What Did Jesus Mean by ‘Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit’? (2023)

“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). What did Jesus mean, and how does this impact our approach to death?

Verse in Context

Jesus had told the thief that “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Then the veil was torn; the sky went dark in the middle of the day, and Christ, with his last breaths, cried out “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Immediately after his death, Jesus died, and the centurion “began to glorify God, saying ‘this man really was righteous!’” (vs. 47). All the people who had watched him die “went home, striking their chests” (vs. 48).

This is a statement of guilt and fear, demonstrating that the people were affected by the astonishing things they had seen. Luke’s portrayal of Jesus’ death is intense and moving.

Jesus demonstrated a faith that seems impossible to emulate — believing, as he suffered more than any other human being will ever suffer, that the Father would raise him from the dead. He entrusted the God who allowed him to endure the cross.

Hand, Entrust, Spirit

Jesus always chose his words with care, and these three simple words help us to understand the full meaning of Luke 23:46:

1.Hand (cheirin the Greek) can refer to a part of the body, but also to “the instrument a person uses to accomplish their purpose.” Christ was trusting the Father to accomplish theirpurpose, established at the very beginning.

Christ’s faith was not merely that the pain would be over and he could ascend once more to his throne; his faith was in the fulfillment of his prophesied work, making way for God’s people to be restored to the Father by his blood.

2.Entrust (paratithémi) means “deposit with, entrust to, [...] bring forward, quote as evidence” or “to set close beside (right next to); (figuratively) entrust; commit to in a very up-close-and-personal way.”

Understanding this closeness amplifies the anguish Christ suffered but also reminds us that God did not eternally forsake his Son.

He turned away from the sin and the shame that was placed upon Jesus because God is holy, and he cannot abide sin (Psalm 5:4). But, as above, this was part of the plan. Christ trusted the Father not to turn away forever.

3.Spirit (pneúma) means breath, wind, spirit, or Spirit (as in the Holy Spirit). According to Strong’s Concordance, Jesus was committing to the Father “the vital principle by which the body is animated,” or his inner being.

His body was broken, but Jesus never lost his inner self. He did not sin before or during his ordeal. His body was laid in a tomb; his followers knew where he was until the morning, they discovered the tomb was empty.

Body and spirit were separated temporarily. Christ trusted the Father to reunite body and soul at the resurrection. He was telling the Father that he believed that on the third day, he would rise from the grave, body and soul, victorious over sin.

Another Implication of a Supernatural Deposit

I recall a pastor pointing out the implication of Christ committing his spirit to the Father: this was a deliberate act on the part of Jesus. The organization of the words indicates that Christ chose.

Throughout his ordeal, Jesus merely had to say five words: “I am not the Christ.” Had he uttered this sentence, Jesus could have gone home with a few lashes, humiliated, and alone.

Instead, because he is Christ, our Savior, Jesus chose to fulfill his saving work. When he knew the work was finished, he could let go of his mortal life.

“You are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God” (Psalm 31:4-5). Jesus echoed these words written by King David, who also demonstrated a deep faith in the trustworthiness of the Lord.

Our suffering and strife matter to God, but if we submit our very lives to Christ, he has a plan which will in some way glorify the Father.

Even if we suffer but still live, we can trust that God is carrying out a plan of resurrection in which we will see and experience his power in a personal way.

“And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’” (Acts 7:59). The apostles followed Jesus to the extent that they held their physical lives loosely in their hands and were willing to give them up if by their deaths they could win souls to Christ and glorify his name.

That was the purpose of their suffering, and they were able to believe it because Christ had gone before them, praising God and proclaiming forgiveness to sinners all the way to Calvary.

John Piper reminds us that death is not the end, “We will die like Jesus if we remember that like him we have a spirit which at the moment of death does not die but lives on with God. […] We should remember that God's arms are open and his hands extended to his dying children. [...] Not: into the grave. Not: into the void. Not: into the dark unknown. But: into the hands of God.”

What This Means for Us

Christians can take comfort and guidance from Luke 23:46. Here are three takeaways to consider:

1. Our spirits will be reunited with our bodies when we are resurrected with Jesus if we die before he returns.

Believers do not need to fight death in the body; in fact, why would they? “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord”(2 Corinthians 5:6). Like Paul, we long to be with God and he is faithful: the Father will take us to be with him.

2. Our deaths are not pointless. Even in the last throes of a terrible death from injury or illness, the Lord can and will be glorified through our suffering. The way in which we suffer impacts unbelievers and encourages believers.

Consider how Stephen’s or Paul’s or Christ’s own death impacted the people around them. The centurion knew, by the manner of his death, that Jesus was the Son of God. He was saved by the testimony of Christ that God is a good and trustworthy Father.

Jesus was already dead when the Centurion uttered, “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Luke 23:47) You might not get the chance to see how your faith leads others to Jesus, but it is happening.

3. As we are transformed into the likeness of Christ, we seek to adjust our perspective on death to match Christ’s own point of view.

A Christian longs to be like Jesus, so Christ will do a sanctifying work, which enables the Christian to prefer resurrection life over a short, broken, mortal life.

He helps the believer to let go of the flesh when the time is right, as per his own perfect plan for our lives.

What Does This Mean?

There is no need to fear death. Christ went before us into that mysterious place, and we can follow him. We can trust him, who first trusted the Father.

As Christians, death holds no power over us. For those who are afraid of death, the process of sanctification is going to deal with that fear.

Trust that the Lord will not only care for your spirit while you await resurrection but that he will also turn fear into a joy-filled faith if you place that fear in his hands. And trust, above all things, that there really is resurrection life for all who die in Christ.

For further reading:

Why Did Jesus Say, ‘Father, Forgive Them’?

What Is the Significance of Jesus’ Last Words on the Cross?

The Seven Last Words of Jesus from the Cross Explained

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Zoonar/J.Wachala

What Did Jesus Mean by ‘Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit’? (1)Candice Luceyis a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about herhere.

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