Jesus’ Seven Last Words, sayings offered from the cross, may serve as guidance for the spiritual life. You have been invited to contemplate each saying during the seven Wednesdays of Lent and Holy Week. This is the final installment of the series.
As I read again the words surrounding this final exclamation from Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, I am struck with awe. “The sun’s light failed…darkness came over the whole land from noon to three…Jesus crying with a loud voice…he breathed his last… ‘surely this man was righteous’ praised the Roman centurion…the crowds returned home beating their breasts…the women remained watching from a distance.”
Executions are horrible scenes. And witnessing a person we dearly love pass the edge of life can feel like falling off a cliff ourselves.
The traditional final words of Jesus were the words that inspired his whole life. That seventh saying of Jesus on the cross, with its seven words, another quotation from the liturgy, the psalms, expresses trust—“into your hands,” purpose—“I commit,” and offering—“my spirit.” This is the beginning and conclusion of every prayer, every just act, every compassionate act, whether we say it or not:
“Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
It’s a recognition of something greater than us, greater than our needs for survival, reputation, and power—the very temptations Jesus faced in his forty day fast after his baptism, the period Lent commemorates.
It’s an affirmation that we live for meaning, communion, and compassion. A spirituality that doesn’t provide these three elements leaves us wandering in the wilderness.
A God who offers these values is worthy of our trust, our life’s purpose, and daily offering of our spirits. In other words, our faith, hope, and love.
“Into your hands I commit my spirit” is not just a transitional affirmation, it is a transformational affirmation.
This is not a once-in-a-lifetime conversion but a daily lifting of the cross of those who suffer personally, politically, economically, environmentally, and spiritually.
The Greek word pneuma is used for both spirit and breath. Only recently has it been pointed out to me that in Matthew’s version of Jesus “breathing his last,” the word is not possessive, as in “gives up his spirit.” Rather, Jesus “releases the Spirit,” indicating an immediate Pentecost, manifested in Matthew by the tearing of the curtain veiling the temple’s holy of holies, earthquakes, the opening of tombs, and the resurrection of some saints.
The Greek word translated “release” can also mean “forgive,” as in being released from debt. Jesus’ first words from the cross, “Forgive them,” is now incarnated in his final action.
As in many a horrific event, there is more meaning in the crucifixion than meets the eye for those with faith, hope, and love.
For those who would like daily readings for the remaining days of Holy Week, click here and scroll down to the end of “Jesus Preaches in the Temple.”
Enter “Easter” in the search box on the blog’s upper left corner for additional readings for Easter. Here are three of them:
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