Letters to the Family of God

by Joe Franzone | August 19, 2021 | Pastor's Blog


August 19, 2021

May a merciful God preserve me from a Christian Church in which everyone is a saint! I want to be and remain in the church of the fainthearted, the feeble, and the ailing, who feel and recognize the wretchedness of their sins, who sigh and cry to God incessantly for comfort and help, who believe in the forgiveness of sins.

Martin Luther, in Luther's Works

August 19

Dear Friends,

You can tell a lot about people from the words they say before they die. Voltaire, the French Philosopher (1694-1778) who boldly declared, a hundred years from my death, the Bible will be a museum piece. (The French Bible Society has its headquarters in his old home in Paris.) Also said near the end of his life, it took 12 men to start Christianity; one (referring to himself) will destroy it.

Michel Foucault, another French Philosopher, surrounded by his followers near death, said, you always think that in a certain kind of situation you’ll find something to say, and now it turns out there’s nothing to say after all.

At His death, Jesus was not silent but spoke magnificently. Three of His sayings were to His Father, four to others. As His blood was flowing and His flesh was failing every word spoken—divine. (Matthew 27:54)

His first saying: Father, forgive them. His last: Father into Your hands I commit My Spirit.

Father, forgive them

If our sins are forgiven, then nothing else really matters in the world. This is what separates Christianity from every other religion. A merciful God freely forgives sinners through the sin-bearing death of His Son on the cross. Everything outside of this one thing would only mean judgment. Now it is all mercy.

The immediate context of Jesus' words was not to His friends and followers, but rather on behalf of the people (i.e., Romans and Jews) who hated Him violently. Yet, He desired the very best for the very worst and was most loving when others were most hating. (Romans 5:10)

Forgiveness can only come by the cross. The time of His asking was, therefore, fitting. From the height of Christ’s pain and shame, both which rightly belong to us came His glorious petition on behalf of His enemies, Father, forgive them.

Father into Your hands I commit My Spirit

At the very moment of His death, Jesus calls out to the One who loved Him best—His Father. Quoting in part from Psalm 31:5, He speaks words of faith (into Your hands I commit My Spirit) and comfort (Father). The beautiful part of this, which might be easily overlooked, is Jesus finds no hesitancy in committing Himself to God.

He was dying, suffering for our sins under the wrath of God, and yet He trusts the Father and commits Himself in death to Him. And His very words, Father into Your hands I commit My Spirit, in the plainest of ways, tells us His life was not taken from Him. He had the power to lay His life down, just as he had the power to raise His life. (John 10:17-18)

In committing Himself to His Father, Jesus was committing every believer to His Father as well. We died with Him; we live in Him; our spirits are safe with Him when our final breath is drawn. Small wonder Luther, Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer have, over time, had these words in one form or another on their lips. Their assurance was grounded in Christ’s assurance.

No guilt in life, no fear in death, This is the power of Christ in me; From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man, Can every pluck me from His hand: Til He returns or calls me home, Here is the power of Christ, I'll stand.

In Christ Alone - Verse Three

We began this letter by noting, the last words that people speak are a strong reflection of themselves. Having always spoken only what the Father told Him to say (John 12:49), our Lord Jesus Christ, under the greatest distress anyone will know, forgave sin and showed us how safe death is in Him.

God bless you as you close out this week. Your sins are forgiven!

Pastor Joe

Please join us this Sunday, August 22 at 9:00am for either our in-person worship service or live on Facebook.