The Seventh Word
"Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands."
The Seven Last Words of Christ for Holy Week
Two of the last seven "words" of Jesus are quotations from the Psalms. Earlier, Jesus had used Psalm 22, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" to express his anguish. Later, he borrowed from Psalm 31, which comes to us in Luke as "Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands." In his citation of Psalm 31:5, 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. Psalm 31 begins with a cry for divine help:
O LORD, I have come to you for protection;
don't let me be disgraced.
Save me, for you do what is right. (v. 1)
But the psalm mixes asking for God's deliverance with a confession of God's strength and faithfulness:
I entrust my spirit into your hand.
Rescue me, LORD, for you are a faithful God. (v. 5)
By the end, Psalm 31 offers praise of God's salvation:
Praise the LORD,
for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love.
He kept me safe when my city was under attack. (v. 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. No, God did not deliver him from death by crucifixion, because this was an essential element in the divine plan. But, beyond Jesus’ horrific death lay something marvelous. "I entrust my spirit into your hands," he says, pointing back to the familiar suffering of David in Psalm 31 and forward to the resurrection. These words prepare us for what is coming on Sunday morning.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you put your life and, indeed, your life beyond this life, in God's hands? How do you experience God's salvation through Christ in your life today?
PRAYER: Gracious Lord, even as you once entrusted your spirit into the hands of the Father, so I give 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 behind us, Easter Sunday is on the horizon. Amen.
On Sunday morning, we wave our palms and sing Hosanna in the Highest. It is not hard to get caught up in the celebration and wonder if the stones are indeed crying out. Yet in the midst of this great joy there is a chilling stillness.
Thus begins the journey to the cross. A week of little deaths, that’s what Holy Week is for us. Celebration and mourning take turns to stir deep places.
During Holy Week at The High Calling, we invite you to focus solely on the story of our faith. May your eyes be opened to the truth: we cannot follow Christ and remain unchanged.
Image above courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in The H. E. Butt Family Foundation.