Into your hands I commend my spirit.
St. Anselm taught that the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross was something only a man must do and only God could do. Jesus is true God and true man, one person of the Trinity with two natures. Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped but came down in love and took on the form of human flesh. He was obedient unto death, even death on a cross. He shared with us in everything but sin. His sacrifice is now complete. His establishment of the new Passover meal is now complete. His earthly ministry is now complete. Sharing in our humanity he will endure death.
With this last word he continues to teach his children. Perfect in every way, he is the perfect rabbi. He reminds us that death is – even for us – a temporary condition. Our spirit will live forever. Our soul is immortal, and Jesus shows us the way because he is the Way. He says into your hand I commend my spirit. Jesus has shown through the passion that he is not merely the victim but is also the priest. He is choosing his path at the end of his life. He chooses to be with his father in Heaven forever. We need to choose our destination. If we participate in the life of Christ, if we take up our cross and carry it to our Calvary, if we choose mercy over judgment, then we choose to commend our spirits into the care of our heavenly father. We choose to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus and the father.
Our eternal souls will be united with our glorified bodies when Jesus comes back at the general judgment. We choose in this life where we will spend the next life in those glorified bodies.
Jesus has completed the making of the New Covenant. The Law written in the books of Moses is now written in our hearts. Jesus has shown his disciples how to live the law within our hearts, how to live in response to the great dignity he gave us in creation. Now he shows us how to die in that dignity, in the supremely confident knowledge of who our father is and how much he loves us.
It has been dark because of an eclipse for the three hours Jesus has been hanging on the Cross. The heavy curtain inside the Temple has been torn in two. Mary and the other ladies, along with the younger son of Zebedee, watch this gruesome execution in horror and anguish. Now the soldiers are told to break their legs and bring things to a more rapid end. Methodically, they break the legs of the two thieves crucified with Jesus. They pause before moving toward the True Cross, the cross on which Truth Incarnate has been condemned to die; condemned by the arrogant Roman Empire in cahoots with scheming religious leaders. One more affront to God: breaking his legs after breaking his heart.
The soldiers will not get the chance, for Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son, has one last message for his followers before he gives up his earthly life. He will die in obedience to his Father’s will. He will humble himself to die on a Cross. But he will not die until he has imparted one last lesson for his Church. Loving us, he loved us to the very end.
With no breath left, with his very last breath, he showed everyone the communion of love that is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Father, he says, I who never left you for I am you, put into your hands myself, my entire self. You entrusted to me the salvation of mankind, and I now entrust you with all that I am as I allow my human life to perish on the Cross. I am the perfect sacrifice, the sacrifice that redeems Man, who fell from grace through the presumption of Adam at the dawn of time.
Mary, he says, you recalled on my walk here to Calvary the words of Simeon when I was a child, and your heart is pierced as you watch your blameless son die like a criminal. But your suffering is not in vain. By your compassion standing at the foot of the Cross, you have shown all my children for the rest of time how to live with suffering, how to take something dreadful and make it holy.
John, so young you did not know to run away like the other men, write down your own account of these events, when you are an old man and have gained true wisdom. The ruler of this world, the Father of Lies, thinks he has won because God is soon dead, but he has fallen prey to his own lies. The God of the Living does not die. I commend my spirit to my Father’s hand, for I am in him and he is in me. Tell the other disciples that death is not the end of man. You are my greatest creation, and my plan is to be with you in Heaven beyond all ages. Remember my instructions last night in the Upper Room. Love one another as I am loving you by dying to self and glorifying God.
This Roman state, this worldly state, thinks that its will and its power give it immortality. This state will die and be replaced many times over, for the power to kill cannot overcome the power of Everlasting Life. I am not executed. I lay down my life for the sins of all men throughout all time.
See how power of the state is shown to be powerless against faith.
See how the instrument of terror is become the means of salvation.
See how the Cross of the Lord is revealed to be the Tree of Life.