It was a great honor to preach the last of the last words of Jesus at Refreshing Springs Baptist Church in Baltimore for their Good Friday service last week. The fellowship among the believers and the messages shared were immensely encouraging. So thankful to have been part of it. The following is my contribution from Jesus’ last words in Luke 23:46, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.”
So we have come to the LAST of the lasts words of Jesus before he dies. Imagine you are about to die. What do you think your lasts words would be?
Maybe they would be about a relationship that is significant to you. That’s what many people do. And that’s what Jesus does here. But it’s not the relationship with his disciples, or his mother, or the crowds. His last words are about his relationship with his father.
He shouts, “FATHER, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT”
That word “commit” has the sense of “entrust.” “Into your hands I entrust my spirit.” It literally means “to set before.” To entrust means to say to another, “I’m giving this thing over to your care.” “I’m putting this in your hands—because I believe them to be good hands.”
And when you entrust something, you let go of it. There is no “entrusting” without a “releasing.”
Jesus is about to release his spirit. The next verse says, “He breathed his last.” That breath out is a metaphor for his spirit leaving him.
The spirit is what makes us alive. God breathed into the first Adam, and he became a living being. Now the Second Adam breaths out, and he dies. His life leaves him.
In that moment, he entrusts his life to his father’s care.
“Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.”
Now, I think the first thing we need to recognize—if we are to understand this passage—is that we need the Trinity for this to make sense. We need the Trinity. For what happens in this passage is that God entrusts himself to God. That’s what is going on here.
A modalist understanding of God simply can’t account for this. Some teach that God is just one person with different roles. But, tell me, how can a role entrust itself to another role? It just can’t. Only persons can entrust things to persons.
So if we ask, “What kind of world must exist for this passage to make sense?” The answer is, “A trinitarian world.” A world of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, who are all unique persons, yet also one God.
For this passage to make sense, we need to have one person of the God-head in heaven send another person of the God-head to earth. And the person of the God-head on earth needs to entrust himself to the person of the God-head in heaven.
But not only do we need three Persons, they must also be united. Their unity flows out of the reality act they share the same essence, the same nature. They are one.
We have to realize that the trust that the son had in the father did not begin on the cross. It wasn’t that the Son said, dying on the cross, “I think I’ll try trusting the father. Let’s see how this goes.” It is not even the case that the Son began to trust the father at the start of his earthly ministry. No, he never began to trust his father, because he always did.
The father and son exist in a relationship of mutual trust. They trust one another exhaustively. They hold nothing back. The early church described the relationship among the members of the Trinity a “dance.” You can’t dance without trust. The members of the Trinity entrust themselves to each other, eternally, perfectly, exhaustively—nothing held back, no hedging of bets.
So when the Eternal Son finds himself in human form, dying upon a cross, it is no surprise, then, that he entrusts himself to his eternal Father. Even though the cross is unique—never happened before, will never happen again—the kind of relationship Jesus had with his father on the cross, is the kind of relationship he has had with the father Always and Forever.
And so there was something about the way Jesus released his spirit, with total confidence in his father, that reveals who he is. Luke tells us that, when he breathed his last, there was a Centurion next to the cross, who said, “This man was innocent.” The crowd—who had previously shouted crucify him, crucify him—now return home beating their breasts….“Whoops.” “We got that one wrong.”
The way he died showed who he really was. Not a blasphemer, pretending to be God. He and the father really were one.
“Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.”
This trust is all the more remarkable when we consider the role the father had in sending Jesus to the cross.
Let me read you a few verses that are probably familiar to you:
“it pleased the Lord to bruise him…to put him to grief.” (It pleased the Lord to do this)
“God has made the iniquities of us all to fall on him.” (God did it)
“God did not spare his so, but gave him up for us.”
The father treated his son as an outcast, a criminal. He treated him, as if he had committed all the sin of the world.
Jesus is treated as if he had all sin, so that we might be treated as if we had none. This is the gospel—the gospel that saves. That’s the message that goes forth in all the world, bearing fruit.
And this is why Jesus sweat blood as he anticipated the cross. It wasn’t the physical death that concerned him—as horrific as that was—it was the wrath of God coming upon him.
And so we must consider that Jesus was receiving the wrath from his father at the very same moment he also trusted in his father? Have you considered that?
How did he do that?
He looked past the same of the cross to the prize. He knew that the Father would vindicate him. He knew that no grave could permanently hold him.
“The one who vindicate me is near, who can condemn me?”
No condemnation, not Pilot’s, not the people’s, not even that which comes form his father, will withstand the vindication by the father.
He knew the plan—the pactum salutis, as it is called—whereby he would come, and he would die, and then the father would raise him, and exalt him, and give him all those who would believe in his name.
So even in that moment of darkness—and their was darkness over the face of the earth—he could see the light.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the day when come when you, too, will breath your last. Your life will leave you. You will have said your last words on earth. Trust in this Father, just as the Son did. The one who saved him, will save you.