Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of Our Lord April 1, 2018
Text: Ps.16:8-11 His Mercy Endures Forever: The Savior in the Psalms
Theme: LORD, You Have Made My Life Secure 18:2062
Do you say prayers at night before you go to bed? When I was little, my parents taught me 3 prayers to say before I went to sleep. It may sound strange to you, but I still use them today, 60+ years later.
The first was a song Dad taught us. It went like this: “Dear Father in heaven, look down from above. Bless Mommy and Daddy and those whom I love. May angels guard over my slumber and when the morning is breaking, awake me. Amen.”
The second is a prayer that many have learned: “Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to take. And this I ask for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
Do you know that one? Some people change words in the middle of it. I think that’s wrong. They change the words: “If I should die before I wake.” They claim that those words are too morbid, and one should not put them into the head of a little child before he goes to sleep. I say “nuts” to that, because the Lord may take us at any time. Even little children need to be prepared in faith for whenever in His grace He takes us home to Himself. That’s not a morbid thought; it’s a blessed thought. So, keep saying: “If I should die before I wake, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to take.” There you commend yourself into God’s hands just like Jesus did when He was on the cross.
The last prayer I was taught is known as Luther’s Evening Prayer. If you still have your Small Catechism from confirmation days, you’ll find it among the prayers there. It goes like this: “In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day. Forgive me all the sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. Into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.”
What do those prayers have in common that relates to Easter? What Christian characteristic do they share? I would say the feeling of “security,” eternal security that rests my life in the hands of God now while I am alive and as death approaches. Lord, You Make My Life Secure. That’s what Easter is about! In Christ our risen Savior, lives are made secure for time and eternity.
I. For You are with me and I am with You.
The first prayer says: “May angels guard over my slumber, and when the morning is breaking, awake me. Amen.” Tomorrow, God may wake me here in this life to begin a new day in Him, or He may wake me through death to the life that never ends in heaven. In either case He sends His angels to guard me while sleeping, to keep my life secure until that day when I rise to my eternal home above.
The second prayer says: “If I should die before I wake, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to take. And this I ask for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
Because of Jesus, my Savior who died for my sins and rose again on Easter to give me life, I am not afraid to say: “If I should die before I wake.” Because through faith in Christ, God is with me and I am with Him now and forever. And when He draws me to Himself, my real, my eternal life with Him begins and never ends.
The third prayer says: “Into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things.” Where do those words come from?
Well, if you were here on Maundy Thursday/Good Friday you would have heard from where they come. They come from no one less than our Savior Himself. They are the last words that He spoke while He was dying on the cross to pay for our sins. At the end of His suffering He cried out in a loud voice so that all could hear: “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” Then He breathed His last and gave up His life for us.
In death the Lord Jesus surrendered Himself to His heavenly Father’s care. To those below the cross He seemed to be losing His life. But that was not so. He was not losing His life; indeed He was gaining our lives, reconciling them to God.
The suffering for our sin was past. Jesus had not yielded to it. Even when He suffered the pangs of hell so intensely for us that He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me,” even then He did not yield to sin but endured for us. Thereby His victory over sin and Satan was complete. “It’s finished!’ But one thing remained to be accomplished, victory over the grave. For that to happen, the Son of God must die. Therefore, summoning His waning strength, Jesus lifted His eyes heavenward and called in a loud voice, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” Saying that, He breathed His last.
But that was no ordinary death on Friday, for death held no power over Him. Death could not deprive Him of life who has life in Himself. Rather, of His own volition Jesus entered the hall of death for us, knowing that He would rise again from death through the heavenly Father just 3 days later. So, He prayed, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.”
From start to finish Jesus’ thoughts in life soared ever heavenward to the Father above. Few words were on His lips more frequently, and surely no thought was in His heart more constantly, than the thought of His Father. He had come from the Father, He was living with the Father, and He was going to the Father. His life was one commended into the Father’s hands. The Father was with Him and He was with the Father. That knowledge filled Jesus with joy at any time.
That’s what the psalmist had in mind when he wrote (and these words are not just the psalmist’s words, this is Christ speaking in the O.T.): “I have set the LORD always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices.” That’s the reason Jesus prayed: “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”
And it’s not only Jesus’ prayer, it is my prayer and your prayer too, the prayer of every believer. We can say it because we have a Savior. “Father, into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things, for You are with me and I am with You.” I can pray that in all confidence because of what Jesus did for me on Friday. I will not be shaken for Jesus’ sake. No matter whatever trials or sufferings might come to me in life, my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. He will uphold me. O Lord, You have made my life secure. But there is more. God will not abandon me to the grave.
II. For You will raise me that I may rise to You.
Even if I should die before I wake, I know that He will take my soul into His hands for He has promised, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid” (Hb.13:5). The psalmist said it this way: “Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken…My body also will rest secure, because You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will You let Your Holy One see decay.”
Now, dear friends, that is first and foremost Christ speaking to His Heavenly Father because it is quoted that way in the New Testament (Ac.2&13). There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. This “Resurrection Psalm,” as it is called, is about our Lord Jesus addressing His Heavenly Father as death confronted Him. It is His prayer to God regarding His own eternal security in death.
And You know what happened with that. We read an account of it in our Gospel Lesson today. Although Mary Magdalene and John and Peter and the rest had to be convinced of it, God raised Jesus to life on the third day, the day we call Easter. The Father did not abandon Him to the grave. He did not allow Jesus’ body to see decay. Instead, He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Because Christ fulfilled the words of this psalm, it is possible for me and for you and for all to make these words our very own prayer: “Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Yes, one day I will die. I will pass this present life just like many of our loved ones already have. But for all who pass this life in faith in the Savior who lived and died and rose again for us, we each can say, “My body also will rest secure, because You will not abandon me to the grave…You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.”
Ah, dear friends, in faith God will raise me, God will raise you, and He will raise the bodies of our loved ones who have passed this life in faith. He will raise us in the resurrection on the Last Day that we might rise to Him, body and soul, just as He made us. As David said, “Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for Thou art with me….and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” He will raise us that we might rise to Him.
These Gospel truths comfort us as death approaches here. Through restless nights they calm our troubled hearts. Christ will keep our bodies safe, at peaceful rest in the grave, until He appears to call them to life again, to be reunited with our souls above. Because Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, has shown us the path of life, we have a secure inheritance in a most pleasant place. We call it heaven; He called it My Father’s House Above.
Lord, You have made my life secure. And so, I pray: “Into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things. Let Your holy angels be with me that the wicked Foe may have no power over me. And if I should die before I wake, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to take. And this I can ask for Jesus’ sake.” For He is risen! He is risen indeed! God grant us such a faith for His name’s sake. Amen.