Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)
Commenting on this passage James Montgomery Boice points out that…
From very early in the history of the church, preachers have noted that Jesus’ last words show that he was in total control of the situation, as he had been in every moment of his life. For these are not the words of an exhausted man, as if Jesus merely died from dehydration, loss of blood, shock, extreme fatigue, or suffocation. Not at all. They record a deliberate act of dismissing his spirit.
There was Jesus, hanging on a cross, betrayed and condemned by cowards and liars, but hanging there nevertheless by his own choice, in his own time. He had been sovereign over every moment of his life, and he was now sovereign over the exact moment of his death.
Even though we are not like Jesus in that regard, we can still learn a great deal from his example. Boice astutely observes that with his last breath, Jesus was quoting Psalm 31:5. The final paragraphs of Boice’s commentary are penetrating.
This shows what Jesus was doing on the cross, particularly in these last moments. He was reflecting on Scripture… Four of the seven last words were from the Old Testament. Only Jesus’ direct addresses to God on behalf of the soldiers, to the dying thief, and to his mother and the beloved disciple were not. This means that Jesus was filling his mind and strengthening his spirit not by trying to keep a stiff upper lip or look for a silver lining, as we might say, but by an act of deliberately remembering and consciously clinging to the great prophecies and promises of God. If Jesus did that, don’t you think you should do it too? And not only when you come to die.
You need to fill your head with Scripture and think of your life in terms of the promises of Scripture now. If you do not do it now, how will you ever find strength to do it when you come to die? You must live by Scripture, committing your spirit into the hands of God day by day if you are to yield your spirit into God’s loving hands trustingly at the last.
To live well, and to die well, we must saturate our hearts and minds with the word of God.
- All above excerpts by James Montgomery Boice are taken from Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter, (pp. 99-100)