Into Thy Hands I Commend My Spirit

On this Good Friday, let us give our attention to the final of those seven last words of Christ on the cross that awful afternoon, as recorded in Luke 23:46:

“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he breathed his last.”

In his book, Nearer, My God, William F. Buckley relates a story that the actor David Niven told him during the filming of a television documentary (p. 209). The story took place in 1940, in the waters just off Dunkirk, in France. World War II had begun. The Nazis had overrun the European continent, had destroyed the French army, and had pushed the British Expeditionary Force to the point of annihilation at Dunkirk as that army waited for rescue from across the English Channel. Thousands of soldiers and civilians were trapped. Three thousand of them crowded onto a rescue ship sent from Britain called Lancastria. Now listen to Niven:

They were just pulling up the anchor when three dive bombers came. One bomb hit, went down the funnel and blew a huge hole in the side, and she quickly took on a terrible list. In the hold there were several hundred soldiers. Now there was no way they could ever get out because of the list, and she was sinking. And along came…a Roman Catholic priest, a young man in Royal Air Force uniform. He got a rope and lowered himself into the hold to give encouragement and help to those hundreds of men in their last dreadful hour…knowing he could never get out, nor could they. The ship sank and all in that hold died. The remainder were picked up by the destroyers and came back to England to the regiment I was in, and we had to look after them, and many of them told me that they were giving up even then, in the oil and struggle, and the one thing that kept them going was the sound of the soldiers in the hold singing hymns.”

Simply to reflect on that story is to create a sacred moment.

Into Thy Hands I Commend My Spirit.

As holy a moment as may be created, however, the truth is that “Thy hands” is the last place we want our spirits — our lives — most of the time. To commend our spirits into God’s hands means surrender; giving away; giving up; transferring power and control.

I’m afraid that I spend far more time thinking about what I want from God than what God wants from me. And what do I want? Most of all, affirmation. I’d like God to have a look at my life right now and pat me on the back. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Second, I’d like comfort and security — a great job; a clean, safe home; warm lights in the lamps; good food on the table; happy laughter in the air. I’d like a reasonable number of kind friends; pleasant company, but not too demanding. Third, I’d like to be healthy, and I’d like my friends and loved ones to be healthy. If my kid smashes his finger, I’d like some immediate divine intervention to relieve the pain. My list goes on, but by now you’ve stopped listening, because you’re thinking of your own list, and it’s long, too. We want quite a lot from God.

In Mere Christianity (p. 174), C.S. Lewis asks us to imagine ourselves as a living house:

God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

God is not a bigamist. He won’t share. Placing our spirits into God’s hands means the end of self, and that can be frightening. It is not our ignorance of God that stops us from committing our spirits to Him. It is precisely the opposite. We know that committing our spirits to Him will cost everything. Indeed, Jesus specifically warned us to count the cost, and he made clear that half measures are not enough. Have a look at Luke 14 if you need a reminder. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” (The Cost of Discipleship). How’s that for a rallying cry? “Come and die.”

Into Thy Hands I Commend My Spirit.

And yet in one of the great paradoxes of Christ’s teachings — perhaps the greatest — He says that it is only by losing our lives that we gain them, and that our quest for everything except God is exactly what will eventually kill us.

In addition to its high cost, on the surface at least, a life in Christ is unappealing because it makes no logical sense. Effort and reward have been disconnected entirely; up means down; winning means losing; and loss means gain. Because that life is both so costly and so counter-intuitive, we step back. Yet this stepping away can trigger divine stresses signaling that we are in the wrong place looking for the wrong thing. Those stresses, those sometimes unidentified forces of opposition, may well be the voice of God. He is not affirming us; instead, He is turning us. The great German pastor, Helmut Thielicke, once said, “As long as you have not met God as one who opposes you, you haven’t met him at all.” (Life Can Begin Again, p. 40). Have you met the God who opposes you? If so, how thankful you can be for that encounter!

