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Father, into Your hands

8 minutes to read

The seventh and final word of the Lord Jesus on the cross is found in Luke 23:46 “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.” (cf. Matt. 27:50; Mark 15:37; John 19:30). It was the ninth hour when the Lord Jesus spoke these final words before yielding up His spirit.

The Lord had, by this time, been on the cross for six hours, from the third to the ninth hour. We are told in Luke 23:44-45 that from the sixth hour to the ninth hour (12 noon to 3:00 pm) there was darkness over the land, “while the sun’s light failed.” This was at noon when the sun is brightest and highest in the sky. It was during this time that the sun’s light failed and there was a strange and unusual darkness over the land.

The darkness was symbolic of the Father turning His face away from our sin, which the Son carried to the cross. No wonder, towards the end of the ninth hour a piercing cry rings out from Jesus’ lips, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). The words of this song capture these moments on the cross when the Father turns away from the Son.

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

The fact that the Lord Jesus says, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” shows us that the relationship between the Father and Son was intact.

 Another song that we often sing that captures the substitutionary nature of Christ’s atonement is called “Amazing love.” It begins like this:

I'm forgiven because You were forsaken
I'm accepted, You were condemned
I'm alive and well, Your Spirit is within me
Because You died and rose again

Something else took place which shows us that Christ’s work on the cross accomplished the atonement for sin – the curtain of the temple was torn in two (Luke 23:45). McKinley writes, “Assuming that this is the curtain in question, then the symbolism was clear: because of the death of Christ, the way to God is now open for sinners who had been kept at a distance. The sacrifices of the temple were no longer required for God’s people to come into his presence: the final sacrifice had now been offered; sin had been atoned for finally (Hebrews 10:19 – 20).”

Now let us come to the final word of the Lord Jesus on the Cross. We observe several things:

1.      The Father–Son relationship was intact.
The fact that the Lord Jesus says, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” shows us that the relationship between the Father and Son was intact. The Son had just borne the righteous wrath of God for sin. Sin was now paid for. The work of atonement was done, which is why the Lord Jesus said in John 19:30, “It is finished.” Stephen J. Cole writes, “God was appeased and now fellowship was eternally restored, never to be broken again.”

For a brief moment, the Father had turned away from the Son. Jason Meyer writes, “The Father, who has eyes too pure to behold sin, turns his face away from his Son for the first and only time. Jesus endures a moment of separation from God. This is far worse than the mocking, scourging, and crucifixion. This is the searing pain of separation from God and damnation of God. Jesus drank the cup of condemnation to the dregs.” 

 Christ endured this momentary separation on the cross so that our relationship with God will forever be intact, unbroken and eternal. This momentary separation between the eternal Father and the eternal Son was sufficient to deal with the potential of our eternal separation from God.

 Having borne the wrath of God and having paid for sin, the Son speaks once again to His Father saying, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” The relationship between the Father and Son was intact.

 2.      The Son trusted the Father completely.
The Apostle Peter, reflecting on Christ’s suffering writes in 1 Peter 2:23, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”  He had absolute confidence in the fact that His Father would secure him.

The Lord Jesus quotes Psalm 31:5 on the cross, just as he does Psalm 22 (cf. Mark 15:34). In Psalm 31, David the Psalmist speaks of God’s protection and deliverance. Even though he faced an extremely difficult situation, where he had become an object of scorn, with his enemies surrounding him, he said, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God. My times are in Your hand.” (Psalm 31:14, 15a). The Psalm is all about the confidence the Psalmist has in God.

 The Lord Jesus in quoting Psalm 31:5 is expressing that same confidence in his Father, even as his persecutors were vying for his blood. Death was inevitable, but Jesus was confident that His Father would secure Him even beyond the grave.

This is instructive for us for we know that we can trust God even when facing death. Stephen, the first martyr, entrusted his spirit to God just before he died, following Christ’s example. He said in Acts 7:59, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” The apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul says, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (cf. Philippians 1:23). What this means is that the moment a believer dies, his spirit goes to be with the Lord.

Unlike the saints of the Old Testament who waited for the Messiah in Paradise (Luke 16:22), the spirits of believers in Christ are immediately welcomed into the presence of the Lord. Christ’s work on the cross ensured that the Old Testament saints along with the New Testament saints (Hebrews 11:39, 40) are now spiritually in the presence of God; our bodily resurrection will take place at the Second Coming of the Lord.

The work of atonement was done, which is why the Lord Jesus said in John 19:30, “It is finished.”

3.      The Son had the authority to lay down His life.
In John 10:17 – 18, the Lord speaks of His authority to lay down His life and to take it up again. This authority was given to Him by His Father in heaven. He says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

 These verses taken together with the Lord Jesus yielding up His spirit (Matthew 27:50) before He breathed His last (Mark 15:37) show us the authority He had to give up His life. In fact, when the soldiers came to break the legs of Jesus and the two thieves, to hasten their death, they were surprised to find that the Lord Jesus was already dead (John 19:32, 33). Having suffered six hours on the cross, handing over his earthly responsibilities (John 19:26, 27), forgiving his enemies (Luke 23:34), bearing the righteous wrath of God for sin (Matthew 27:46), the Lord Jesus gave up His spirit, entrusting it to the Father (Luke 23:46).

 All of this speaks to the willingness of the Son to die for us. He was not forced into this situation, nor did He feel an external compulsion to die for His people. In fact, one of the reasons the Father loves the Son is because He willingly lays down His life to save the people of God (John 10:17).

This is the greatest kind of love that can be given. In John 15:13 the Lord Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

 One significant note of application is that our love for others ought to flow from this love that we have received. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

 There were several ‘hands’ involved in delivering the Lord Jesus to be crucified. In the Garden of Gethsemane, after He had prayed, the Lord Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 26:45b, “See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus; the soldiers laid their hands on Him; Herod mocked the Lord before handing Him back to Pilate; Pilate delivered Jesus over to be crucified, trying desperately to wash his hands of the whole matter.

 But for all these hands involved in the death of Jesus, the Lord commits His spirit into the ‘hands’ of His Father. The safest and surest hands one can entrust their life to are the hands of God. The Son’s final words on the cross were, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

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