Apr. 4, 2012
Then Jesus, carrying with a loud voice, said “Father into your hands I comment my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.
Have you ever been present when a person died? Yes, I know this is a rather different question. But if you have, I anticipate that you can describe and recall the specifics of the person’s passing quite vividly.
In my role as a pastor, I have had the opportunity to observe people die or be with them shortly before or immediately after they take their last breath. I consider it a great honor to be with someone and their family in these moments.
When a person goes through the dying process, it is a mystery of just when the person will breathe their last breath. Just yesterday, I was with a family that lost a loved one. Joan spent one day shy of four weeks in Hospice. For several days, Hospice workers and Joan’s family wondered if this would be the day. And when the day finally arrived, there was an emotional release. Tears, emotions and sadness pervade the day.
Crucifixion was such a public death that more people than normal could be present. Bystanders had already heard six statements made from the cross, with at least two of these being prayers. Jesus has one more prayer from the cross: “Into your hands, I commit my spirit.”
Once again, Jesus is quoting the psalms; this time Psalm 31:5. Before he speaks verse 5 out loud, we can assume he quietly prayed verses 1-4 in advance. Let’s see what these verses say:
In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. 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. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.
Biblical scholar William Barclay believes the prayer Jesus publically said is what Jewish parents taught their children to pray at bedtime. Today, parents teach their children, “Now I lay me down to sleep …” Jewish parents taught their children, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” Every night, they would pray this.
With this statement, Jesus shows us how to die. He gives us a wonderful example of how we can pray to release anxiety and give things up to God. None of us knows when our life will end. What we do know is every day is a day closer. I live my life knowing this could be the last day. We don’t know when our last day will be. It is our task is to be ready.
What can we do to be ready, to prepare ourselves? Pray this prayer every day: “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” This tells God we’re ready every day. It reminds us not to be afraid, but rather than we belong to God and therefore, we’re not afraid. Think about it. What else would you pray?
Let us pray: Now the daylight flees; now the ground beneath quakes as its Maker bows his head. Curtain torn in two, dead are raised to life. “Finished!” the victory cry. This the power of the cross. Son of God slain for us. What a love, what a cost! We stand forgiven at the cross. Amen.