Into your Hands


It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Luke 23:44-46 (ANIV)

Yesterday's reflection was entitled "It is Finished..." but I wasn't quite finished, and neither was Jesus. Luke's gospel has him using some words of another Psalm, this time Psalm 31, before, finally, breathing his last.

William Barclay tells us that this was the first prayer that every Jewish mother taught her child to pray last thing at night… The Jewish equivalent of the old English prayer:

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep;

Should I die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

We've reflected previously on the relationship between Jesus and his mother… Had Mary taught Jesus this prayer? But if his mother had taught this prayer to him, he had made it his own by adding the word “Father” to the words of the Psalm, in that:

"Into your hands I commit my spirit" (Psalms 31: 5)

becomes

"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23: 46a)

These final words of Jesus clearly inspired those who heard about them, because in Luke’s second volume, the Acts of the Apostles we find the first Christian martyr, Stephen dying with similar words on his lips, as he commits himself into Jesus' care, rather than God the Father:

"Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (Acts 7:59)

The final verse of the hymn “O sacred head sore wounded” says:

Be near me, Lord, when dying;
O show thy cross to me,
that I, for succour flying,
my eyes may fix on thee;
and then, thy grace receiving,
let faith my fears dispel,
For whoso dies believing
in thee, dear Lord, dies well.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Paulus Gerhardt (1607-1676) et al

But the issue is not just dying well, but living well. Jesus did not simply commit his spirit into his Father's hands in death... he did so in life... These dying words sum up Christ's entire attitude to life, and we as Christians we are called on to commit our spirit to our heavenly Father, not simply for life after death, but life before death. As Paul later says:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:5-8 (ANIV)

Psalm of Response

Counters

In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Free me from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth.

Psalms 31:1-5



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