When we reflect with a clear mind and an open heart, can we see that there is no better place, no safer place, to commend our spirits except into God’s hands? But our pain in that moment of surrender will not be slight; it will be real, just as Christ’s was.

In this very last of His last words, Christ quoted from the fifth verse of Psalm 31. King David ended that Psalm with these words:

O love the Lord, all ye his saints; for the Lord preserveth the faithful….Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.”

That’s the outcome for those who will surrender everything, even life itself, into the hands of God: strengthened hearts now, and preservation for all eternity.

Take my life and let it be

Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,

Not a mite would I withhold.

Take my heart, it is Thine own,

It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour

At Thy feet its treasure store.

Take myself and I will be

Ever, only, all for Thee.

Frances Havergal


Jeffrey S. Bromme, Esq. is the Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer for the Adventist Health System.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

When Jesus said “finished”…what was finished?

1 Like

Thank you, Jeff, for your words that cut, silence, and usher in an appropriate season of introspection as we behold the Cross.


This is the best article I have read here at Spectrum, Thank you so much!

I was so smitten by this article that I had no words in my initial response and thought about it all weekend long - the only thing I would add to it is that this paradox can only be considered in the context of the greatest paradox of all, at that moment where Christ commended His Spirit to the Father. If we believe that Christ is God, and that He died, then God somehow died at that moment. This was not the death that we all humans must face (first death), but rather the eternal separation from God (second death), which is why Jesus cried out “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” And yet we are all invited to die with Christ so He can resurrect us as He was. Alleluia!I


While this may be intended as an Easter message, it is the best “capstone” article/commentary I’ve come across to complete this quarter’s stewardship Sabbath School lessons.
Thank you for the effort of putting thoughts on paper and sharing with Spectrum’s audience.


“It is finished” –
Colossians 2:14 – He cancelled the record of the charges against us and took it all away by nailing it to the cross. [15] In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities [Satan and his helpers – whether angels or humans]. He shamed them publicly by His VICTORY over them on the cross."–new living trans.

Christ is Risen! – “Death is swallowed up in Victory!” Death now becomes only a “sleep” – that Christ may go and awaken those who “sleep in the dust”.
Christ is Coming Back! – coming back to awaken those who sleep in the dust.

THIS is why many Denominations at Communion shout! Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again!
Because!! It IS Finished!
One of the readings scheduled for Easter is Isaiah 25:6-9. vs 6- In Jerusalem, on Mt. Zion, the Lord will spread a wonderful feast for all the people from around the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meats. [7] there he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. [8] Death will be swallowed up in Victory. [9] the people will shout – This is our God! We have waited for Him! We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation!"
Revelation 21 and 22 reveal the Fulfillment of Isaiah’s wonderful picture. Picture becomes reality.

It is interesting to NOTE-- The one HUGE source of actual anger the Sadducees had with
Jesus was that “Jesus believed in the resurrection”. The Sadducees Did Not because they
claimed the Resurrection Was NOT stated in the Old Testament.
It is a great calamity that they could NOT read “Resurrection” in this section of Isaiah.
Isaiah 25:7,8.

1 Like

Gideon, thanks for your question. I read that the literal translation of “It is finished” is tetelestai and that it oocurs only in John 19:28 and 19:30. In the first it translated as all things were accomplished and in the second it is finished. I read further that the word tetelestai was written on business documents to show that a bill/ debt had been paid in full.
My question to you is, to whom was the debt owed - to whom had the debt been paid?

Being from that beautiful Nordic haven known as Finland, I always believed that those words were rather simple. As amateur student of language, I’ve always wondered what the language of Eden, of heaven was, until I read John 19:30. “It is Finnish”. That explains why Finnish is no mere derivative of any other known human tongue!

Back to the article, though.

