By Joseph Ametepe
While suffering on the cross for our sins on Golgotha, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, spoke seven short, simple but significant sentences. These sayings reveal a great deal about the heart of the Lord Jesus. No one Gospel writer recorded them all. Certainly, the Holy Spirit was sovereign in this. He chose in His wisdom to give the four Gospel Writers the privilege of recording what He deemed best for their Gospel material. Mark and Matthew were given the privilege of recording only one of the seven sayings, while the remaining six sayings were shared equally between Dr. Luke and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. Each records three sayings in their Gospel accounts.
These so-called seven sayings from the cross by our Savior, have been held dear by the Church primarily because they have opened to us a window into our Lord's heart and mind while suffering for our sins on the Roman cruel cross. The amazing thing about each saying is that they were spoken not in anger, resentment, bitterness, or with a complaining or vindictive spirit. In fact, each is a vivid expression either of His great care, concern, compassion and His sacrificial and selfless love for us, or of His dreadful but divine work of bearing our sin, or His final conquest and victory over sin and Satan.
The season of celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ is certainly an appropriate time to pause and ponder each of these sayings. I believe doing so will enhance and energize our spirits to worship Christ with a new sense of purpose and passion. Of course, meditating on these sayings should not be limited to Easter celebrations. It should be practiced all year long because Christ's sacrifice on the cross for our sins is key to our daily living and eternal future.
My purpose is to present each saying in an article in the order in which they were spoken by our Suffering Savior. I have entitled the seventh saying: "The Savior's Sublime Surrender."
Luke is the only Gospel writer who records our Savior's sublime surrender. "And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit" (Luke 23:46). This verse literally reads: "And crying with a great voice, Jesus said: Father, into hands of Thee I commit the spirit of Me." I would like to emphasis four essential truths in our Savior's seventh saying. First, His passionate cry (Luke 23:46a). Second, the person addressed (Luke 23:46b). Third, the paternal hands (23:46c). And fourth, His personal surrender (Luke 23:46d).
Passionate Cry: "And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said" (Luke 23:46a).
This is the second and final time when our Lord cried out with a loud voice on the cross. Earlier, after three hours of darkness and silence, our Lord suddenly broke the silence with His cry of desolation: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" This first loud cry was recorded only by Matthew and Mark. But His second cry was recorded by three of the four Gospel writers. Matthew writes: "And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit" (Matthew 27:50). Mark reports: "And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last" (Mark 15:37). And Luke writes: "And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said" (Luke 23:46a). The writer of Hebrews also records Jesus' practice of passionate cries in prayer: "He offered up prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One who is able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety" (Hebrews 5:7). At the Jewish Feast of Booths in Jerusalem, John writes: "Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink" (John 7:37). At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus "cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth"" (John 11:43). These loud crying out by our Lord actually reveal His passion and earnestness. They indicate His strong and intense feelings about His mission on earth. They show that Jesus is deeply a passionate person. He is passionate in preaching. He is passionate in prayer. He is passionate in performing miracles. He is passionate in presenting Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. In presenting Himself as a sin offering for the world, Jesus displayed to the watching world and to the angelic hosts in the spiritual realm that He was truly committed to His cause. You see, normally a person in the last stages of crucifixion would not have the strength to speak beyond a weak or feeble groan, let alone cry out with a loud voice. But here, three of the four Gospel writers report that Jesus cried out with a loud voice. What are they trying to emphasize? Please listen! It's because Jesus is pouring out all of Himself for our sins. In a very graphic and passionate way, Jesus pours out His soul to death. He was not going to hold anything back. He was putting it all on the line for you and me. And He did so with great passion and earnestness that all might take notice of His surrender in death.
Believer in Jesus, what are you passionate about? Are you passionate for the cause of Christ? Are you passionate in prayer? Are you passionate about presenting yourself as a living and holy sacrifice, well-pleasing to God? Do you pour out all of your soul into what God has called you to do? Do you put it all on the line in the service of Christ?
Person Addressed: "Father," (Luke 23:46b).
