“Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit”
Moments after Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished”, He spoke His last words – “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” That was a quote from Psalm 31: 5 with the addition of the word, “Father.” That verse was the prayer every Jewish mother taught her children to say at night before they went to sleep. Just as we were taught, “This night I lay me down to sleep”, that was a prayer of comfort and assurance for a young child before complete darkness came. Commentator, William Barclay said that when Jesus uttered His last words of committing His Spirit to His Father, He died like a child falling asleep in his father's arms.
From the seventh word at Golgotha, we first consider the word, Father. This was Jesus’ favourite title for God. Did He not teach His disciples in the Lord's Prayer to begin with the words, “Our Father, Who art in heaven”? Throughout His ministry He always made the expression, “My food is to do the will of my Father in heaven.” And then in John 17: 25 Jesus affirmed that everything He stood for and accomplished was only because of the relationship He had with His Father, “Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent me.” It spoke of the intimate relationship that had existed from all eternity.
There is something we learn from scholars and commentators on the Passion of Christ – something we all agree with. For a little time the perfect harmony between Jesus and His Father was disturbed. It was when He was on the cross and when He cried out in agony, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” He called His Father “God” and not “Father” because in that agonizing moment, the Father turned His back on the Son as Jesus bore the sin of the world. God forsaken by God! “How could that be?” The answer is that the atonement of sin had placed the Father and Son in those positions for a brief moment. But it was over when Jesus affirmed that the mission was completed – “It is finished.” The price had been fully paid, the cup had been emptied and estrangement ended. Again Jesus had the intimacy with the One He called “Father.” You know my friends, we have to find great comfort in the fact that the moment came for Jesus to call God “Father” again. You see, sin had been dealt with – the condemnation next to our names had been broken. The second comfort that we have in Jesus calling God “Father” is that we may call Him Father too. Only Jesus made it possible for us to be in an intimate relationship with our Father. We are children of the Father in His family. We are no longer strangers or outcasts.
We pause and consider the words, Into Your Hands... O, the touch of a Father’s hands. What son does not long for his father to reach out and embrace him? There is something wonderful about this expression. It speaks of safety – "I am safe in my father’s hands." It speaks of greeting – "Welcome home my child." It speaks of love – "My child, it’s so good to see you again." But then, it also speaks of approval – "I’m so proud of you.” For 15 hours Jesus had been in the hands of wicked men. With their hands they beat Him and pulled out His beard. With their hands they crowned Him with thorns. With their hands they whipped His back until it was torn to bits. But no more. All that was behind Him now as He placed Himself in the most reliable hands there can ever be. We hear the words so often, “You're in good hands.” But then we have to ask the question, “How reliable are those hands really?” In the 70's there was an investor that drew many people to him with the words he used in an advertisement, “Your investments are in good hands.” Hundreds of people invested with him, but sadly they lost everything, because the hands they thought were reliable turned out to be the opposite. The investor walked away with all their money. Can we all agree on the truth that it's only God's hands that are reliable? The hands that placed the whole universe where it needs to be with every star and planet, the hands that formed the earth and the hands that made us so “fearfully and wonderfully”, as David confessed. The hands in which Jesus committed His Spirit are the hands that will form the new heaven and earth and they will hold eternity firmly. There was assurance for Jesus that when He had breathed His last breath, He would be in the best hands. We too, my friends, may have the wonderful assurance, “In His hands my life will be secure for eternity.”
Jesus said I Commit. From the Greek it means to deposit something valuable in a safe place. It’s what you do when you take your last will and testament or your most valuable possessions and put them in a safe-deposit box at the bank. You commit them into safe keeping. That was the comfort Jesus had in His last moment – His life couldn't be more secure than in the presence of His Father. And when we think about this, we have to ask, “Why are there so many people who don't deposit their lives in God's care?” Their only foundation is a world that will pass; it will be melted by fire. We always have to remind ourselves that our citizenship is not of this world, but in the heavenly realms of our God. That's why St. Paul urged the Colossians in his letter – “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3: 1&2
When Jesus committed His life in His Father's hands He affirmed what He said said to His disciples in John 10: 18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." It wasn't Pilate or even the religious elite that forced Jesus to bear the cross! Jesus did not endure the suffering of the cross at the will of men. He suffered the torments and death of the cross because this was God’s plan of redemption. Jesus died to provide our salvation! We live in a time when many want to remove the cross. They don’t want to sing about the precious blood that was shed. They don’t want to hear preaching about the suffering and death of our Lord on the cross. But Jesus bore the cross by His own will and He died according to His own choice. May we never forget the Passion of the Christ.
Lastly Jesus said My Spirit. The continuation of His existence was to be in the presence of His Father. You know for God to submit Himself to the state of death is something we will never comprehend. What Jesus really said was, “I as God commit my spirit to my Father Who is God as well.” On this day, called Good Friday, we remember the willingness of our Lord to empty Himself from His heavenly status and give Himself as a Servant to bring salvation. But we also remember that He laid down His life in the hands of His Father when His mission was accomplished. We think in gratitude of the Passion of the Christ.