Yours in Christ: Pastoral Letters from Resurrection, State College

Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

Dear Resurrection,

Luke 23:46 records the last words of Jesus before His death: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” We might be inclined to imagine Jesus speaking these words in a subdued undertone, but Luke says He called them out “with a loud voice.” What a striking contrast with that other great cry to His Father from the cross just a few minutes before, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). In both cases, Jesus was quoting from the Psalms, first from Psalm 22:1, then from Psalm 31:5, but the emotions and spiritual realities on display in each case could not appear more different. Together, those two moments on the cross show us several important things.

First, they show us how full Christ’s heart was of the word of God during His final moments of suffering. As He bore our sins and suffered the ultimate penalty for us, so full was His heart of the Scriptures that the Psalms formed the spiritual framework for His thoughts and feelings. More particularly, Jesus saw His life and death as the unique fulfillment—the goal and completion—of all the history and prophecies of the Old Testament.

Second, these two Psalm quotations help us understand the wide-ranging spectrum of Christ’s experience on the cross. On the one hand, Christ was enduring the wrath of God against the sins of all His people, experiencing the total abandonment and darkness and terror of God’s just condemnation that every sin and every sinner deserves. At the very same time, Jesus knew that He was doing His Father’s will; that His body and soul were being upheld and strengthened in the midst of His suffering by the Holy Spirit; that the sacrifice He was offering was acceptable to God; and that on the other side of these moments of agony lay the unspeakable reward of resurrection and glory. Christ knew that God the Father was trustworthy, and that not even the cross could snatch Him out of the Father’s hand (John 10:29).

Finally, these two cries from the cross provide in Christ a pattern for the Christian life. The Christian life is a cross-shaped life, where we become like Jesus in His death even as we experience the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10). Understanding these twin prayers of Jesus can help us learn to cry to God out of our desperate need when we feel forsaken and alone, while at the very same time entrusting ourselves to Him, believing His promise that the joy set before us (Hebrews 12:2) will cause this “light and momentary affliction” to give way at last to “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Grace-Based Action Point

Trust and anguish fit together perfectly in Christ—trust without presumption, and anguish without despair. In fact, it was out of Christ’s anguish that His faith cried out all the more ardently. As you walk through the cross-shaped Christian life, it is right for you to cry out to God in the words of Psalm 22, but always accompanied by Psalm 31: “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame…. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Simmons