Notice the Person our Lord addressed in His prayer of surrender. He directed His prayer of surrender to the "Father." This is the second and last time Jesus addressed the Father on the cross. In His cry of desolation on the cross, Jesus expressed personal faith in God the Father by saying "My God, My God" (Matthew 27:46). Now an important question arises at this juncture. Why is now Jesus addressing God as "Father" after having just cried out to Him "My God, My God?" Well, the Bible itself doesn't give us a specific answer to the change from "My God, My God," to "Father." Could it be that Jesus was intending to show that the dreadful agony of His soul was now over? Could it be that He was indicating that the temporary separation He experienced was now over and that His fellowship with His Father was now fully restored? I believe so. You see, Jesus was not just praying to an unknown, unreal, unheard of being. Jesus had a vibrant intimate relationship with God the Father. Therefore, prayer for Him was a meaningful communication with a real living and loving being-God the Father. But sadly, that is not the case for many today who claim to pray. They pray to so-called "gods" that are not real, relational, living and loving. How unfortunate! How tragic!
In all of His prayers before the cross, our Lord Jesus specifically addressed the Father. Praying after the seventy disciples returned from their short-term mission of proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, our Lord addressed the Father (Luke 10:21; cf. Matthew 11:25-26). Praying before raising Lazarus, our Savior directed His prayer to the Father (John 11:41-42). Praying in Jerusalem after hearing that some Greeks who came to worship at the feast requested to see Him, our Redeemer lifted up His voice to the Father, to glorify His name (see John 12:20-28). Praying in the Upper Room after the Last Supper with His disciples, our Good Shepherd called on the Father (John 17:1,5,11,24,25). Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord once again directed His prayer to the Father (Matthew 26:39, 42). In Mark's account of His prayer in Gethsemane, Jesus addressed "Abba! Father!" (Mark 14:36).
Also, earlier in His ministry, our Lord taught His disciples to pray to the Father in His name (see Matthew 6:9; John 15:16). Now on the cross, our Lord, for the final time, addresses the First Person of the Triunity, that is, the one true God in Three Distinct Persons. Please take careful note of this! Jesus did not pray to Himself. He prayed to the First Person of the Godhead. Praying to God the Father affirms the Father's unique relationship with Jesus as His One and Only Begotten Son. The same Father God the Son prayed to in His life here on earth is the same Father all true believers pray to. What an awesome privilege! Our Father is a real personal divine being to relate to, to pour out our hearts to, to call upon in time of our own need or for the needs of others. He is not an impersonal force. He is a personal Father who cares, who is concerned for His believing children, and who shows them compassion. How tender and thrilling! How are you doing in your prayer life? Do you come convinced that your Father in heaven is waiting to hear your prayer? Do you approach the throne of God knowing in your heart that God the Father is a real personal divine being to whom to direct your prayers? Or are you praying to impersonal force to whom you can't relate? If so, I urge you to ask Jesus Christ to reveal the Father to you? He alone has been given the authority of disclosing the Father to whomever He chooses.
Paternal Hands: "into Your hands" (Luke 23:46c).
Having addressed God the Father for the final time on the cross, Jesus now makes clear His intention of placing His spirit into His Father's care and protection. His words "into Your hands" literally read, "into hands of You." The pronoun "You" (Greek: sou) is emphatic, pointing to the "Father" (Greek: pater). In other words, the Bible is stressing that the person into whose hands Jesus is about to commend His spirit is none other than the Father himself. You see, Jesus had completed His work and now the time has come to commit His spirit into the paternal hands. Jesus commends His spirit into His Father's hands, to be received into Paradise, and returned on the third day.
In Psalm 31:5, David, the king, the sweet psalmist of Israel, and prophet confidently confessed to God: "My times are in Your hand." Actually, these words are used by the Jews as an evening prayer. It is as if Jesus is saying: "Father, My times here on earth are in Your hands. And I am now placing My soul into Your hands." You see, Jesus trusts the Father. He has faith in the Father. He is therefore willing to commit His spirit to His custody and care. He knew He has been loved by the Father even before the foundation of the world. He knew He had faithfully fulfilled His Father's will. He knew that His Father would keep His word to Him to raise Him up again on the third day. He knew that committing His spirit into the hands of the Father would guarantee victory over sin, Satan, and death.
