Today is called Good Friday. What a strange designation! On this day, we remember the execution of a supposed criminal who threatened the power brokers of his society. Thus, he needed to be eliminated.
Notice the other hands that were involved in the cruel events of Good Friday. A perfectly innocent was delivered into the hands of sinners who tortured and crucified Him (Matthew 17:22-23). He was betrayed by a sinner into the hands of sinners (Matthew 26:45). With “wicked hands” (Acts 2:23) they crucified Him.
How comforting it must have been now for Jesus to entrust Himself into the loving hands of His heavenly Father! How encouraging it is to know that today is called Good Friday because death died the day Christ died.
Where do we appeal when life throws us its worst? To use the phrases of Max Lucado: What do you do when life seems futile, sin seems fatal, and death seems final?
Throw your anchor into Psalm 31:1-5. The climax of the passion narrative in Luke’s gospel reads: “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)
Why does Jesus pray this Psalm prayer?
- To remind us of where to appeal when a situation seems hopeless.
Jesus prayed this prayer to point us to whom we appeal when everything around us is imploding – to our heavenly Father. J.I. Packer reminds us of the glorious privilege for Christians to call God “Father:”
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. ‘Father’ is the Christian name for God.
- To strengthen our resolve to pray this prayer after Him. Jesus prays this Psalm to give suffering believers a model prayer. The words from this Psalm have for centuries formed part of the evening prayer of Jewish believers and probably did so for Jesus as well. Jesus had heard this prayer all of his life.
Peter counsels suffering Christians in 1 Peter 4:19: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” Many thousands of believers have pillowed their heads with this prayer of Jesus as they have gone to their eternal rest.
J.C. Ryle, an Anglican pastor in the last 1800s, writes that Jesus’ prayer affords …an example which every believer should strive to follow. Like our Master, we should not be afraid to confront the king of terrors. We should regard him as a vanquished enemy, whose sting has been taken away by Christ’s death. We should think of him as a foe who can hurt the body for a little season, but after that has no more that he can do. We should await his approaches with calmness and patience, and believe that when flesh fails our soul will be in good keeping.
Biblical Example: The dying Stephen at his martyrdom uttered words that mirrored Christ’s: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). The aged Apostle Paul declared: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Athanasius offers this counsel to his friend Marcellinus:
“When you see that you are despised and persecuted for the truth’s sake by all your friends and relatives, do not give up concern either for them or for yourself. And if you see your acquaintances turning against you, do not be alarmed, but separate yourself from them and turn your mind to the future and sing Psalm 30 (our 31).”
- To offer assurance to dying believers so that they are enabled to die a peaceable death.
This prayer of Jesus reminds us what a wonderfully assuring privilege and security it is to live and die conscious of the reality that we indeed belong to the Lord and that we have God for our Father. The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism written in 1563 AD reminds us of this: “What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ…”
- To remind us implicitly of who He is. (what he prays and how he prays it). Jesus prayed this prayer to give us an implicit reminder that He is fully God. If we look at that Psalm, we see that Jesus stops short of quoting the entire verse. Psalm 31:5: “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” Why would He not finish the verse? Because the end of the verse did not apply to Him! Instead, the verse pointed TO Jesus because He Himself is our Redeemer! He brings about the redemption of His people as He Himself is redeemed from death.
A loud cry is unusual from a man nearly dead by crucifixion. This is not an inarticulate death cry but a final prayer to God. Jesus had declared that “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17, 18.)
Because Jesus was delivered into the hands of sinners, we can all the days of our lives and at the moment of our death entrust ourselves into the hands of our loving Father.
Horatius Bonar wrote: “Twas I that shed the sacred blood; I nailed him to the tree; I crucified the Christ of God; I joined the mockery. Of all that shouting multitude I feel that I am one; And in that din of voices rude I recognize my own. Around the cross the throng I see, Mocking the Sufferer’s groan; Yet still my voice it seems to be, as if I mocked alone.”
Prayer: Father, into whose hands your Son, Jesus Christ, commended his spirit, grant that we too, following his example may in all of life and at the moment of our death entrust our lives into your faithful hands of love. “To You we now entrust all that we have received from You, so shall we lose nothing. You made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” For we pray in the name of Jesus, who gave his life for us all. Amen.