Trust is not easy to come by. And it’s even harder if it is a sacred trust in God. Nonetheless, the life of Jesus demonstrates such a unique trust. And His death distinctively offers an eloquent expression of it.
Luke 23:46 records Jesus’ seventh word on the cross. Profound words.
Our Lord Jesus was crucified about 9 am and remained on the cross until 3 pm. Mark 15:25,33 record that from noon to 3 pm, there was an ominous darkness over all the land. Jesus spoke seven times during those six agonizing hours. His last words are significant words. They came forth as light in the midst of darkness. They tell us a lot of the life of the One who was dying for us.
Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said,“Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.”
Here are the “seven words” of Jesus from the cross.
His first word was forgiveness.“Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).He focused outward.
His second word, salvation.“Today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).He focused manward.
His third word, compassion.“Woman, behold, your son” (John 19:25–27).He focused forward.
His fourth word, anguish.Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mat 27:46)He focused upward.
His fifth word, suffering.“I am thirsty” (John 19:28).He focused inward.
His sixth word, victory.“It is finished!” (John 19:30)He focused heavenward.
And now the seventh and final word, trust.“Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).He focused Godward.
The onlookers were caught by at least two surprises.
The first was the three terrifying hours of physical darkness.
William Barclay (the New Testament professor whose scholarship on New Testament background I celebrate but whose liberal theology I cannot fully embrace) commented that this was not a solar eclipse; it was a miracle of God. An eclipse would have been impossible during the Passover season when there is a full moon. It was a God-sent darkness.
Why would God send such a darkness? Because Jesus was the Passover sacrifice for humanity’s sin. “Behold the Lamb of God,” as John the Baptist had earlier prophesied, “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
In the Old Testament, when Israel was delivered from the Egyptian bondage, three days of darkness preceded the first Passover (Exo 10:21ff). When Jesus was on the cross, three hours of darkness preceded the death of God’s Lamb for the sins of the world (John 1:29). Darkness covered the cross as the sinless Son of God was made sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). It was a surprising, if not an awesome, phenomenon.
The second surprise was that Jesus cried out. Aloud.
The Scriptures captured that dramatic moment with these striking words, “Jesus cried out to His Father with a loud voice” (emphasis mine). Some of the eyewitnesses must have been momentarily stunned. It must have caught the onlookers by surprise. It was unexpected.
Jesus the young rabbi was hardly known to shout. He taught with grace. He ministered with love. He spoke with gentleness. The times he spoke out strongly were when He rebuked what needed rebuke. Hypocrisy especially.
But this time, it was something rather unusual. He was not raising His voice to the hypocrites. He was not speaking in righteous anger. He was not rebuking the religious establishment that led the people astray. Rather, He was addressing His heavenly Father. Aloud.
Into Thy hands I commit My spirit.
Crucifixion is evidently the most humiliating and painful form of torture and execution ever devised by the Romans, such that it is said that criminals who were Roman citizens were spared from death by crucifixion. Yet Jesus’ loud cry was not at the injustice of crucifixion, or even of the agony of its torturous pain. It was a cry of sacred trust.
Sacred trust. It is a rare and holy thing.
With His last breath, Jesus was declaring aloud a sacred trust. Most sadly, the compulsive neurosis of our age militates against such a blessed posture of the surrendered soul. We are compelled to be in control. Of every thing. Every time.
Our anxious soul is compulsively driven. Such a compulsive drive makes it harder for us to really commit ourselves to God. To be rested in Him is deemed a spiritual luxury that many impoverished souls have abandoned. We have sold our birthright. At a great cost. No surrender. No peace. No rest of spirit.
Yet Jesus was fully surrendered to God. What is interesting to me is that this prayer of sacred trust was rendered in the face of an acute sense of abandonment because He was bearing the sin of humanity before a Holy God. Both Matthew 27:45–46 and Mark 15:33–34 record for us our Lord’s cry as the Lamb of God. Jesus was the sin-bearer. Just moments before, at the height of the darkness, in the pain of bearing the sins of the world before the Holy God, Jesus cried out: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” – a Hebrew quotation from Psalm 22:1.
