Question: "Why did Jesus say, "Into your hands I commit my spirit," on the cross?"
Answer: At the very end of Jesus’ life, as He was hanging on the cross, the sun was darkened and the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Then “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46).
Of note is the fact that, when Jesus said, “Into your hands I commit my spirit,” He was quoting Scripture, Psalm 31:5, to be exact. Earlier, Jesus had also quoted from Psalm 22:1 from the cross (Matthew 27:46). In everything Jesus did and said, He fulfilled the will of God and the word of God. Even in the throes of death, our Lord was sensible of His mission and pointed those around Him to the fulfillment of prophecy. Psalm 31 is a prayer of David in distress, full of trust in God, and in Luke 23 the Son of David echoes the same prayer:
“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God”
But Jesus’ words from the cross were not wholly didactic; they also expressed the true feeling of His heart. As centuries earlier David in his extremity had cried out to God, so does Jesus feel an acute and pressing need for help, and He turns to the “faithful God,” the only true source of aid. In the midst of all His trouble, Jesus’ spirit reaches upward for relief, with a strong confidence in the One who alone is a worthy refuge.
Jesus prays, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” because it is only in the Father’s hands that our spirits are safe. In speaking of the security of believers, Jesus had taught, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29). We are in the habit of securing our most valuable earthly treasures in a safe or a bank vault, where we know no harm will come to them. From the cross, Jesus shows us that our most valuable of treasures—our spirits—should be committed for safekeeping into the Father’s hands.
The moment we are saved, we commit our spirits into the Father’s hands; we trust Him for our salvation. From then on, life is lived in a day-to-day commitment of our spirits into the Father’s hands. We commit our spirits to Him in our service to Him, in our daily decisions, and in all our joys and sorrows. And, when the time of our death comes, we follow Jesus’ example and say yet again, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
As Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was being stoned to death, he prayed a modified form of Jesus’ prayer from the cross (Acts 7:59). Through the years, many other Christians have found comfort in Psalm 31 and at the time of their death repeated Jesus’ words from the cross. Among those who said, “Into your hands I commit my spirit,” as they were leaving this world were Polycarp, Jan Hus, Martin Luther, and Philip Melanchthon.