Horrible sense of finality

Horrible sense of finality

Jesus’ seventh word, when He cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Gospel of Luke 23:46). The seventh is directed to the Father in heaven, just before He dies.

Into Your hand I commend my spirit: David asked to be delivered from his enemies and their snares, but not so he could live unto himself. He utterly cast himself upon God, committing the deepest part of himself to God.

According to theologians, Jesus expressed His total surrender and submission to God on the cross when He quoted this line from Psalm 31.

Luke 23:46 records that Jesus said, Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit – and then Jesus gave His last breath on the cross.

“Thus he does not surrender his life despondingly to death for destruction, but with triumphant consciousness to the Father for resurrection.”

Yet this committal of the soul unto God the Father, religion scholars say, is not reserved for David and the Son of David alone. Stephen, the first martyr of the church had the idea of this text in mind with his final words (Acts 7:59)

You have redeemed me. David understood that his surrender to God was appropriate because it was God who had redeemed him. He belonged to God both in gratitude for rescue, and in recognition that God had purchased him.

“In the Old Testament the word ‘redeem’ (pada) is seldom used of atonement: it mostly means to rescue or ransom out of trouble.”

Theologians say “Redemption is a solid basis for confidence. David had not known Calvary as we have done, but temporal redemption cheered him; and shall not eternal redemption yet more sweetly console us? Past deliverances are strong pleas for present assistance.”

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:44-46) In other biblical versions, the term “commend” is replaced by “commit.”

Under the Romans, crucifixion was often a long, drawn-out process. That was the idea — a prolonged, tortuous death for criminals would not only inspire horror in the hearts of the populace, but also provide a public reminder of the danger of any attempt to resist Roman power.

Criminals would often last for days before they finally succumbed, though on this day, the day before a Sabbath, any surviving criminals would be killed by breaking their legs (John 19:31-33) and their bodies removed from the cross through some kind of agreement brokered with the chief priests so as not to overly offend Jewish sensibilities.

The curtain mentioned is the inner curtain that separates the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.

Edersheim tells us that it consisted of two curtains that were 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, as thick as the palm of a man’s hand, woven in 72 separate squares, and joined together.

Think of the force that would have been required to tear this massive curtain! Perhaps the earthquake caused the fall of a lintel to begin the vertical rip that went from top to bottom (Mark 15:38).

But what does the rent curtain mean? The Gospel writers don’t tell us. But it probably signifies: (1) an opening of the way between people and the very presence of God, brought about by Christ’s redemption on the cross, or (2) a forewarning of the obsolescence and final destruction of the temple. Perhaps it means both of these.

Notice the loud voice — scarcely what one would expect from a man about to die. But Jesus seems determined that his final words be heard. His words are firm and confident.

Theologians want was to examine three aspects of this Seventh Word.

  1. A Word of Intimacy. First, Jesus speaks to God with intimacy. His time of desolation expressed by the Fourth Word is passed. He prays to the Father as he has done throughout his ministry.
    For Jesus, death is no out-of-control enemy. No matter how bleak the moment, he knows his Father is present with him — now present to receive his spirit.
  2. A Word of Trust. Second, Jesus entrusts himself to his Father. In Psalm 31:5 the word “commit” is the Hebrew verb pāqad. In our verse it occurs in the Hiphil stem, with the meaning “commit, entrust.”

The corresponding Greek verb is paratithēmi, meaning, “to entrust to someone for safekeeping, give over, entrust, commend,” particularly, “to entrust someone to the care and protection of someone.”
As he lets go of this life, Jesus trusts his eternal destiny to the Father’s everlasting arms.

  1. A Word of Surrender. Finally, Jesus speaks a word of surrender. He gives up his human life to his Father who gave it to him 33 years before. The word “spirit” is the common word pneuma, “breathing, breath of life.”

It can refer to the Holy Spirit, but here refers to the personal spirit of Jesus, part of the human personality (Hebrews 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Jesus prays His final prayer with this kind of equanimity and peace because he knows the Father, and knows that there is life with the Father beyond death.

As a devout Jew, He has prayed these words as part of an evening prayer all his life. Now at the end of his life, he prays them one last time — and lets go of human life to embrace the Life that the Father has to offer in his own presence.

Jesus recalls Psalm 31:5 — “Into thy hands, I commend my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Luke repeatedly pleads Jesus’ innocence: with Pilate (Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22), through Dismas, the criminal (Luke23:41), and immediately after His death with the centurion”

“Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47). The innocent Lamb had been slain for our sins, so that we might be forgiven.

Jesus fulfills His mission, and as He says so clearly in John’s Gospel, He can now return: “I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (John 16:28).

Jesus practiced what He preached: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Each year, on Good Friday, we bear witness to the death of the Savior.

Some theologians challenge the faithful to imagine in 2022 that they are standing at the foot of the Cross, looking up at Jesus as He cries out to his Father in Heaven.

On the most obvious level, Jesus is simply entrusting himself to God as he dies. He’s saying, “My life and my death are in your hands.”

As we reflect upon this final word of Jesus from the Cross, we are stuck, by the love, trust, and confidence Jesus always placed in His Father.

Jesus started his mission at the River Jordan as the beloved Son and the chosen messenger.

He entered His sufferings and passion trusting in His Father and telling him if it is His will He would willingly drink the chalice given to Him.

Jesus now gave His very life to His beloved Father fully assured that it was safe with Him.

Jesus was aware that His Father will raise Him up on the third day.

The prayer of Jesus before His death was a prayer of repose from the psalm which is normally said before a person sleeps at the end of the day, placing His very person in the hands of God.

Jesus must have learned this prayer from Mary His Mother, according to theology scholars.

Parenthetically, the Seventh Word has been repeated by many saints at the end of their lives.

Some are St Stephen, St Catherine of Siena, St Thomas Becket…: “In manus tuas, Domine – Into your hands…”

Many Christians, and particularly priests and consecrated men and women and lay missionaries, pronounce those words at the end of the day in their night prayer: In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum – “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.”

After the Crucified Lord cried out His last word, He “breathed His last.” Like the Centurion who guarded Jesus on the cross, we say: May God be praised indeed. (ai/mtvn)

Leave a Reply