Today is Good Friday, the day in which the Church remembers and reflects upon the death of Jesus. Each year, I focus on one of the gospels as they relate the events of Palm Sunday through Easter. This year I have been reading through Luke’s account of the Lord’s final days and am struck by what the good doctor states is Jesus’ final utterance (and arguably His “famous last words”): “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” In saying this, He is quoting from Psalm 31:5 and restating the assurances that David made of God about a thousand years before the cross.
From the context of Psalm 31:5, I do not believe this is a simple statement of resignation, as if Jesus is saying, “I give up”. Rather, it is a statement of confidence in the Father. Psalm 31 tells us that David saw his strength as coming from the knowledge that God is his refuge, deliverance, rescue, rock and redemption. It is in light of all this that David places all that he was, every aspect of himself beyond his physical existence, in the hands of God. Similarly, this is the same confidence that Jesus expresses from the cross.
This phrase is akin to the words that Jesus spoke in the garden a few hours earlier, “… not My will, but Yours be done.” It conveys the confidence that Jesus had in knowing that the plans of God and the guiding hand of God can be trusted. As the agony of the cross began to overwhelm the limits of His human body, Jesus doesn’t give up, but rather gives over control of His existence to the only one who can perfectly accomplish God’s will, the Father himself. And He is faithful, releasing Jesus from His mortal coil and redeeming us, lost sinners, from the power of death and sin.
Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God. Psalm 31:5
Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:46
I pray that I’d have the confidence that David expressed or that Jesus exhibited. Sadly, I often see the opposite dynamic at work: when the going gets tough, I want to take matters into my own hands. Instead of committing my spirit into God’s hands, I futilely attempt to handle my trials and troubles myself. Instead of acting like David (who just prior to committing his spirit to God asks Him to “keep me free from the trap that is set for me”), I am more likely to stumble into danger by relying on my own sense of direction. How much pain could be avoided if I committed my spirit to His hands.
It is hard to see the empty tomb when we are enduring what, for us, seems to be the cross. It is at those times that we need to trust the hand of God, which comforted the Lord, rolled away the stone and raised the Savior. It is also the hand that can comfort, strengthen and save us.
I am praying that you have a blessed Good Friday and a Happy Easter.
“The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they slapped him in the face.” John 19:2-3 (NIV)
There is an old adage that is still heard occasionally: “They were adding insult to injury”. I don’t know if it came from this passage of Scripture, but it could have. After the Lord was painfully scourged by the Roman lictors (I will spare the reader the gory details), they proceeded to mock and ridicule Jesus. The charge that the Jewish religious leaders had used for his arrest was treason (he claimed to be king of the Jews), so his abusers ‘treated’ him like a king. They fashioned a brier crown and forced it upon his head, wrapped him in a robe with royal color and mockingly spoke words of homage. Instead of kissing his ring, they slapped their hands forcefully across his lips. And throughout, Jesus said nothing and in no way retaliated.
Why would Jesus act this way? Surely it is human to retaliate, to return fire and to exact revenge, isn’t it? We want the guilty to be punished and the innocent to be protected. Jesus was the innocent one, as Pontius Pilate himself stated that he could find no basis for a charge against the Lord (v.4). It was the ones making the accusations against Jesus who were the guilty ones (v. 11). This is not the way life is supposed to work, where one who has done nothing wrong is battered and bruised by those who have done wrong.
So, why did Jesus endure this unwarranted suffering silently? Truthfully, he did it for us.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
God heaped all the sin – and the punishment for all the sin – that we have committed on the one who was without sin, Jesus. The stripe he bore, the bruises he suffered, the mockery he endured and the blood he spilled were the just demands of OUR bad behavior. He took our sin and suffered; we became his righteousness and rejoiced.
There may be some who read these words and quickly dismiss their significance because, after all, Jesus was God and he knew that he would be raised on the third day. Before you do that, however, consider how much you would be willing to endure to alleviate the suffering of someone you love. Would you accept one punch to the face? Five? One Hundred? Would you truly lay down your life for another? Jesus did that and more. His was not a peaceful drifting into the great beyond, but an excruciating 18 hours of agonizing abuse, all for those who call upon him as Lord and Savior.
No wonder they call today Good Friday. Like the hymn writer Craig Weigle said, “No one ever cared for me like Jesus”.