April 10, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.
Today’s devotion is the seventh and final one in a Life for Leaders series focusing on the seven last words of Christ from the cross. If you missed the previous entries in this series, you can find them at our Life for Leaders page on our website.
Today is Good Friday, a day when Christians around the world remember and reflect on the death of Christ on the cross. The name “Good Friday” is ironic, of course, because in a sense what happened on this day is arguably the worst thing that human beings ever did—torturing and killing the Son of God. Yet, what happened on this day is arguably the best thing that God ever did on our behalf, taking our sin upon himself in Jesus so that in his death we might find life, eternal life, life to the fullest.
On the cross, Jesus said very little, and what he said is traditionally represented as his “seven last words.” Two of these “words” of Jesus were quotations from the Psalms. Earlier, Jesus used Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” to express his anguish. Later he borrowed from Psalm 31, which comes to us from Luke as “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
On an obvious level, Jesus was putting his post-mortem future in the hands of his Heavenly Father. It was as if he was saying, “Whatever happens to me after I die is your responsibility, Father.”
But when we look carefully at the Psalm Jesus quoted, we see more than what at first meets our eyes. Psalm 31 begins with a cry for divine help:
In you, O LORD, I seek refuge;
do not let me ever be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me (Psalm 31:1).
But then this psalm mixes asking for God’s deliverance with a confession of God’s strength and faithfulness:
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God (Psalm 31:5).
By the end, Psalm 31 offers praise for God’s salvation:
Blessed be the LORD,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was beset as a city under siege (Psalm 31:21).
By quoting a portion of Psalm 31, therefore, Jesus not only entrusted his future to his Father, but also implied that he would be delivered and exonerated. Jesus surely knew the full truth of Psalm 31; so he understood that God would not deliver him from death by crucifixion. But beyond this horrific death lay something marvelous. “Into your hand I commit my spirit” points back to the familiar suffering of David in Psalm 31 and forward to the resurrection of Jesus. Thus, the final word of Jesus from the cross foreshadows the coming victory and joy of Easter.
We live in a season of uncertainty, facing the physical dangers of COVID-19 and the multiple dangers associated with the social and economic turmoil this disease is causing. While we are wise to remain mostly at home, to practice social distancing when we are not, to sanitize ourselves and our things as needed, and so forth, none of us can control our personal futures, not to mention our shared future. Too much is unknown and unpredictable right now.
In such a time as this, I find the last word of Jesus to be particularly relevant, encouraging, and challenging. Though I will do my best to guard my wellbeing and that of my family, colleagues, friends, and neighbors, in the end, I will pray as did Jesus, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The Lord claimed my life long ago and I belong to him. So, once again I entrust myself to the God who redeemed me from sin and death, from a life of shallow selfishness and bondage to sin. My life is the Lord’s and I give him my life once again. I invite you to do the same.
Something to Think About:
How do you experience God’s salvation through Christ in your life today?
How might the COVID-19 crisis renew your relationship with the Lord?
Something to Do:
Once again, I would encourage you to reflect on today’s “word” of Jesus. You may want to read Psalm 31 to help you understand what Jesus meant when he entrusted his spirit to the Father. But, mainly, consider how the work of Jesus on the cross makes a difference in your life. Think about how his sacrifice invites you to entrust your whole life to God.
Gracious Lord, even as you once entrusted your spirit into the hands of the Father, so I entrust my life to you. I trust you and you alone to be my Savior. I submit to your sovereignty over my life and seek to live for your glory alone. Here I am, Lord, available to you, both now and in the future.
How good it is to know, dear Lord, that the cross was not the end for you. As you entrusted your spirit into the Father’s hands, you did so in anticipation of what was to come. So we reflect upon your death, not in despair, but in hope. With Good Friday in our midst today, Easter Sunday is on the horizon. Amen.
You can access all of our Life for Leaders devotions here.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Best of Daily Reflections: The Tension of Faithful Prayer
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.