prayer on the cross "Father, into thy hand I commend my spirit" That gave them an appreciation of God’s presence!
And dear people if ever there was anyone who knew God’s presence, it was without any shadow of doubt, the Lord Jesus Christ.
His whole life is a wonderful example of walking with His Heavenly Father moment by moment, day by day, breath by breath, it was an amazing relationship!
Is such a relationship possible for you and me? I hear you ask. Yes! Yes! Most definitely yes! Listen to this text from John 14 v 21.
"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest (make known) myself to him."
Jesus is saying, if you know my word and obey it, I will make myself known to you! And here’s the point beloved, if we know Jesus then we know the Father, and to know Him is to have His presence with us and know it!
B. He Knew The Fathers Promise!
Jesus knew the fathers promises and believed them with a whole heart. He stood four square on those promises and knew without a fear that God was as good as His Word and would never break His good Word to Him.
Standing on the promises of Christ our King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring:
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.
"In the early days of the United States of America a weary traveler came to the banks of the Mississippi River for the first time. There was no bridge. It was early winter, and the surface of the mighty stream was covered with ice. Could he dare cross over? Would the uncertain ice be able to bear his weight?
Night was falling, and it was urgent that he reach the other side. Finally, after much hesitation and with many fears, he began to creep cautiously across the surface of the ice on his hands and knees. He thought that he
might distribute his weight as much as possible and keep the ice from breaking beneath him.
About halfway over he heard the sound of singing behind him. Out of the dusk there came a man, driving a horse-drawn load of coal across the ice and singing merrily as he went his way.
Here he was--on his hands and knees, trembling lest the ice be not strong enough to bear him up! And there, as if whisked away by the winter's wind, went the man, his horses, his sleigh, and his load of coal, upheld by the same ice on which he was creeping!" End quote!
Like this weary traveller, some of us have learned only to creep upon the promises of God. Cautiously, timidly, tremblingly we venture forth upon His promises, as though the lightness of our step might make His promises more secure. As though we could contribute even in the slightest to the strength of His assurances!
He has promised to be with us. Let us believe that promise! He has promised to uphold us. Let us believe Him when He says so. He has promised to grant us victory over all our spiritual enemies. Let us trust His truthfulness. Above all, He has promised to grant us full and free forgiveness of all our sins because of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And He has promised to come and take us to His heavenly home. Let us take Him at His word.
We are not to creep upon these promises as though they were too fragile to uphold us. We are to stand upon them--confident that God is as good as His word and that He will do what He has pledged.
C. He Knew The Fathers Protection! Psalm 16 v 10.
"For thou wilt not leave my soul in sheol, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."
Helen Keller is one of the most remarkable women in history. On the advice of Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, her parents sent for a teacher from the Perkins institution for the blind in Boston. Anne Sullivan, a nineteen-year-old orphan was chosen for the task of instructing six-year-old Helen. It was the beginning of a close and lifelong friendship between them.
By means of a manual alphabet, Anne "spelled" into Helen’s hand such words as "doll" or "puppy." Two years later Helen was reading and writing Braille fluently. At ten Helen learned different sounds by placing her fingers on the teacher’s larynx and "hearing" the vibrations. Later Helen went to Radcliffe College, where Anne "spelled" the lectures into Helen’s hand. After graduating with honours, Helen decided to devote her life to helping the blind and deaf. As part of that endeavour, she wrote many books and articles and travelled around the world making speeches. Since Helen’s speeches were not intelligible to some, Anne often translated them for her. Their nearly fifty years of companionship ended when Anne died in 1936. Helen wrote these endearing words about her lifelong friend:
‘My teacher is so near to me that I scarcely think of myself apart from her…I feel that her being is inseparable from my own, and that the footsteps of my life are in hers. All the best of me belongs to her—there is not a talent, or an aspiration or a joy in me that has not been awakened by her loving touch." End quote.
It’s obvious that Anne knew Helen better than anyone. In the spiritual realm, Christ knows God better than anyone. Better than theologians who have written about Him through the centuries. Even better than the Prophets and Apostles, who received divine revelation? Christ knows God so well because He knows God’s presence, promises and protection.
It stands to reason therefore if we want to know God; we need to know Christ!
Paul reminds us in Philippians 3 v 10.
"That I might know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death."
And just as the Lord Jesus believed that text in Psalm 16 and every other text in the book, so we should believe this text from Paul in Philippians and act upon it. The Son knew the Father and that is a relationship that is unique as John 5 v 17 + 19-24 highlights for us. Oh, that I might know Him this way!
3. This Is A Cry Of Full Fellowship! "I commend my Spirit"
Herein lies the great challenge of this series of messages. What do we know of a full and practical fellowship with our dear Saviour and, if I may dare ask, with His church?
