Last Words: Day Six
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Luke 23:46
The last words of Jesus on the cross are a simple prayer of entrusting Himself to the Father. In the midst of His suffering and as it was coming to an end, His approach was trust. 1 Peter 2:23 describes Jesus: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
The just judgment of God was a comfort to Jesus on the cross. As He certainly felt the sting of insults and the shame of hanging naked on a cross, He continued to trust. It is tempting to think of a “sanitized” savior who suffered quickly and quietly but the evidence is that Jesus was tortured and villainously mocked. His relationship with the Father and the Spirit were His comfort and focus as “in every respect he has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) This statement from the writer of Hebrews tells us at least three things:
- Jesus was sinless which is why “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) The writer of Hebrews shares that we can hold fast our confession (our trust in Christ) because He is a great high priest. He made the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. (cf. Hebrews 9:26-27) Our relationship with God is secure and safe.
- With such security and safety, we can draw near to the throne of grace (Heb 4:16) and find mercy and grace in our time of need. What Jesus did on the cross is truly gospel (good news) because the truth is that we are always in need of love and acceptance. In Jesus, we find refuge for our souls.
- Finally, the first part of Hebrews 4:15 shares that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.” He became weak and knows what it is like to feel need and vulnerability. The cross is both example and entrance. It provides entrance to the throne of grace and at the same time provides the example for how we approach.
These last words of Jesus (“into your hands I commit my spirit”) is a quote from Psalm 31. In addition, the words “I thirst” and “My God, why have you forsaken me?” also come from Psalms (69; 22). What we see in Jesus’ example is that the Psalms are intended to be a prayer book. From the cross, Jesus could have prayed anything and it would have been right and pure but He modeled that the Psalms are a gift from God to shape and guide us in prayer. At times, our prayers can be flimsy and self-centered but the Psalms give structure and theological, spiritual integrity to our communing with God.
In writing about the Psalms, the reformer John Calvin said: “I have been wont to call this book, not inappropriately, an anatomy of all parts of the soul; for there is not an emotion of which anyone can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.” The beauty is that the Psalms give us words for what is happening inside of us and then a trustworthy structure for talking to God about the honest contents of our hearts.
For millennia, the Psalm have been prayed in group settings as well. Episcopal monk Br. Mark Brown (SSJE) explains the value: “Sometimes we Brothers are asked why we recite all the Psalms–even the cursing Psalms. Praying the Psalter is a stylized, poeticized, set-to-music way of lifting up the whole human condition, the full range of experience from darkest night to brightest day. It’s a way of praying with and for the whole of humanity.”
The Psalms demonstrate that the Father desires all of us – the confused and the joyous, the angry and the content, the doubting and the trusting parts of us. So often, we bring the contents of our hearts to our self (our evaluating and deliberating and cleaning) or to others for sympathy or advice. But, Jesus demonstrates a better way: we can bring our despairing questions (“My God, why have your forsaken me?”) and our frustrations (“I thirst”) and our trust (“into your hands I commit my spirit”) to God in prayer. As we do, we are shaped and formed by His presence in our lives.
Today, on this dark day between the crucifixion and the resurrection, what do you need to bring to Him? Pray through Psalm 139 – acknowledging that He knows you and is present with you (v. 1-18), entrusting your anger and hurt to Him (v. 19-22), and asking Him to search your heart (v. 23-24).
An additional prayer to pray throughout the day: Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God. (Ps 31:5)