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The last words we hear Jesus speak from the cross are "It is finished. Into your hands I commit my spirit." And he gave up his spirit and died.
Jesus had been able to say that the work God had given him to do was finished. And with that he surrenders his spirit into God's hands.

In the play we presented on Friday, I had Joseph of Aramathea wondering if everything that Jesus had taught and done was really finished. Was it really the end?  When Jesus was going to be arrested, Joseph had voted against it, but was over ruled. He was a follower but all he could do for Jesus was to loan him his own tomb and bury him with dignity. Was doing what was right and believing in God really nothing in the face of determined and powerful forces that were determined to obliterate it. On Friday, when Jesus died, it really seemed as if Judas, the high priests, Pilate and the rest had won. They succeeded in putting Jesus to death.

And in his own death, Jesus says, " It is finished."
Was it over?
In one way it was. Jesus earthly job was complete. His mortal body was dead. Dead and buried.
In that way, it was over.
In another way too.
He gave up the . . .

Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there,
as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.
Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.
(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) John 20:6-9

The last words we hear Jesus speak from the cross are "It is finished. Into your hands I commit my spirit." And he gave up his spirit and died.
Jesus had been able to say that the work God had given him to do was finished. And with that he surrenders his spirit into God's hands.

In the play we presented on Friday, I had Joseph of Aramathea wondering if everything that Jesus had taught and done was really finished. Was it really the end?  When Jesus was going to be arrested, Joseph had voted against it, but was over ruled. He was a follower but all he could do for Jesus was to loan him his own tomb and bury him with dignity. Was doing what was right and believing in God really nothing in the face of determined and powerful forces that were determined to obliterate it. On Friday, when Jesus died, it really seemed as if Judas, the high priests, Pilate and the rest had won. They succeeded in putting Jesus to death.

And in his own death, Jesus says, " It is finished."
Was it over?
In one way it was. Jesus earthly job was complete. His mortal body was dead. Dead and buried.
In that way, it was over.
In another way too.
He gave up the spirit. I re-read this passage to see if the gospels are speaking of his mortal spirit, or the Holy Spirit.
There is no indication. Just the words, "He gave up his spirit." I think we imply that he gave up both.

There is a very important statement which Jesus makes in John 8:28. "So then when you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be, and that I do nothing on my own, but speak just what the Father has shown me."
In one way he is saying that when they crucify him, they will see that he is telling the truth. How? Because he will not be kept in the grave. But it means more than just that. He is telling something about the work he came to do; the work he said "was finished". Here also what he says in John 5:30: "By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself, but him who sent me."

Jesus says twice, "I do nothing on my own." In 5:30 he says "I can do nothing on my own."
When God became flesh in the person of Jesus, he lived a totally human life.
By that what I mean is he had no superpowers. I didn't have X-ray vision, or superhuman strength. He wasn't clairvoyant or any of that. He lived under exactly the same limitations that you and I do. Exactly.
Except that he is the Son of God. But don't make the mistake then of thinking he living in any way different from how you and I must. But what he had was the Holy Spirit and He was sinless. So he had total access to God's presence twenty four hours a day. Whatever he asked, God performed. It was the Holy Spirit's power, not the power of Jesus the man. This is important so stick with me.

Paul writes in Philippians :
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself  and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

He is saying that Jesus, though he was God in the flesh and could have exercised divine prerogatives, did not. Instead he took on the obedient role of a servant, even to the point of death on a cross.  Therefore God has exalted him.

Jesus came to die for our sins. He did this and this is in part what he meant when he said, "it is finished."
But he also came to model for us how we are to live.
We are to live as he lived--in obedience to God. Not to seize life on our own terms.
Jesus says specifically this is what he avoided--acting on his own terms.

This was always the focal point of Satan's temptations.
In the wilderness, after his baptism, Satan comes and says, "Hey, you are the Son of God." Why don't you take charge then and start making decisions and making changes. If you are the Son of God, live like it.
Instead Jesus says, I can do nothing, I will do nothing apart from what God shows and tells me.

Remember the movie Dead Poets Society. Robin Williams plays the part of a gifted teacher who is teaching his pupils to live to the fullest. In one scene, he takes them to some photos of past classes. He tells them to lean in and listen, then standing behind them he whispers the Latin phrase, Carpe Diem. "Carpe Diem boys. Seize the day."

Satan meets Jesus and whispers, "Carpe Diem, Jesus, seize the day." "You are the Son of God. Live like it. Show that you are! Think of all the things you could do."
Jesus says, "I do nothing... nothing at all,  but what the father shows me to do."
The divine authority was his if he chose to seize it. But he chose not to seize it.

In the garden he struggled again. "Father take this cup from me." "But not what I will. Only what you will."
And when he dies, he gives up the Spirit which has guided him and says, "It is done."
He has lived a life in obedience. He had done what he was sent to do and nothing else.

And so they roll the stone across the tomb and go their way, believing that all is lost.
This is where total obedience gets you.

Until Sunday morning.
Then they come to the tomb and what they find is a resurrection.
Why are you looking for the living among the dead?, says an angel.
He is not here. He has risen. Go and tell.

What does that mean for us?
It means that when we come to Jesus, he forgives our sins and that we have eternal life.
That's the most important thing.
But it also means that simple obedience is never futile. Never.

God calls us to live the way Jesus lived.
One of the themes I am regularly preaching about is, "listen to what God is saying to you and then do it."
That is the way to life.
The way to death is to try to live life the way you want it to come out.
By trying to force situations to your will and your wants.
And just not listening to what God has to say about things, or just choosing to disregard what God has to say about things.
Or just not caring what God says about it, and doing it your own way anyway.

If anyone had a right to say, "This is how I see it." and then do what he chose, it would be Jesus.
But he did not.
He said. "I do only what God has shown me to do."  Nothing more and nothing less.

Sometimes that's how it is in life.
Do we ever say to God, "I will lay aside what I want in this situation to find out what you want"?
"Then when I know what you want, I will do it."

Laying aside our egocentrism feels like dying. Laying aside our need to be seen as important.
Laying aside our desire to have things turn out the way we want them.
It's like dying to self.
If fact that is exactly what it is.

Jesus did it bodily.
His resurrection is God's stamp of approval on him and and on us when we are willing to do so.
Ask what God wants of you.
Then do it.
Lay aside anything else. Be willing to die to it.
Let God bring you a resurrection.

If Joseph of Aramathea had wondered what good doing the right thing was, he had his answer Sunday morning.
It makes all the difference.
He put his faith in Jesus and Jesus is alive.

It makes all the difference in our lives too.
Follow your own way and eventually you lose.
Follow what Jesus says and you may have to die to some wants and beliefs.
But Jesus is alive and he will give you new life in place of the old.

Jesus was willing to live his life in the hands of God.
And when he died, he consigned himself to the hands of God.

Will you say today, "Into your hands, alone, I give my spirit, my future, myself, Lord."?

Jesus is alive!
Follow Him!

Let's pray. Jesus, up to now I have pretty much lived my life the way I wanted to. I believed in you, but have not totally trusted you to guide my life. But now I put myself into your hands. Show me what you want, just as you showed  Jesus. Amen


Preached  April 16, 2006
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia
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