By Yolanda Pierce, Ph.D.,
Father, into Your hands, I commit my spirit…
This is the last of the seven phrases uttered by Jesus at Calvary. And with these final words, Jesus breathed his last breath, with a prayer on his lips until the very end.
Father, into Your hands, I commit my spirit…is a prayer of intimacy. Jesus calls on the Creator as a child calls on her parents. A mother can hear her child’s cry in the middle of chaos and noise. It is a piercing sound that tugs at the very fabric of her being. Jesus calls on the Father and this cry tears the veil that separated us from the Holy of Holies.
Father, into Your hands, I commit my spirit…is a prayer of trust. Jesus yields himself to hands that are capable, hands that will stretch forth and lift you up when you are weak. Jesus trusts that the Giver of Life will also be the Restorer of Life. In the darkest hour of his need, Jesus calls on the One who neither sleeps nor slumbers.
Father, into Your hands, I commit my spirit…is a prayer of commitment. The work of the Cross is given over entirely to God. Jesus reminds the believer of the most important part of ourselves, that which can never be destroyed: the spirit. And so, in mind, body, spirit, Jesus willingly and generously surrenders all.
And while we can acknowledge that this particular Friday is “good,” in remembrance of the life of Jesus, this day also marks a horrific, unjust, and violent death of an innocent man. On this day, the cross and the lynching tree both speak. On this day, we remember those who face death “all the day long.” So before we so quickly rush to the “risen” moment that will end this Lenten season on Sunday, reflect on the lessons of this final word and remember.
Remember those who have been killed by state violence; remember those facing social death in jails and prison.
Remember those who could not get a fair trial; remember those whose innocence may never be proven.
Remember those left behind to grieve and mourn; remember those who fear that their lives do not matter.
Jesus commits his spirit into the hands of his beloved Father: I pray for those who have never experienced the intimacy of a parent’s love and for those who so deeply miss that intimacy. Jesus commits his spirit into the hands of a trusting God: I pray for those who have been betrayed by hands they trusted and for those who are courageous enough to trust again. Jesus commits his whole self into the work for which he was sent: I pray for those who have committed their minds, bodies, and spirits to that which they believe and for those who are still longing for something or someone in whom they can place their hope.
Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce is the Director of the Center for Black Church Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she is also an Associate Professor of Religion & Literature. She blogs at Reflections of an Afro-Christian Scholar and you can find her on Twitter @YNPierce.