Well, this week we come to the conclusion of our series on Jesus' seven words from the cross. The seventh and final word comes from the Gospel of Luke: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46). Unlike the first two words from Luke, this one is not unparalleled in the other gospels. In fact, all four gospels conclude their passion narratives with Jesus giving up his spirit (Matt 27:50; Mark 15:37; John 19:30). Only Luke, however, has Jesus say something about it. So, while Luke's point is not totally unique, he has something unique to offer about the final moment of Jesus' life.
So, what can learn from this word?
(1) Jesus really died.
This is the main point that Luke shares with all the other evangelists. By indicating that Jesus "gave up the ghost," the Gospels are bearing witness to the genuine deadness of Jesus. He really did die. He did not just appear to die (as some have suggested). He really died. Why does this matter? Well, the death-defeating significance of the cross and resurrection hangs on Jesus actually facing death on its own terms. He defeats death from within, and thereby extinguishes its power. If he did not really face death, then we cannot be sure he has really defeated it. Maybe death still reigns. Maybe death retains its sting. Only the Christ who really died is the Lord over death. And so when we hear and see Jesus release his spirit, we are reminded of the death of death in the death of Christ.
(2) Jesus entrusts his spirit to his Father.
In this final moment, Jesus makes a statement of confidence in God. Instead of quoting the apparently more desperate Psalm 22:2 (ala Matthew and Mark), Luke's Jesus quotes Psalm 31:6. Now if there is any dissonance here, the two would need to be held together in dialectical tension, not resolving one into the other. But that tension is not our task here. Here we want to hear from Luke. And Luke presents a Jesus who entrusts his spirit to his Father. As he dies, Jesus trusts God the Father with his life. We could take this as a specified trust in God's power to resurrect him from the dead. Or we could take it as a more general trust in God's Lordship over his future. Either way, we hear words of trust in God. And this is not just the words of a human trusting in his God, for here we hear words of trust spoken in God. The Son trusts the Father. The eternal Son of God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ entrusts his spirit (Spirit?) to God the Father. God is both the one who is trusted and the one who trusts (and the trust itself?). God is Father and Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit. And as such, God is both trustworthy and trusting.
(3) It only this God in whom we can entrust our life.
The point of following this seemingly 'speculative' line of trinitarian reflection is that the triune God manifest in this word from the cross is the kind of God in whom we can entrust our life. When the forces of death threaten our life and liveliness, it only this God in whom we can entrust our life.
It is only this God in whom we can entrust our life. God is the one who has life in himself, and so any life we have is not ours to have and hold but his to give, take away, and give again if he so pleases.
It only this God in whom we can entrust our life. This God is the kind of God who both understands our plight and overcomes it from within. The triune God is neither aloof from nor overwhelmed by our suffering and death.
It only this God in who we can entrust out life. This "only" calls into question all other persons and things that we count on to protect us, whether they be religious, political, military, economic, familial, etc. Inasmuch as we entrust our life to these persons and things, they are idols. Instead, we can and must entrust our life to this God, and to this God alone.
- What other insights emerge from this text?
- Are my trinitarian moves helpful? Or are they unnecessary for making the final pastoral point? Or are they just plain wrongheaded?
- Could "commit" be taken in a different sense that would not imply the "trust" I have emphasized?