Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 23:44–23:46
Midweek Lenten Meditation
April 13, 2022
“It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.”
Epitaphs – carved into stone, wood or metal – they offer a lasting message long after loved ones die and memories fade. Through poetry, Scripture, and prose, epitaphs seek to sum up in one last message the life and purpose of those for whom they stand. But Jesus had no epitaph. Instead, during the final hours of his life, Jesus mapped out his way of suffering with seven last words, remembered and recited throughout the ages; touchstones along his way of sorrow. The meditations for these midweek Lenten services will focus on Jesus’ seven last words as found in the Gospels. They provide glimpses into his suffering and loving final thoughts. And so we listen to them as Jesus speaks to us even now. Today we focus on the seventh and final of Jesus’ final words: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46).
On the day we call Good Friday, nature itself seemed to rise up in protest when the Son of God died for us. An ominous darkness descended on the land, together with tremors as the earth shook (Matthew 27:51). The curtain, or veil, of the temple was torn asunder. All of these were outward signs of the inward struggle of the Lamb of God who bore our sins in his own body on the tree of the cross. We are told that even the dead were shaken from their graves (Matthew 27:52-53). In our busy, self-absorbed modern lives, will we pause to consider the enormity of what God in Christ has done for us?
With his dying breath, Jesus commits himself into the Father’s care, uttering a verse from Psalm 31: “For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God” (Psalm 31:3-5). Though Jesus had cried out in dereliction upon the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1), he commends himself into that same Father’s keeping, knowing that all shall be made whole and well. When our last hour comes and we breath our last, may these same words of Jesus, who loves us and laid down his life for us, be on our lips: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”
At the end of each day, when we retire and lie down in our beds for sleep, we are invited to utter these same words in Luther’s Evening Prayer. The sleep which overtakes us each night reminds us that we will one day fall asleep in Jesus when we die. In his Small Catechism, Luther encourages the Christian to make the sign of the holy cross in remembrance that we have been baptized into Christ’s own death and resurrection. “Then kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may also say this little prayer:
I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.”
In peaceful calm, Jesus commits himself to the Father, and we may do the same. No more cringing fear or anxious worries about our own death. In Jesus, we know where we are going! We belong to him in life and in death. In Jesus, there is “nothing in all of creation that can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). Because of this blessed truth, we also may close our eyes and “depart in peace according to your word” (Luke 2:29). This same Jesus who gave his life on the cross, who now lives and reigns to all eternity, will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5; Joshua 1:5). And so we say with all boldness and confidence in faith: “Father, in your hands I commit my spirit.” Amen.