I don’t think that you could have a complete cross story without this seventh saying. Part of the reason is the symbolic significance of the number seven. In the Bible seven represents perfection, fulfillment, or completion.
For instance, in the Bible, the seventh day is the Sabbath day, the completion of the week. By week’s end you were to have fulfilled your work so that you could dedicate the seventh day to the Lord.
So you can sort of see that the number seven carries this idea of completion or perfection.
And it is with this seventh word that Jesus perfects his work as our Redeemer. And when you understand what Jesus says here, you understand that is exactly what he is saying.
When he says, “Into you hands I commit my spirit,” he insinuates that two things are being brought to their completion. He’s announcing the completion of his obedience and his sufferings.
I. Jesus completes His obedience
In speaking these words, Jesus wants us to know that he is bringing his obedience to completion. Jesus came to earth to “fulfill all righteousness.” If he did not fulfill every jot and tittle of the law, we could not be counted as righteous before God. As lawbreakers, we need someone to fulfill the law on our behalf.
And that is exactly what Jesus does here. The evening is drawing nigh for Jesus. The Sabbath day is almost upon them. And for the Jew, the fourth commandment required a day of holy rest. And after this word, Jesus enters into a state of rest. He dies, and subsequently, he is laid in a tomb. And there he will remain undisturbed throughout the duration of the Sabbath.
But I want you to understand that physical rest was not the only thing required in the Sabbath command. It was supposed to be a day of spiritual rest too. As a matter of fact, that is the real purpose of the fourth commandment. The Sabbath was designed to be a day given over to God and devoted specifically to him. It was to be a holy day—a day where men spend time refreshing their souls in the worship of God.
Do you see what I mean? The Sabbath command calls men to cease from their labors and other worldly activities and so that one can spend as much time as he can enjoying communion with God.
And that’s exactly what Jesus tells us he is going to do here. When he says, “Into your hands I commit my spirit” Jesus pushes us out of this realm. He pushes us into the realm of heaven. He basically says, “Father, I have been agonizing on this cross all day. I have been doing the work you have called me to do. But in just a moment I am going to die. My body will be put in a tomb, but my spirit is going to come to you. And I look forward to being there with you, spending the whole Sabbath in your presence.”
So you see? By his voicing this word, Jesus shows us that even in his death he has fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf.
This is good news for you and me because we are Sabbath breakers!
Sure, we do not recognize the seventh day of the week anymore. Ever since the resurrection, the first day of the week is one God has appointed as his day of worship. But how many times have we squandered the Lord’s Day on ourselves rather than giving God the priority he deserves?
You know that time you skipped church so that you could go golfing? Do you know how much that offended God? Ladies, instead of seeking to commune with God, you played hooky so that you can go shopping with the girls.
You might not know it, but these are egregious sins in the eyes of God. If anything, it shows how tepid your love for God really is and how much you value your job or your recreation over him!
But friends, the last words of Jesus are, “into your hands I commit my spirit.” With His dying breath he expresses the anticipation he has for that communion with His heavenly Father. And by doing so he brings to completion his obedience and he fulfills that righteousness that we so desperately we lack.
But you’ll notice that it is not just his obedience that he completes. In these words we also see that he brings his sufferings to completion.
II. Jesus completes his sufferings
What is said here is something radically different than what we have witnessed so far in our service. The whole notion of Jesus coming into the presence of God to enjoy communion with him is a radical juxtaposition to all that the cross represents.
For the last several hours we have seen nothing but the rejection of Jesus. Here on this cross God has stripped him of every earthly blessing and completely abandoned him. The Father has essentially said, “You are utterly repulsive to me and I want nothing to do with you!” We even have Jesus’ own testimony. We heard him cry out and say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
But here in these words we see something radically different. Jesus says, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” The idea is that Jesus will no longer be pushed away—they will no longer be separated! Instead, he knows that in just a moment his spirit will ascend to heaven where the Father will open his arms to receive him.
And that can only mean one thing: Jesus has completed his sufferings. He has endured the totality of God’s wrath and curse and come out the other side. Or, as one theologian has said, Jesus expresses the fact that he is already begun to taste the sweets of his victory.
This is why those who trust in Jesus need not fear being condemned by God.
You need to understand that when you die, your body will be laid in the tomb, but your spirit will live on. If you have not turned from your sin and trusted Christ, you will awaken to find yourself in hell receiving the just punishment for your sins.
But if you place your faith in Christ, you can be assured that you will not suffer the least prick upon your soul. Jesus Christ has born it all and he has opened the way to the Father so that sinners like you and I may enter into the presence of God when our life on this earth is done.
The beautiful thing about these last words of Jesus is not words of departure; they are words of entrance.
And they are here to remind us that though we have lost fellowship with God, through the redemption of Christ we may have it restored.
This seventh saying of Christ heralds the perfect work of our Mediator: The curse of sin is broken…completely.
[The above message was delivered by Matt Timmons at the 2013 community Good Friday service.]