Have you heard of the Seven Last Words on the Cross?
- Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34)
- I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)
- (to his mother) Dear woman, here is your son (and to the disciple) Here is your mother. (John 19:26-27)
- Eloi, Eloi, lamasabachthani? (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?) (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)
- I am thirsty. (John 19:28)
- It is finished. (John 19:30)
- Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. (Luke 23:46)
Luke 23:46 is the seventh and the last. While it is only recorded in the Gospel of Luke, two other gospels stated that Jesus gave up his spirit (John 19:30, Matthew 27:50), a hint of this final saying.
The ‘spirit’ here refers not to the holy spirit, but the human spirit, the soul, the very essence of one’s being. In committing his soul to God, he is offering up his soul as an offering of sin – we know clearly that the crucifixion of Jesus was necessary to redeem us and wash away our sins.
Jesus was likely to be inspired by David when he quotes from Psalms 31:5 (Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, OLord, the God of truth.) What did David mean when he sings ‘into your hands I commit my spirit’? Perhaps he meant that, since our souls came from God, we will return our souls to Him? Perhaps he meant that, as per God’s promise of eternal life, our souls are separate entities from our bodies, and upon physical death, our soul lives on in God’s realm? Perhaps David meant that he was willing to offer up his entire life for God to use as He pleases? Perhaps David meant all of the above. It should be noted that while Jesus cried that out in his last breath, David cried that out with many years left in his body. That makes Luke 23:46 transcend the physical. It is beyond this life.
What does ‘commit’ mean? (It is defined: to give in trust.) In other versions, words like ‘commend’, ‘place’ and ‘entrust’ were used instead of commit. Let’s strike out ‘commend’ (because I simply am not qualified enough to comment on it, ‘commend’ makes no sense to me in this context. I am certainly no linguist and have no desire to delve into the old English semiotics to uncover the mystery) – commit and entrust both have connotations of responsibility and reliability. Do you have faith in God’s promise?
It also shows that Jesus was willing and voluntary in the crucifixion. He gave his spirit willingly and freely. Had he not wished to, nobody (not even the devil) would be able to take his life away from him. Devil has no authority over life and death (despite Hebrews 2:14 – which will be discussed in a later post). The sole force with the authority to preside over life and death is God. Job says it well in Job 12:10 – In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
Some years back I read a trivia from somewhere that claims, according to Jewish tradition, Jewish children will pray Luke 23:46 every night before they sleep. As I am neither a Jew nor a Jewish historian, I have no means of verifying this trivia. The story stuck to me, though, the sheer faith required behind such a simple prayer awed me. Since then, this has been my ‘last’ line in my nightly prayers while lying on the bed (I used to have insomnia, and the fear of being unable to wake up in the morning was common).
When in the face of death, are we fully able to believe that there is eternal life in God’s hands? I have never died before. In fact, I have never faced a life-threatening situation before. Thus, no matter how much I ponder and wonder about my last thoughts and my last words when in the face of death, I have no idea what will truly happen. I yearn for the peace and the strength that enabled Jesus to declare, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Won’t you pray this verse tonight? But before you do, make sure you understand what it means. Have you heard of Carrie Underwood‘s Jesus take the wheel? It is a very good analogy. If you are the driver of your own life, maybe it is time to commit your spirit into God’s hands and ask Him to take the wheel.