The Prayer for Commitment
We have gathered here today because we believe that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead. We believe that his resurrection is the central event of human history and the key to understanding the nature of this world and the nature of our individual lives.
The resurrection of Jesus is God’s great statement about his own purposes in the world and our purpose in the world as humans made in his image.
The resurrection of Jesus is the validation of his life and ministry and the confirmation of his claims to be the Son of Man, the Son of God, and the Promised Messiah.
An Astonishing Answer:
“He is not here; he has risen!”
Jesus committed his spirit to the Father with confidence and hope. The Father loved him, and he loved his Father. He prepared for his last breath in this way. He was fully expecting to be raised from the dead even though nobody else on Planet Earth was expecting it.
The women did not expect to hear this news that Sunday morning. They were carrying spices and perfumes that they had prepared so that they could complete the burial rituals. Jesus had been buried in haste in the dying sunlight on Friday. The Sabbath intervened, starting at sundown on what would still be Friday in our reckoning.
The women had forgotten Jesus’ words about being “raised again.” Everyone had forgotten them. They seemed like nonsense to the disciples and to the women. They could not process what he was saying. When they were reminded of his words, that he would die and on the third day be raised again, they remembered them.
They had intentionally dismissed those words since they could not understand them.
So the news from the angels at the tomb caught them totally by surprise just as it did with Peter and John and the rest of the disciples. No one that we know of was expecting Jesus to be raised from the dead.
The only people who seemed to take seriously the talk about the “third day” were the chief priests and the Pharisees.
- They were the ones who went to the Roman governor and said, “Sir, we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. The last deception will be worse than the first” (Matthew 27:62-64).
- Pilate gave the chief priests the job of securing the tomb and posting a guard, which they did. By so doing, the chief priests guaranteed that the disappearance of the body of Jesus from that tomb would be all the more perplexing and mysterious to those who did not believe, and all the more certain to those who did.
A Hopeful Prayer:
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Jesus is expressing the belief that life continues after the body dies. He had firmly confessed this in his teaching on heaven and the resurrection. He promised his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them, and that one day they all be together in the Father’s house. Now he is holding this truth firmly as he dies.
Jesus is expressing his love for the Father through this prayer. The Father loves the Son. Jesus knows this. So he is committing his spirit to the One who loves him the most.
Jesus is making preparation for the death of his body.
- He is anticipating being in paradise after his body dies. This is why he told the thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). Paradise was where God reigns and rules. However things unfolded for Jesus at the moment of his death, he was certain that the Father could be trusted to care for him.
- He is also helping the criminal hanging next to him with preparations for his death. He is speaking the word of faith to him and assuring him that the Father saw his repentant heart and would receive him into paradise.
A Confident Prayer:
"Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God" (Psalm 31:5)
Jesus may be quoting from Psalm 31 in this last prayer from the cross: εἰς χεῖράς σου παραθήσομαι τὸ πνεῦμά μου is the Septuagint translation of Psalm 31:5. The Greek in Luke reads εἰς χεῖράς σου παρατίθεμαι τὸ πνεῦμά μου. The only variation is the switch in tense from future to present for “commit.”
- Praying the psalms is one way to enrich your prayer life. Jesus quoted the psalms at least twice in prayers on the cross. These past mornings I have been spending time in the psalms, praying them to God and examining the structure of those prayers.
The psalmist refers to “my faithful God.” He was praying with complete confidence in the care and love of God.
- Jesus never questioned the faithfulness of the Father even though he was being put to death unjustly.
- We do not question the faithfulness of God because he sent his Son to die on the cross for us. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
I did chapel for the children in our daycare this week. I asked the three-year-olds how we know Jesus loves us. My great-niece, Ruby, said loudly, “Because he died for us on the cross.”
Jesus is expressing complete faith in the Father as he makes this prayer. He takes his spirit, as it were, the living essence of his life, and he places his spirit in the hands of the Father. He is descending into the darkness of death and the grave, but he is entrusting his essential being unto the Father.
- “I commit my spirit” is the word pneuma with the verb “to place down with any one, to deposit; to entrust, commit to one’s charge.”
This is a way to pray when you are in distress, when life has come undone and especially one day when you know you are dying or someone you love is dying.
I can commit my spirit unto God in a very personal way—in a way that I cannot commit your spirit unto God. Jesus said, “I commit my spirit.” We are spiritual beings and we are accountable before God for our spiritual life.
The scriptures say that Jesus “gave up his spirit” when he died. Some translations say, “released his spirit.” These translations of the verb “to let go, to yield up,” favor the idea that Jesus chose the moment he would die. No one took his life from him. He laid it down.
His crucifixion was something others did to him, though he did not fight them or resist. They committed sin by killing him. They had “wicked hands” (Acts 2:23). That is why Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them.”
He spoke sparingly throughout his trial and execution. The few words we have of Jesus from the cross indicate the silence that likely prevailed at Calvary in those last hours.
His crucifixion was the “cup” his Father gave him. He was willing to drink it though his flesh shrank from taking it. He was executed in the “predetermined counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).
Nothing went awry at Calvary. Wicked people did wicked things as they always do. We are helpless in this regard, all sinners. And God the Father loves us all, as he always does, despite our sin.
The outcome of this day was the greatest possible demonstration of the love of God and his purpose for us. Here he provided the path to our rescue from sin, death, and hell.
All that remains for us is to pray that prayer of confidence and faith that Jesus prayed from the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
We pray the prayer as sinners, not as the Savior. Jesus, though, was heaped with sin as he died. He suffered in our place for our sin. The Son of God secures our salvation by paying the penalty of our sin, descending into the grave on our behalf. He suffered for us so that we could receive the righteousness of God through him.
If you have never trusted Christ as Savior and Lord, why not pray this prayer unto Christ, asking for his forgiveness from your sin, and committing your spirit—your life—unto him.
This prayer also works for those who are dealing with despair, depression, heartache, and fear. If your spirit is stirred up by events or circumstances, tell the Father, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” Remember the invitation of the Lord Jesus, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).