Immanuel Voices
March 30, 2018, 8:00 PM

The Dying Word

“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” Luke 23;46


22 "When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, 'Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord'), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: 'A pair of doves or two young pigeons.'

25 "Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:22-35


Joseph carried in the turtledoves into the temple that day, but he and Mary knew that the real sacrifice was the one she was carrying so lovingly in her arms. The prophet Malachi had foretold that “the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple” (3:1). Now the Lord enters the temple in the arms of His mother. She and Joseph think they are the only ones who know. But suddenly there is an old man coming toward them, his arms outstretched and not to be denied. There is on his face a look that Mary recognizes. It was on her cousin Elizabeth’s face when she visited her as a newly pregnant mother. It was on the face of the shepherds the night of the child’s birth. Now it is on the face of this old man. Mary and Joseph understand—yet another one who has been let in on the great secret of the ages.


As the old man takes the child in his arms he begins to pray. Artists usually depict him looking up to heaven, but perhaps he simply looked down into the face of heaven’s Lord as he announced that he was ready to die. That is what “depart in peace” means—“I can die now in peace.” The peace came from the child. Had not the angels sung the night of His birth: glory to God in the highest and peace on earth?


Simeon looks at the fulfillment of the promise of the ages: here is the child by whom the serpent’s damage would be undone; here in frail human flesh and blood is the death of death; the forgiveness of sins; the life that never ends. And He is for everyone: a light for the Gentiles and glory for Israel.


As Simeon hands the child back, he foretells that this child will be a stone of stumbling in Israel. Many will fall because of Him, but many also will rise. And he tells the mother: A sword will pierce your own heart also.


That was fulfilled years later as Mary stood in the darkness and watched her Son give Himself as the sacrifice to wipe out the sins of the world and offer Himself to death in order to slay death for all who believe in Him.


As Simeon walked away, no doubt the look of wonder remained upon His face. He was ready to meet death now—for he knew that death itself was coming to an end!


The Death of Jesus

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last." Luke 23:44-46


Darkness is upon the earth, though it is the middle of the day. One of our hymns expresses it like this: “Well might the sun in darkness hide And shut his glories in. When God, the mighty maker, died For His own creatures’ sin” (LSB 437:3).


Darkness suggests nighttime and sleep, and indeed Christ goes to meet death in the same way that a person lies down to meet sleep. He had called death a sleep before (with Jairus’s daughter and with Lazarus’s death). Now He prepares to enter it like a child going off for a night’s slumber. He meets it in the confidence that His Father will awaken Him from it.


The tearing of the temple veil suggests that what Christ is doing upon the cross removes the barrier between the all-holy God and the race of sinful men. In Christ’s own flesh we meet and encounter God, and may do so without fear, when we draw near Him in faith. He is the very sacrifice of atonement.


As earlier He had prayed from Psalm 22, so now He takes up Psalm 31 and commits His spirit into the hands of His Father and so breathes His last. By this our Lord teaches us that death is the separation of the soul or spirit from the body, and that the soul or spirit returns to God immediately upon breathing our last in this age. But Jesus commends His spirit not in the sense that His body is of no more use; rather, it is in God’s safekeeping until the joyful moment of resurrection arrives. This holds true for us too. We may be confident when we die that our spirits or souls are with God in heaven, but we know that He keeps them not to be forever disembodied, but so that on the day of our Lord’s appearing, the souls may be restored to the body. This is the meaning of the line in “For All the Saints”—“But, lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day: The saints triumphant rise in bright array; The King of Glory passes on His way. Alleluia! Alleluia!” (LSB 677:7). It might be worthwhile to review the whole theology of death as it is laid forth in the classic hymn “This Body in the Grave We Lay” (LSB 759).


In such confidence in the Lord’s care of our souls and awaiting our resurrection, the Church teaches us each night to commend ourselves into God’s care and keeping, as we join in Simeon’s song and pray Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer.