Now I want you to notice something. In His moment of anguish, His address to the Almighty was “My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?” But here, after He said, “It is finished!” – His declaration of victory – Jesus once again returned to the complete communion with God and thus returned to address the Almighty as “Father”. It was finished. The price for the redemption of fallen humanity had been completely paid. God’s redemptive purpose had been completely fulfilled.
Another interesting thing to me is that these were borrowed words. It was a very familiar Scriptural text (Psalm 31:5) that Jesus had prayed with. That verse was a common prayer every devout Jewish mother taught her child to say at night before bed, ’Into Thy hands I commit my spirit.’
Jesus intentionally borrowed these words from King David. It was not because he had nothing to say. Rather, He employed this very familiar Scriptural text to express something very significant. Perhaps it was a hint that death to Jesus was like falling asleep – He would awake from it again.
In any case, the intentionality with which Jesus employed the Scriptures in His ministry reflects His emphasis that the Scriptures pointed to Him (John 5:39). No doubt, Jesus chose to make use of the Scriptures to indicate that it was Him that the ancient oracles spoke of, and that He had come to fulfill the Scripture!
What a sacred trust. It wasn’t just a commitment of something of little worth.
C. H. Spurgeon said, “Our spirit is the noblest part of our being; our body is only the husk, our spirit is the living kernel, so let us put it into God’s keeping.”
Indeed, God is faithful to keep us.
We can likewise trust Him with our education, health, marriage, career advancement, financial security, and so many other legitimate needs in life. But our greatest need is to know God. And such a sacred trust ushers the way.
Into Thy hands I commit My spirit.
The Father’s hands are trustworthy.
Jack Hayford says,“On the lips of Jesus, ‘Into Your hands I commit My spirit’ is no more an act of wearied resignation than ‘It is finished!’ was a cry of defeat. Both are assertions, statements of definitive action. The sixth word was one of triumph, the seventh one of trust.”
If Jesus can offer up His spirit in a sacred trust to God Almighty, why can’t we trust God with our education, or our health, or our marriage, or our career advancements, or our financial security? Trust Him. The condition of our inner life is measured by our delight in and dependence upon God. And God is delightfully dependable for He is faithful.
The Almighty God declares in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), “For I know the plans I have for you…. plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” That scripture isn’t just for Jeremiah. It is not just given to the spiritual elite. It’s God’s promise for His children. It is for each one of us.
On June 25, 1865, James Hudson Taylor came to the great spiritual crossroad of his life. He was thirty-three years old. On that quiet Sunday morning at Brighton Beach, he took a step of faith. A sacred trust. It was in response to a powerful spiritual principle he had just discovered. He was surprised that this truth had eluded him for so long: “If we are obeying the Lord, the responsibility rests with Him, not with us!” Months of struggle were over. He came to the perfect restedness of faith. The way ahead was clear. To obey God’s Word and to trust Him to be faithful was the most worthy pilgrimage of faith that a surrendered soul could ever embark on. Throwing caution and tradition to the winds, Hudson Taylor formed the China Inland Mission, known today as the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF). The rest, as they say, is history. The legacy lives on!
God has a blessed plan for our lives. A glorious plan that will bring hope to our lives. A wonderful plan arising out of His abiding grace that will benefit us. Yet some of us are so far adrift spiritually, charting our own course, that we refuse to put our lives in God’s hands and see what He has for us.
It is thus wise that we commit our very lives to our heavenly Father. Jesus in His final word on the cross has shown us the way. Aloud. In case we miss it. The great missionary to India, E. Stanley Jones, once said, “My life in my hand is a pain and a problem. My life in God’s hand is a power and a possibility!”
Into whose hand do you commit yourself?
A quiet prayer response:
“ Father, I offer you my sacred trust.
I thank you for Jesus.
He shows me the way of blessed surrender.
Into Thy hands I commit my spirit
And whatever my anxious soul holds back,
I now release to you. Amen. ”
“ To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God moulds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. ”
Henri J. M. Nouwen