April

Dear Friends in Christ,

Hear these words of Jesus from the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” Luke 23:46

The hour has come.  The moment is here.  Jesus, who has borne the hurt of betrayal, the humiliation of arrest, the pain of beatings, the ridicule of his captors, and the anguish of crucifixion, finally breathes his last.  For many years, as I envisioned this moment, I saw Jesus in an attitude of meek surrender.  I imagined Jesus closing his eyes and whispering to God alone, “Father, into your hands...”  In my mind’s eye, I saw a calm repose sweep over my Savior, as in peace he gave his life over to his Father.  I imagined a private moment of intimate communion between Father and Son.

Over time, however, further study has suggested another interpretation.  Luke, the gospel writer, tells us that Jesus “crying with a loud voice,” said “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.”  Reading carefully sometimes makes all the difference in one’s understanding.  Whether Jesus’ words are a whisper or a shout makes a difference.  If his words are a shout then this poignant moment on the cross is not an occasion of meek surrender, but one of confident victory.  If his words are a shout, they are intended not for God’s ears alone, but for all to hear - the centurions, the thieves, the priests, the milling crowd, the disciples, and even you and me.  If Jesus’ last words to the world are not a whisper but a battle cry, then Jesus goes forth into death with powerful assurance.  His words declare the promise of victory.

The words “into your words I commit my spirit” are first heard, not in Luke, not from the cross, but in the Old Testament at Psalm 31:5.  At the end, as his earthly life passes away, Jesus rests not in his own strength and power, but stands instead on the word of God.  Despite trials and tribulations, betrayal and humiliation, suffering and death, Jesus declares a word from holy scripture.  As his final proclamation, he depends on God’s word to express his strong faith in the Father.

You may recall how at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was tempted by Satan.  For 40 days in the wilderness, the devil poked and prodded trying to turn Jesus away from the Father.  Satan urged him to seek his own will and express his own power.  When Jesus was hungry (Matthew 4:1-4)  Satan encouraged him to turn stones into bread, but Jesus refused.  Standing on the word of God, Jesus said “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  (Deuteronomy 8:3)  As at the beginning, so at the end, Jesus remains strong, trusting in God’s word.  He remains resolved to rely on God despite earthly pain and persecution, despite the agony of great suffering and sacrifice.

The whole of Psalm 31:5 reads “Into your hands I commit my spirit, you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”  At the cross, the powers of evil are unleashed in full force, but Jesus is not defeated.  With his last breath, he cries aloud with a shout of victory saying - I am redeemed. God is faithful.  I confidently yield all things to my Father.

May you and I be blessed and inspired by Jesus’ witness on the cross.  In the midst of trials and tribulations, when evil assails, when Satan takes his best shot, may we trust in God’s faithfulness, stand on God’s word, and yield all things in confidence to our victorious God.

May the victory of Good Friday and Easter fill you with hope!

Peace,
Rev. Peggy Ann Sauerhoff