To live a blessed life, we must first know how to die a blessed death. Simeon was ready die in peace after having seen that God’s salvation had taken on human flesh and blood. He saw the baby, held Him, and rejoiced to know that the death of death, and the forgiveness of sins, lived and breathed upon earth. Comforted by that, Simeon was ready to depart this life in God’s peace. Our Lord also teaches us to face death square on. He finished the work His Father gave Him to do and then commended His spirit into the Father’s hands and keeping. Because of His redemption, we, too, can confidently place our spirits or souls into God’s loving hands and know that He will not forget us, but will vindicate our trust in Him when the day of the resurrection arrives by raising our bodies even as our Lord’s body was raised. Until then, our spirits will go on living in His presence and continue to praise and extol Him. Each night as we lay our heads down for sleep we practice for our death: “For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things” (Luther’s Evening Prayer).



*Adapted from CPH’s “Words of Life from the Cross” Lenten Resource

March 29, 2018, 8:00 AM


“I thirst.” John 19:29


6 "Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 "When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?' 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 "The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 "Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'

11 "'Sir,' the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?'

13 "Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'

15 "The woman said to him, 'Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.'

16 "He told her, 'Go, call your husband and come back.'

17 "'I have no husband,' she replied.

"Jesus said to her, 'You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.'

19 "'Sir,' the woman said, 'I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.'

21 "'Woman,' Jesus replied, 'believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.'"

25 "The woman said, 'I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.'

26 "Then Jesus declared, 'I, the one speaking to you—I am he.'" John 4:6–26



Our Lord was no mere human phantom. He had a very real body and it experienced all that our bodies do, including tiredness and thirst. It is high noon as He sits beside the well to rest and eventually asks the Samaritan woman for a drink.


She is shocked that He as a Jew even bothers to speak to her. In His dealings with her we see what Jesus ultimately thirsts for (just as He will later in chapter 4 speak of His true hunger—to do the will of His Father). He begins almost teasing her, inviting her to ask of Him for some “living water.” She misunderstands Him (a constant feature of John’s Gospel) and still focuses upon earthly water and thirst. Jesus eventually leads her to see that He is talking about a deeper thirst being quenched than recurring earthly thirst. She finally asks Him for this “living water.”


But for her thirst to be satisfied with the Savior, she must first see her sins. Thus He invites her to call her husband. She prevaricates, and observes that she does not have a husband. At that point Jesus gives full-blast law. He admits she speaks the truth—she does not have a husband now. She has had five and is just living with the fellow she currently has. That Jesus could know this about her astonishes her, but clearly also embarrasses her. She tries to change the subject to Jewish/Samaritan questions. Jesus affirms that salvation is from the Jews, but His presence is clearly indicating the end of confining worship to a single place—in Jerusalem. The God she is encountering in the flesh of Jesus is the God who wills to be worshiped in spirit and truth throughout all the world. She had heard of the coming of Messiah, and she observes: “He will tell us all things.” He confesses freely to her that He is that Messiah.


Though we do not have time in this study to read the rest of the story, a most interesting point to pick up is verse 28. The woman leaves her jar behind! She has found the Messiah and He has indeed given her the living water promised. Her thirst is quenched—the thirst she never could quench as she looked for love in all the wrong places, marrying man after man, and never finding what she was thirsting for.


"Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.' 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips." John 19:28–29


If the human being is made in such a way that he thirsts for God (even when he does not know that is what is driving his thirst and why no earthly thing ever satisfies him), Jesus reveals the shocking truth that God in the flesh also thirsts for us. He desires our salvation. And it is as He knows that this salvation is now finished, that He cries out “I thirst.”


Every human being knows what it is to thirst. Thirst is our common experience. It happens when a person has been working hard out in the sun, or after a long night’s sleep, or when a person wakes from surgery, or when we die. We long for the touch of some liquid, usually water, to relieve the dryness of our mouths and to still the restlessness of our bodies.


This is the first and only word of the cross that deals with the physical pain our Lord endured. Long before it happened, the Psalmist had prophesied of this moment in Psalm 69:20–21: “I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” As the only good One is dying, this is all we find to offer Him: vinegar to assuage His thirst!


But His thirst is deeper than the body. He thirsts above all for the salvation of His people. This thirst He is now satisfying as He offers up Himself a sweet smelling sacrifice and aroma to His heavenly Father. His thirst will be quenched when, “Out of the anguish of his soul He shall see and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11).