Believer in Jesus, please let me ask you: Do you trust God enough to commit your life into His hands? Do you commit your cause to your loving Heavenly Father? Do you believe God enough to commit your career, children, church, and country to Him? Do you have faith in God to commit your future to Him? Are you living like one who knows that his times are in God's hand?
Personal Surrender: "I commit My spirit" (Luke 23:46d).
These words of our Lord, vividly reveal to us His personal surrender to the Father's will in death. Please listen! Jesus was not overpowered by the devil in death. Jesus was not defeated by Satan in death. No one took His life from Him. Rather, Jesus intentionally, deliberately, voluntarily, and willingly chose to give it up. He personally decided to commit His spirit into the hands of the Father in death. Before the cross, Jesus had Himself confidently declared to His disciples that He would be voluntarily laying down His life as the Good Shepherd for the sheep (John 10:15). Then He went on to say to them that He would do so of His own accord. "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from the Father" (John 10:17-18). These words imply that Jesus voluntarily yielded up His life when He knew that His suffering and sacrifice for our sins were completed. They clearly indicate His sublime surrender in death.
The Greek word translated "I commit" comes from the verb paratithemi. It also means place beside, place before, give over, entrust, commend, entrust something to someone, entrust someone to the care or protection of someone, to deposit as a trust or for protection. Jesus is here saying He is entrusting His spirit to His Father. He is commending His spirit to the care and protection of His Father, the Almighty. This means that the devil and all his demonic hosts would not be able to touch Him nor do His spirit any harm. They would not be able to derail God's plan of raising Jesus from the dead on the third day. Why? Jesus has just entrusted His spirit to the most powerful being in the entire universe. He cannot be thwarted. He cannot be defeated. He cannot be stopped. He cannot be impeded from accomplishing His will.
The expression, "His spirit" means His human spirit. Jesus' own human spirit returned to the presence of God the Father (Ecclesiastes. 12:7; Acts 7:59; 1 Peter 4:19). While His body remained on the cross and was later buried in the tomb, our Lord's spirit went into the presence of God His Father. And in this way, Jesus became the pattern for believers who would die after Him (see 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; Hebrews 12:23).
All four Gospel writers describe our Lord's moment of final surrender in death in brief, succinct, and guarded words. Matthew writes: "And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit" (27:50). Mark briefly states: "And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last" (15:47). Luke briefly reports, "And having said this, He breathed His last" (Luke 23:46e). John succinctly says: "And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit" (19:30). These scriptures teach that even in death, Jesus is still in control of things. He maintains authoritative control over His destiny. He determines the time of His death. His death was completely voluntary. In full control of His faculties, our Lord entrusted His Spirit in to the safe and secure hands of the Father whose will He had fully, flawlessly, perfectly performed.
John Stott presents this colorful insight about our Lord's personal surrender in death:
The late Dr. J. McGee also writes:
Stephen, the first martyr of the church, followed the footsteps of the Lord Jesus not only in praying for the forgiveness of his executioners (Acts 7:60), but also in committing his spirit to Christ. He prayed: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59). You see, Stephen lived a surrendered a life. He surrendered to God in life. And he surrendered to God in death.
Our Lord's sublime surrender to the Father's will even unto death on a cruel cross and Stephen's example of surrender should serve as a great motivation and challenge for all believers to live a surrendered life. How surrendered are you to Jesus? How fully yielded are you to Jesus? When facing death, will you have the confidence to entrust your spirit into God the Father's hands? Friend, I tell you, you will not have the confidence to do that unless you have a genuine, vibrant, saving personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Do you firmly believe that there is another life after this? If you don't, you will see no need to commend your spirit into God's hands at your moment of death. But how sad it will be for you when you find that, after all, there is another life after this life. It will be too late for you then. But today, you can place your trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and be ready to face death, knowing that He will preserve your soul and protect your spirit until the time of the renewal of all things!
"Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right" (1 Peter 4:19).
The Savior's Sublime Surrender!
We Proclaim Jesus.