Red Letter Year: 9/19

Luke 23.44-56

44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.

47 When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.” 48 And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow [literally: beating their breasts]. 49 But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.

50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, 51 but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. 54 This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.


Mark and Matthew record Jesus quoting Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Luke records Jesus quoting Psalm 31, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” We might be tempted to read this as Luke trying to make Jesus sound less desperate, less out of control, less forsaken, but if you read on in Psalm 31, you don’t get that sense at all:

5 I entrust my spirit into your hand.
Rescue me, Lord, for you are a faithful God.

6 I hate those who worship worthless idols.
I trust in the Lord.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not handed me over to my enemies
but have set me in a safe place.

9 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress.
Tears blur my eyes.
My body and soul are withering away.
10 I am dying from grief;
my years are shortened by sadness.
Sin has drained my strength;
I am wasting away from within.
11 I am scorned by all my enemies
and despised by my neighbors—
even my friends are afraid to come near me.
When they see me on the street,
they run the other way.
12 I am ignored as if I were dead,
as if I were a broken pot.
13 I have heard the many rumors about me,
and I am surrounded by terror.
My enemies conspire against me,
plotting to take my life.

14 But I am trusting you, O Lord,
saying, “You are my God!”
15 My future is in your hands.

Except Jesus has been handed over to his enemies and they have carried out their plot to end his life. His friends are watching from a distance, and he is surrounded by terror. Death, pain, and mocking are all around him on that hilltop. Yet, he entrusts his spirit to the Father, trusts in a rescue not limited by the death Jesus feels coming over his own body. Jesus dies and in dying shows us how to face death. For centuries, Christians have prayed this at the end of their lives, pastors and loved ones have prayed it over corpses: into your hands Father, I commit my spirit.

But Jesus doesn’t just show us how to face death. This should not be a prayer reserved for the end of life. It is a prayer we should pray with such regularity that at the moment of death it springs to our lips from well-worn habit. The cross shows us how to live – live committing our spirits to the Father. I really hope you will pray that today and often. Into your hands, Father, I commit my spirit.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.