These are meditations on the Seven Last Words of Jesus for our Good Friday vigil.
What if Jesus’ dying words shaped how we live?
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. 47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. (Luke 23:46)
They say every preacher tends to have only one main message they keep circling around and coming back to from different angles. If that’s true, my (Jeremy) message boils down to the word: surrender. Abraham lived a surrendered life and set off to a strange country. Moses lived a surrendered life and was led back to Egypt to deliver God’s people. Mary lived a surrendered life saying, “I am the Lord’s servant; may it happen to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Paul lived a surrendered life saying, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Jesus lived a surrendered life saying just a few hours earlier in Gethsemane: “Not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Trying to “play God” in our own life and secure our own future is a weight and responsibility we were never meant to bear. We were created to live with childlike dependence on God’s loving provision. We were meant to cooperate with God in sharing the load and letting him guide our steps. Every time we grasp for ultimate control and push God into the background of our life, we are eating again from that forbidden fruit. We move further and further away from Eden’s blessings and deeper into the thorny wilderness of our own making outside the Garden.
Jesus came as the New Adam in order to live the completely surrendered life in perfect cooperation with the Father through the Spirit. He surrendered to God’s will and resisted temptation during his 40 days in the wilderness. He not only placed his life into God’s hands, but his death as well. After hours of agony, I can imagine his final words uttered with a sense of sweet surrender: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
Reflection: We don’t need to wait until our final hours to place our life and death into God’s hands. In fact, we can be relieved of a huge and heavy burden now if we will begin to practice praying this prayer today: “Father, into your hands I place my life—this new day, this new challenge, the uncertain future, my ultimate destiny.” What if we prayed that prayer every morning when our feet hit the floor?
You can’t easily shake a person who has totally surrendered their life to God’s care. And someone who has no fear of death because they’ve already place it into God’s hands is the freest person of all.
Take a moment right now to once again place your life and death into the Father’s hands. Now rest in the peace of Christ!