March 21, 2008

The Word of Rest - Mar 21, 2008

For our sermon meditation on this Good Friday, we consider the last two words that Jesus spoke from the cross. These are found in John 19 and Luke 23.

John 19:30 (NKJV)

30So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!”...

Luke 23:46 (NIV)

46Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

When I was finishing up my schooling at the Immanuel Lutheran Seminary, I was also working on a carpentry project that I had undertaken. Or, perhaps I should say that the project had undertaken me. I didn’t think that it was going to take as much time as it did, nor as much work.

It had started with the remaking of six small signs that had previously decorated our campus. Then, the project grew. It was suggested that some benches be made to put over the little signs. Since these benches would be around for a while, I searched out the best design that I could.

A lot of work went into crafting those benches. I only got four done before it was time to move here. There was planning, buying wood, making patterns, cutting shapes, sanding, fitting, gluing, clamping, more sanding and then finishing. And when it was all done, there was looking to be done.

I remember sitting on and looking at that first finished bench for a long time. It was all done. Nothing more was left to do. With the hard work over, I could rest and enjoy what I had made.

In our selection from God’s Word we heard Jesus declare that He had come to the end of His hard work, the hard work of suffering for our sins. He said, “It is finished.” And because it was finished, He then spoke what we might call, “The Word of Rest”. He said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

How it must have filled Jesus will relief to finally be done. He had experienced all the pain and torment of an eternity in hell, millions of times over. Once for each sinner.

The Bible describes hell as a lake of fire that never goes out. A place where there is eternal existence, but where every moment is unwanted and filled with agony. In hell God’s goodness is not felt in any way.

This is what Jesus experienced in our place. Is it any wonder that He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46).

But that was over now. He had emptied the cup of God’s anger. He had felt the misery and horror of each punishment. And now His great work was finished.

As a carpenter, Jesus had created things on a workbench. But His greatest craftsmanship was fashioned on a cross. It was not an outwardly beautiful work, but it sure was practical. He had made salvation for every sinner. Forgiveness for each of us.

How it must have filled Jesus with joy to know the work was done. He understood what it meant for the sinners who stood at His feet, even if they didn’t.

How it must have filled Jesus with peace to once again enter into intimate communion with His Heavenly Father. No longer was the Father gone from His Son. No longer was Jesus forsaken.
Listen to the Son’s last word, He says,

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit…” (Luke 23:46 NIV).

Jesus knew that those same hands would now receive sinners in gentle forgiveness.

Note how there is absolutely no fear in the moment of Jesus’ death. No terror. No panic. He raises His voice to make it clear to everyone that He was leaving this world victoriously. Willingly giving His spirit to God the Father. Gladly breathing His last.

They had taunted Jesus by saying,

He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:43 NKJV).

And now, at the right time, God did received the spirit of His beloved Son. With the hard work done, Jesus rested.

And because Jesus did our hard work for us, we can rest too.

Have you ever showed up somewhere with work in mind, only to find that someone else has already done it? Maybe the church cleaner from the last month got mixed up and made your work unnecessary. Maybe your errands took longer than expected, and rushing into the kitchen to get started making supper – you found that your spouse had already made it. This is what Jesus did. He got our work done before we could even get started. And that’s a good thing, because if we were to do the hard work of suffering for our own sins, it would literally take forever.

The peace that Jesus felt when He passed back into joyful communion with His Heavenly Father, that peace is also ours. For through Christ’s cross the sins that separated us from the Father have been taken away, and we can approach Him just like Jesus - without fear. We can approach God fearlessly in prayer and we can approach God fearlessly in death.

In Hebrews it says,

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31 NKJV).

But because of what happened on the first Good Friday, the fearful grip of the just and almighty God has become the gentle hands that receive our every care, our every concern, our every worry, our every prayer. And we pray confidently to our Heavenly Father knowing that,

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NIV).

We confess our every sin, and give over all our concerns to God in prayer. We do this knowing that He who took care of the big problem of sin, will be more than happy to handle the little problems of life.

And when it comes time for us to leave the problems and pains of life for good, we’ll be able to entrust our spirits to God with no fear, just like Jesus did.

When I got done making those benches for the ILC campus, it was nice to rest. But I wasn’t the only one who got to rest. Because the hard work was done, others were able to sit down and rest too.

Those benches will only last for a little while. Some of them have already had to be re-sealed. The Wisconsin winters and the summer sun will take it’s toll. Screws will work their way out and wood will give way to rot. What I spent so much time on will only give weary legs rest for a little while.

But the work Jesus did on the cross was no sad carpentry like mine. It was a spiritual work that will last forever. On the salvation that Jesus made, the world of sinners can rest together, all at once, and forever.

Because Jesus did the hard work for us, we can say with joy, “Father, in your hands I rest my spirit, now and forever.”


The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Closing Thought:

Earlier tonight we read Psalm 22 together. That Psalm is sometimes called the “Suffering Servant Psalm”. In it we heard the hard work of our salvation described. We might even call Psalm 22 the “Hard Work Psalm”.

But after hard work comes rest. And in Psalm 23 we see what the hard work of God’s suffering servant has accomplished: Our rest. Our comfort. Our eternal peace.

The work of the Suffering Servant made it possible for us to feel the tender embrace of the Good Shepherd. When you hear 23, remember 22.

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