"Human fellowship can go to great lengths, but not all the way. Fellowship with God can go to all lengths." Oswald Chambers.
"Alone I cannot serve the Lord effectively, and he will spare no pains to teach me this. He will bring things to an end, allowing doors to close and leaving me ineffectively knocking my head against a wall until I realise that I need the help of the Body as well as of the Lord." Watchman Nee.
When Jesus made this final cry on the cross he was displaying the kind of fellowship we all long for I am sure. This was in every sense of the word the cry of full, complete, blessed fellowship with His Father!
I believe Jacob was a wonderful example in his time. Remember Jacob had been a twister, he certainly would not have appealed to us a material for Godliness.
No doubt we would have stroked him off our list for deacon or elder, but God had other ideas, thus we read in Hebrews 11 v 21.
"By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff."
And dear folk, that’s the way I want to leave this world, a blessing to my physical and church family, worshipping my Lord.
And may I lovingly say this is a possibility for every believer in Christ but it will cost, there is a price to pay. Our dear Saviour had to pay such a price.
Behind Him now, the shouts of the angry mob, the thrust of piercing sword, the curses of His crucifiers, and the muffled sobs of His friends and followers.
The cry of finality displays an amazing insight of the Suffering Saviour’s heart.
Did you notice the word "commit" in His cry? This is not now that wonderful speech of submission in the garden of Gethsemane. This is our Saviour having finished the work given Him to do, having come to the point where He willingly give over to the Father saying, with absolute confidence, I commit my all! Father, it’s coming to an end, it’s all over, and I’m ready for home! What an amazing moment that must have been.
Let’s think about that for a time.
A. Commitment Always Has Commencement!
Take the case of our dear Lord and Saviour. There was a time when, before human history began, an agreement was reached within the rich pluralism of the Trinity by which the sending Father commissioned the willing Son to visit our errant earth and make a saving atonement for its pride and rebellion.
Sure, details are not plentiful, but we are reminded in Revelation 13 v 8 Jesus is described as "the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world."
Here is commitment with purpose; it is commitment that will act out the role of sacrificial Lamb offered on the grim altar of this world’s guilt, guilt for messing up God’s plan for healthy human community and development.
But here’s the point. From before the catastrophe occurred the remedy had been put in place. Beloved friend, we should understand, it is no accident we are here, and we have been brought to the kingdom for such a time as this. Our life was already planned and God’s purpose set for us.
The question we must ask and answer is, can I say that my commitment, which had a commencement in the heart and mind of God, is working at full stretch so that like the example our dear Saviour has set us, we will finish the work given us to do? We have curiously, even tragically, become a society without commitment. Non-commitment is the shameless banner that floats high over many a professed Christian life today, it is the chosen option of many a church who have become more interested in statistics, finance and buildings.
Charles Kingsley, when undecided about choosing whether to live for himself or for God, was down on the south coast of England. One night he went walking alone along the shore. When he returned to his room, he sat down and wrote: "My birthnight! Beside the sleepless sea and beneath the sleeping stars I have given myself to God, a vow, if He gives me the strength I pray for, never to be recalled." End quote!
B. Commitment Should Have Continuance!
You see dear brothers and sister’s, commitment calls for continuance.
No matter which way you measure the cloth of your life, a pattern has already been laid out to follow, and it’s as we simply and fully follow God’s wonderful plan and continue in our commitment to His will, blessing in every respect follows.
This from Dr. Paul S. Rees.
"I stood one day, years ago, at the counter of the City Clerk in Minneapolis. A young man next to me was getting a marriage licence. When the clerk handed it to him, he asked, "How much does this cost?" With an Irish twinkle in his eyes, the clerk replied, "Two Dollars now and as much as you can make for the rest of your life!" Forgetting the laugh that leaped from the words, I realised that they implied something of far-reaching seriousness. They were saying, "My dear young friend, the vow of commitment that you make in front of the pastor is what you will live with through the long tomorrows, and if it isn’t, it might have been better for you if you had stayed away from this office and kept your $2.00." End quote!
Think with me of that magnificently stretched-out commitment that Jesus made to the Father when He came to live among us. Henry van Dyke puts it like this. When He came to live "the human life of God" among us wondering, woolly, ill-dedicated mortals. End quote! Hebrews 10 v 5 + 7 "Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said: ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God.’"
If we accept this as an affirmation of commitment at the beginning of our Lord’s earthly life, then think of His words near the end. Within hours of His arrest and being placed in the hands of those who would crucify Him, He prayed to His Father: "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do…I have revealed you to those whom you gave me…I gave them the words you gave me…I have given them your Word and the world has hated them" John 17 v 4, 6, 8, 14.
This is not the wishful thinking of a beginner; this is the confident testimony of a finisher. A commitment commenced, continued; now at priceless cost concluded. Lord help me finish my course with joy and reward!