GOOD FRIDAY MEDITATION (Luke 23:46)
St. Luke is the only Gospel writer, who in his account, records these final words of Jesus. Having finished all he was sent to do; he now speaks one last time. “Into thy hands, I commend my spirit.” In the Lucan account, this is the last of three prayers our Lord prays from the agony of the Cross in the waning moments of life. The first, asking forgiveness for his executioners, “for they knew not what they were doing.” Then, our Lord prays for a convicted thief hanging next to him, for this sinner to be with Him in Paradise. And finally, Jesus prays on behalf of himself, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."
From the Cross; from the intensity of suffering and sorrow, he prays first for others and then, lastly, for himself. In three short prayers is given to us the great example of Divine Charity; of self-less and self-denying love. Only after he has prayed for the sake and goodness of others does he bring himself before the Father in prayer. Thus, our Lord shows us, even at the very end of his life, the divine pattern: others first… self: last. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."
“Into thy hands, I commend my spirit.” The one who lived by the Word now dies in the Word. How fitting that the Logos— the Eternal Word of God who exited heaven for the salvation of men— should now return to his Father in the confidence and comfort of praying Holy Scripture; the very words penned by the hand of David found in the thirtieth psalm, listen to this prayer,
In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me. For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me. Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength. Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. (Ps 30:1-5)
What David wrote and experienced is now, on the Cross, fully and completely embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ, here, in the final moments of life. For Psalm thirty is the plea of the innocent and righteous sufferer, the one who in the face of injustice and impending doom, puts his full trust and confidence in God the Father. “In thee O, Lord do I put my trust…” In the weakness of the suffering Son the Father’s strength is made perfect, “Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.” This is the prayer of belief, of one who trusts; it is the prayer of faith.
For Jesus Christ is the faithful man. His entire life was marked by faith. In faith, he resigned his will to the Father’s— glad to drink the cup of suffering— and with his last dying breath entrusts his spirit, his very life and death into the hands of the Father. He commended ahis life, meaning, he entrusted the care and protection of his soul and body to God. The salvific mission of the Son which began and was sustained by faith, is now completed in confidence: “thy hand will pull me out of the net laid privily for me; for thou art my strength.” He trusted in the strong hand of his Father, right up to the very end.
It was the hand of love which released the Son into the world and it is into those same loving hands to which Christ knows, with all confidence, that he will return. He would not go into the dark night of death alone neither would he be vulnerable to its sting, for the strong hand of the Father was with him, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” He was not abandoned in life and he was not abandoned in death. With a faith greater than Abraham he trusted: from the nether regions of hell he would arise; the mighty hand of God would bring him forth from the grave. Through suffering, shame, and sorrow— even in death— the sure hand of the Father would bring him home… where he now sits.
Jesus was faithful unto the very end. His final act of will was to believe. "Into thy hands I commend my spirit” is the penultimate prayer of a life lived in faith. It is the prayer of the resigned will, of one wholly abandoned to the will of the Father, because it trusts and believes in Him. It is the prayer of all those who put their faith in Christ. But we are not saved by faith, by a faith which is of ourselves, but (as St. Paul writes) we are saved “by the faith of Jesus Christ, we who have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ.” Saved by faith in the faith of Jesus Christ. Beloved, in times of distress and in times of suffering, especially when we suffer unjustly for the cause of Christ, may we in every cross-filled trial of life, exercise faith… just as our Lord entrusted himself to the Father: “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Friends, He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Amen.