Thirst is a common human experience. Even more than hunger for food, thirst for water or other liquid is a basic for sustaining our earthly life. But in the Scriptures, thirst is also used as a metaphor for our need for God—we cannot live without Him any more than we can live without liquids. “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” the Psalmist cries out (Psalm 42:2). Only He can quench the thirst of our spirits with His living water—that is, with His Spirit—and it was to provide us this living water that Christ Himself thirsts upon the cross for our salvation.



*Adapted from CPH’s “Words of Life from the Cross” Lenten Resource

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March 28, 2018, 9:54 AM


“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 



36 "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'

39 "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'

40 "Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'

42 "He went away a second time and prayed, 'My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.'

43 "When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 "Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!'" Matt. 26:36–46


As our Lord begins to look the terrors ahead of Him square in the face, He does not wish to be alone. He knows He is heading into a terrifying loneliness; before it arrives, He craves the companionship of His friends in prayer. Sadly, they repeatedly let Him down. He ends up alone even before the moment of abandonment arrives.


The Garden is all about the cup. God has a cup full of wrath. (See Isaiah 51:17–22; Jeremiah 25:15; Revelation 16:19). This is the payment that is due to human sin. Even more profoundly, it is exactly what human sin demands and wants. “Go away and leave me alone” is the prayer of fallen humanity in its unrepentant state.


We are afraid of hell, but not nearly as afraid as we ought to be. Jesus looks down into the depths of that cup and what He sees terrifies Him. He begs His Father for another way, if at all possible. But in complete contrast to the First Adam in a different Garden, our New Adam submits Himself entirely to the will of the Father: “Not My will, but Yours be done.”


And so He leaves the Garden at peace. The battle was over. He would drink the cup and drain it so that any who are in Him would never have to know the terror of sin’s final and ultimate consequence. Sadly, those who refuse to shelter beneath His cross in effect demand that the cup be given to them; and God on the last day will grant their final prayer. He will leave them alone forever.


45 "From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' (which means 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?')." Matt. 27:45–47


Darkness at noon is striking. It recalls when God’s judgments visited Egypt and there was a darkness that could be felt. The darkness is itself a sign of what is happening to Christ. He is being cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth—He is experiencing and taking into Himself the fate of those who want nothing to do with God and show it by their persistence in sin.


Jesus picks up the words of Psalm 22 and begins to pray them. He is the innocent sufferer who feels Himself abandoned by God, forsaken by the One in whom He had trusted and hoped. As the totality of human sin is swept up from the ages and heaped upon that hill, the Father turns from His Son, and the Son gasps in the horror of the abandonment. Yet even as He tastes the horror of this, He will not let go. Faith is holding tight in the dark. Not “O God, O God!” But, “My God, My God.”


There is no answer from heaven to His cry that day. The rest of the New Testament gives the answer: You are left, so that they may never be left; You are made their sin, so that their sin might lose all claim upon them and that they might be set free to become in You My perfect righteousness.


The onlookers mistake the prayer. They think our Lord is calling for Elijah. He is not. In the darkness He is groping for His Father as the weight of sin settles and the moment of death begins to creep near.


47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”


“Go away and leave me alone!” we scream. And that is what hell ultimately is: God reluctantly granting that demand. He goes away and leaves a person alone. All alone. Forever. Terrifying! None of this, “Well, if I end up in hell, at least I’ll have some good company.” No. The company is in heaven. Think of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man is alone in the flames while Lazarus enjoys a feast with Abraham and is served by the Holy Angels. This “leave me alone!” is what our every sin demands of God. This the Savior receives from the Father. He will drink this lonely cup and drain it to its bitterest dregs. The One who had ever known the Father’s joyful presence embraces the empty loneliness of all our sin, and experiences in moments of time an eternity of hell’s loneliness for us. He does it so that we would never have to be alone; not now and not ever. “I am with you always.” To be in Christ is to know that there is no suffering or agony we will ever go through that can separate us from God’s love in Him.




*Adapted from CPH’s “Words of Life from the Cross” Lenten Resource

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