Good Friday Sermon| Rev. Rolf Preus| First Evanger Lutheran Church| April 9, 2004
“Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
God did not create Adam in the same way that He created the animals. When He made the animals He said, “Let the earth bring forth.” When He made Adam and Eve He made them in His own image. God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground. He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. This is how Adam became a living being. The man and the woman were created as spiritual beings. They were created to live forever in fellowship with their Creator. God did not create them to die. The cause of death is sin. God is not the author of sin. Therefore God cannot be blamed for death. Sinners must bear the blame for their own death. The reason sinners die is because this is what they deserve. As God said to Adam after he sinned against Him, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)
Only one man did not deserve to die. That man was Jesus. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He was the second Adam. His perfect obedience was offered to God to replace Adam’s disobedience. When we think of Jesus suffering on the cross for us we usually think of what was happening to Him. He was receiving abuse and scorn. He was suffering pain and humiliation. Even God Himself was forsaking Him in His suffering. Jesus suffers. He endures. He bears. He submits. He receives divine punishment of all sinners.
But Jesus is also doing something on the cross. He is not just suffering things to be done to Him. He is active on the cross. He is giving. He is offering Himself to God. He is honoring His Father in heaven as God the Father has never been honored by any man. He is giving up to God the only holy life, the only perfectly righteous life that has ever been offered up to God.
This is what makes Good Friday so very good. In the beginning God looked on the world that He had made and He saw that it was all very good. He imbued the man and the woman and any offspring they would have with His Holy Spirit. He breathed into the nostrils of humanity the Lord and giver of life who proceeds from the Father and the Son. He made man a living, spiritual being. Our original parents died on the day they disobeyed. They died spiritually. They were created living souls. Now they and their progeny were all dying souls, spiritually blind by nature.
There is much talk about spirituality these days. Most of the talk proceeds from the assumption that we human beings all have a spiritual nature. We are told that we must learn to respect the spirituality of every sincerely spiritual person. Whether your faith is grounded in Jewish spirituality, Muslim spirituality, native American spirituality, or some other kind of spirituality, spirituality is spirituality and one shouldn’t judge that one kind of spirituality is better than another.
But this is all one big lie. The only true spirituality comes from Christ. This is because Jesus alone lived a life entirely in communion with the Holy Spirit. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. At His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove. He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. There, He withstood every temptation to do evil and He drove the devil away from Him by the words of the Holy Spirit recorded in the Holy Scriptures. When Jesus identified Himself as the Christ in His hometown of Nazareth He did so by reading these words from the Book of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor.” (Isaiah 61:1 & Luke 4:18) Jesus and the Holy Spirit cannot be separated.
We have no spirituality apart from Jesus. Listen to the inspired words of St. Paul.
These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:13-16
There is no spiritual power or potential apart from the Holy Spirit that Jesus sends. This is the Holy Spirit by whose power the eternal Word became flesh. This is the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son. This is the Holy Spirit with whom Christ remained in perfect communion from the time He was conceived in His mother’s womb until He committed His spirit to His Father. At the moment of His death He offered up His righteous life of perfect obedience to the Father.
The death of Jesus Christ is a profound mystery. God cannot die but Jesus is God and Jesus died. Therefore God did die. The Father did not assume our human nature and He did not die for us. The Holy Spirit did not assume our human nature and He did not die for us. But the Son did assume our human nature and He did die for us. The fact that the immortal God cannot die did not prevent Him from doing so. God the Son took upon Himself our own flesh and blood, body and soul, and as our true and righteous brother, He offered up His righteous life to God.
He prayed the prayer of David in the words of Psalm 31:5. Pious Jews of Jesus’ day would pray this prayer before going to bed at night. It was the prayer of a righteous man. He prayed the prayer of every righteous man, woman, and child who faces death and the eternity that awaits them. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” He prayed with the certainty of faith that His Father would indeed receive Him. In committing His spirit to the Father, He was offering to Him His holy and righteous life with confidence that His Father would receive His offering.
The Father did receive this offering. The greatest proof is Christ’s resurrection, but God offered an immediate response in a twofold manner. The curtain in the temple was torn and a Gentile confessed Christ to be a righteous man.
The veil of the temple separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and he would do so once a year to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat. God had always taught that the life is in the blood. The shedding of blood was required for the forgiveness of sins so that life could be regained. Now that Christ’s holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death had been offered to the Father, the Father showed that He was pleased with that offering by ripping the curtain in two. The perfect offering had just been offered. No more offering for sin could ever be offered again. For, as the centurion confessed, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”
And that, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is our confession. Jesus is a righteous Man. He is the righteous Man. When He committed into His Father’s hands His innocent life He was thereby committing into His Father’s care and keeping the lives of all His holy people.
Stephen, the first Christian martyr, called on God as he was dying and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And He did. Jesus brings true spirituality, and there can be no spiritual life, health, or perfection apart from Jesus. He is the righteous man whose righteousness alone avails before the judgment seat of God. When Christ offered up His righteous life to the Father it was the only offering ever offered to God that fully satisfied God in every way. No other offering has any value unless its value is borrowed from the infinite value of that sacrifice.
The one and only righteous Man committed His spirit to His Father. This same righteous Man sends the Holy Spirit to us from the Father. Wherever and whenever the message of the cross is preached, there is Jesus with the same righteousness He offered to the Father from the cross. Wherever and whenever Christ’s church is gathered in His name to receive His righteousness, there our spirits our joined in an intimate union with the Holy Spirit and we are justified. God reckons to us the righteous obedience of His Son. The fulfillment of all righteousness that Jesus promised when He was baptized in the Jordan He fulfilled when He, in His dying breath, committed His spirit into His Father’s hands. So says the torn curtain. So says the believing centurion. So confesses the Holy Christian Church on earth.
In committed His spirit into His Father’s hands, He was also committing into His fatherly care the spirits of His dear Christians, the “spirits of just men made perfect,” as the Epistle to the Hebrews puts it. (Hebrews 12:23) Jesus joins His death to ours so that when our last hour shall come we may know that we are dying, not as sinners in the hands of an angry God, but as saints committing their spirits to their loving Father.
Christ’s death teaches us how to die. In learning how to die, we learn how to live. We are reckoned by God to be saints because God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us. Saints live holy lives. They live their lives as offerings to God. For the sake of the singularly righteous life of His Son, our heavenly Father cherishes all that we offer to Him through faith in Christ. And He cherishes us. He loves us. He received our spirits – our very lives – when He received the sacrifice His dear Son offered for us. And no power on earth can snatch us out of His almighty hands.