Sermon thoughts for 041209 (Easter Sunday)
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23)
We’ve spent the last 7 weeks hearing Jesus words from the cross. This is the last of them. Jesus again quotes from the Psalms. This time though, in stead of a lament (Mark 15:33-34 – “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” from Psalm 22) we hear words of deep faith and confidence from Psalm 31. Indeed, the entirety of Psalm 31 is a testimony of faith and confidence in God’s redeeming power – past, present, and future. Keep in mind that these quotes come from two different gospel writers, who have different theological concerns in their stories – which in part explains the apparent shift in mindset on Jesus’ part. Mark writes around the time of the conquest of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, when his audience no doubt wonders where God is in all of their historical circumstances. They too were probably praying the words of Psalm 22. They knew what it was to feel forsaken and wonder where God had gone. To be reminded that David knew their pain, but even more Jesus himself, must have been a great comfort. And to be reminded that our momentary experience of feeling abandoned is to be kept in the context of God’s abiding love and redeeming power.
That then, brings us to Jesus statement in Luke 23:46. God’s abiding love and redeeming power are the reason for our faith and confidence, the reason why we can give God everything, even from the cross. We are somewhat less confident of Luke’s audience or situation for his Gospel – other than that he addresses it to “Theopholis” – which means “lover of God”. Luke tells us that his gospel is an effort to set down in orderly fashion the events of Jesus’ life, so that Theopholis may know the truth (Lk 1:-4).
Luke had traveled with Paul, and in that time learned first hand and through Paul’s testimony that our own suffering does not negate God’s goodness, power, or love. Indeed, it is in the midst of our suffering and weakness that God’s power is revealed and made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Luke witnessed what it meant to give God everything – Paul did it in his ‘imitation of Christ’ and called others to follow the same example – “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”(1 Cor 11:1) In other words, “I am striving to be like Jesus – you do the same.” Earlier he makes clear that he is not seeking followers of himself (distinct from other apostles or teachers) but through his ministry seeking followers of Jesus who will not just believe, but imitate. Again, he says in Phillipians 2
1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Be like Jesus. Hear John echo – whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked. (1 John 2:6)
And what do we see in Jesus? “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” – which for Jesus, is everything. Jesus gave God everything. And in doing so, he have us everything as well. Go back and hear again the words of Philippians 2:6-8. He let go. It was the ultimate “trust fall”. Have you ever done one of those at a retreat or group building exercise. You have to close your eyes, fall backward, and trust those with you to catch you. You say, “Friends, into your hands I commit my body.” Maybe they catch you, maybe they don’t.
As followers of Jesus, we learn from him what is required of us – to trust-fall into God’s care and keeping – even when our physical experience is one of suffering. Indeed, we come to realize that the only way to experience resurrection is to go through death. This “giving God everything” is the ultimate death-to-self (Galatians 2:20).
How much do you trust God? Do you trust Him with your finances? Do you trust Him with your family? Do you trust Him with your career? Do you trust Him with your health? Do you trust Him with your soul? I don’t mean, do you trust that you will go to heaven when you die. I mean, while you live, will you give God everything. Anybody can do it on their death bed – after all, you’ve got nothing left to loose and everything to gain perhaps. But what about now, today? Does God have it all. It is one thing to believe in Jesus – after all, he said, even the demons believe and tremble. What Christ desires is not believers, but followers. Those who will give God-the-Father everything, following Jesus’ example and having the faith in the Father that Jesus had. This, and this alone, is the way to resurrection and eternal life. Until we yield to God, we are separated from God. As soon as we yield, we are united with God and enter immediately into God-life, which is eternal life, the kingdom of God here, now, among and within us, working itself out in the world. This is the clear witness of the church throughout the book of Acts and the writings of Paul, Peter, John and the others.
You may be asking, why a crucifixion text on resurrection day? Why indeed. Because noone experiences resurrection without passing through death, and you pass through death by yielding all you are to God. Give God everything today, so that you may know the power of the Resurrection in your life.