“Father, into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit” - Purposed Control to the End
Reflections on the Last Seven Statements of Jesus from the Cross
Control to the very end. There is nothing that Jesus experienced in His life or in His betrayal or in His torture or even His crucifixion when He was not in complete control – even in the moment He died. Jesus willingly and purposely gave up His spirit into His Father’s hands. Jesus said in John 10:17-18, “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.” Absolute control – from the beginning to the end.
However, Jesus did not use His limitless control for His own purposes. He yielded His untouchable power to serve under His Father’s will with perfect obedience, even as He prayed in the garden – “Father, not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). The very One who created ‘all things, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities,’ is the very One who surrendered Himself to serve under all these things for His Father’s glory (Col. 1:15-20). The very One who called forth Light to overwhelm the darkness is the very One who forfeited the light of His own life as He yielded it unto death in the place of the darkness of our soul (John 1:4-5). The very One who healed the withered hand, or brought sight to the blind, or raised the widow’s son to life, is the very One who submissively allowed all the torturous atrocities of the Roman soldiers and the cross to happen to Him. The very One who spoke life into this world is the very One who gave up His last breath to redeem life for all His people. The cross did not just happen to happen – Jesus was in complete control.
Why would we need the God of all creation and the One who reigns over all providence to become flesh like you and me? Because only our God has the power to tear down the impenetrable barrier which separates us from His glorious presence. Our sin infinitely separates us from God and we are hopeless to overcome it.
Jesus, with calm and in absolute control, did not just cross this infinite divide nor did He just randomly decide to give up His Spirit, but instead He perfectly timed this final utterance to coincide with the evening temple prayer service. The temple itself was constructed with visible barriers and controlled access. Gentile God-fearing believers could only approach the outer wall. Jewish women could approach closer through the Beautiful gate into the court of women. Jewish men could come a little closer through Nicanor’s Gate into the court of men. The priests could approach up the stairs to the court of priests, but even they were separated from the Holy of Holies by a temple curtain four inches thick. Josephus, a first century historian wrote that the curtain was not only 4 inches thick, but was renewed every year, and that horses tied to each end could not pull it apart (Harvard Theological Review 79 (1986)). The Mishna, Hebrew writings dating back to Gamaliel, said that it took 300 priests to draw this curtain which hung on 72 rods. This was no ordinary living room curtain!
Then, precisely at 3 pm, at the very time the priests were to offer prayers toward the Holy of Holies on the other side of this curtain, Jesus calmly and purposely said, “Father, into Your hands I commit my Spirit” and let out His last breath unto death. Matthew, Mark and Luke all testify that when Jesus did this that the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; & Luke 23:45). Imagine the horror of the priests. Better yet, imagine the joyful surprise of the Gentile outside all the temple barriers who could now see through the two gates and through the torn curtain and see the mercy seat of God.
What a visible illustration of God’s sovereign power. However, Jesus did not crush this dividing wall so that we may just see His mercy seat, but He did this so that we sinners may have access to throne of glory itself. Paul said, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). And the most amazing thing is this – this access is absolutely free and available for all who believe, for Scripture says, “Through Jesus we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:2). Absolute control – from the beginning to the end – all for you and me.
*Riverside is a new Christ-centered and Grace-motivated church in downtown Beaumont. Worship services are held every Sunday at 9:45 at the Art Museum.