A Palm Sunday Sermon from Luke 23
I found myself emotional as I was watching the online service led by our worship team on the video screen. I’ve been involved in corporate worship for 25 years, and now because of the Covid-19 quarantine, it has been weeks and weeks since we have been able to meet as a corporate body and worship together. I realized the word for what I’m experiencing is grief.
Grief hits us all in different ways at different times, but it always comes in stages. I can see now how I’m going through them all in regards to my grief over the loss of the church body in my own experience right now: anger, bargaining, denial. And now we must come to acceptance, because the reality is that things are probably still going to get worse before they get better.
And so this Gospel passage finds even more significant application on this Palm Sunday as we face these unprecedented times. As Jesus is hanging on the cross dying, he says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). He is surrendering himself totally to the will of the Father. He knows that the will of the Father is his own death, as an act of atonement for the world, a way of expressing God’s love.
This statement from Jesus could be seen as his own acceptance stage of grief. We had previously seen him grieving in the Garden of Gethsemane, truly agonizing over the ordeal he knew was to come. Yet there, on the cross, he comes to acceptance: “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
As we consider what Jesus went through, we see that he not only experienced the physical suffering that any person who died by crucifixion would. But Jesus also uniquely bore the spiritual suffering of the punishment for all the sins of the world. And yet he was the only person ever to die innocent. All those who witnessed his arrest, torture, and death could see it (Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22, 47). This is what makes him the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world – the Lamb of God, whose sacrifice would reconcile the world back to himself.
Jesus’ death was the will of the Father, and it was the most difficult will anyone would ever have to bear. The good news for us now is that Jesus bore it on our behalf, and so now we don’t have to.
Jesus bore the most difficult will of the Father, and yet in the same way, the Father calls us to bear great difficulties – corporately and personally. We must follow Jesus’ example and surrender ourselves into the loving and trustworthy hands of the Father.
Take a moment to consider whose hands you are entrusting yourself to. Are we placing our trust in the hands of government officials who are making decisions about how we are to weather this crisis? Are we placing our trust in the hands of medical professionals, whose skill and sacrifice are crucial to our survival? Are we placing our trust in the hands of financial planners and banks who can help us weather the financial crisis? We are always entrusting ourselves to other people, and that trust is often well founded – we SHOULD be trusting people who know how to help us get through.
However, our ultimate trust should be in the good hands of God the Father. There is NO ONE more trustworthy and able to control our outcomes.
Like Jesus did, we should commit our spirits, our life, our breath to God the Father. It’s striking that in the current circumstance, the Covid-19 virus attacks our breath – it is the respiratory system that often fails under this disease. Will you entrust your very breath to the Father, even when it is under targeted attack?
The thief on the cross next to Jesus models this very thing to us. Facing his imminent death, he entrusts himself to Jesus by begging him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus shows him favor, love, and kindness, proving that his trust was well-founded.
As we face our own dangerous and uncertain times, let’s commit our own spirits to God the Father in the way Jesus did.