Good Friday reflection on the last of the Seven Words from the Cross – St Peter’s Lutton Place.
Father, into your hands – Luke 23:44 – 46
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Amen, and thanks be to God for his word.
Twice I have been present when people have taken their first breath, but although I have seen a number of lifeless bodies, I have never been present when they have taken their last breath. This time last year my mother-in-law died, and although I was among the family members by her bedside for most of the time, her last breath was taken when only her two daughters were with her. They said it was very peaceful, and for some it is so. For others, there is a struggle to keep hold of life, not wanting to let it go; or a struggle to let each breath be the last in order to be free of the pain.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus had a sense of destiny: he could not die until it was the right time – his hour had not yet come. But now, this was his hour. This was the time when he would be lifted up and the glory of God would be present amid the darkness and shame of his crucifixion. Among the remarkable things about the death of Jesus is the fact that he had the strength remaining to cry in a loud voice, and that this final cry is not like the earlier one with its sense of dereliction, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ In these hours of pain and suffering, Jesus comes to terms with what is happening and brings his mission of salvation and liberation to its climax. As he does so, his life is not taken from him, he entrusts it to his Father in heaven.
In Greek, the word for wind, breath and spirit is the same word – Pneuma, from which we get English words like pneumatic. With his last breath, Jesus entrusts his whole being into the hands of his loving Father. It was God who breathed into Adam the breath of life, and he became a living being; it is God who receives the breath of life from the Second Adam, but receives it in order to restore it on the day of Easter resurrection. There is this great sense of trust, so that Jesus places his life and breath into the faithful hands of his Father.
Across the world today, there are many followers of Jesus who are having to say to themselves, ‘do I fight back against persecution, or do I entrust my spirit to my heavenly Father?’ Hundreds, even thousands of our brothers and sisters are surrendering their lives rather than renounce their faith in Christ. As they draw their last breath, they entrust themselves into the hands of their Father, who will restore that life on the great day of resurrection.
We too, in our day to day existence must ask ourselves, into whose hands do we place our last breath? Whatever the future may hold for us, let us be assured that the safest hands for our last breath are the hands of the one who made us. As Jesus did, in faith and hope we entrust our spirits to the one who gave them, knowing he will restore them on the day of resurrection. Friday is here, but Sunday is coming.