Imagine-first “daddy, how could you forsake ME, the first and elder son?”
“Yet, into your hands I commend (paratitheimi, Strong’s #3908: pronounced par-at-ith’-ay-mee) my spirit.”

from 3844 and 5087; to place alongside, i.e. present (food, truth); by implication, to deposit (as a trust or for protection):–allege, commend, commit (the keeping of), put forth, set before.

What sort of trust is this, the trust OF Jesus, in a daddy that had just forsaken him?
Talk about crises in faith! And yet he trusted. And rested. This, is it not the ultimate sabbath?
No self efforts whatsoever, no doctrines proudly crowed, no misdeeds to claim he didn’t do…
I suspect there is a rich motherlode of treasure in this story.

Thank you for this Jeff!


When Lucifer revoiled And carried Adam with him, the entire universe questioned —How can God be just and yet justify the ungodly? The Christ event from the manger to the Cross answered that question. So Christ acknowledged it by crying out. it is Finished. Can we accept that assurance? He appeared to John as King of Kings. Does He rule in our hearts?

Thanks Tom. I have always appreciated your comments . Do you have any further thoughts as to why the language /terms of accounts/ debts was used? Best wishes for Easter.

The story is told of the hostess was passing a platter of her favorite cookies around to her guests… One guest said not thanks, I’ve already had two. she replied Three but who is counting? Lucifer set the stage, God had to demonstrate both His justice and His Mercy. The debt payment analogy was the best way to demonstrate His justice and Hs mercy. The debt we owe has been paid in full.

1 Like

I [quote=“Credere1, post:11, topic:15667, full:true”]
Thanks Tom. I have always appreciated your comments . Do you have any further thoughts as to why the language /terms of accounts/ debts was used? Best wishes for Easter.

have to tell a story about LLU before Graham Maxwell. I joined the Dental faculty in the summer of 1958.At the first fall meeting of the Dental faculty, onof the main items on the agenda as a report that a second year student had marred as soon a school of out in the spring.It had been noted that the wife delivered a 7 Lb baby boy in Sept. Only four months or less after the wedding. The issue was to expell the Dental student with the option of reapplying the following year… I objected. I said in effect just think of what you are labeling that young mother and the name you are giving an innocent baby. all to no avail. A latter faculty meeting was held to determine the fate Of a student and faculty member. it seemed that the faculty member had a sailing sloop with a cabin.The faculty member, wife,and a Dental student and girl friend sailed to a off shore island…On the return, the Dental student and his friend were left alone in the cabin for the entire trip back to Long Beach. This case ended in only a warning. Now theydon’tkeep Score. I guess they think the Investigative Judgment would do.

1 Like

The corrupted /warped use of “It is finished.” has done considerable harm to churchgoers.

Thanks Tom and best regards

This essay reminds me of the words of Richard John Neuhaus in his sterling work Death on a Friday Afternoon. They are compiled by one more eloquent than I am. Se

The paragraphs below are part of RJN’s meditations surrounding Jesus’ words, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

“It is finished.” An artist — perhaps a sculptor, painter or composer — may say that. The artist starts out with an idea, maybe calling it an inspiration; there are testings and false starts, but the artist sticks with it, sees it through and at some point stands back and says, “It is finished. That’s it. That’s what I had in mind, or at least it is what came to be of what I had in mind.” So it is with any creative activity, whether it be a painting, the making of a fine piece of furniture or the opening of a business. So it is also when something has gone wrong and we set out to remedy it. The wrong is set to right and there is a deep satisfaction in having seen it through, in having brought a task to completion. Perhaps there is something of that in this Sixth Word from the cross, “It is finished.” But the analogy with our achievements, or with any achievement we can imagine, is pathetically weak. The dissimilarities are immeasurably greater than the similarities.

For one thing, it appears that he is finished. By any ordinary measure this is not completion, but poignant failure. It is death. It is the demolition of all those grand hopes he had aroused. He started out announcing the coming of the kingdom of God, and he ends up here. Some kingdom. Some king. The jeering crowds around the cross are having the last laugh. He talked so splendidly: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” What kingdom? What comfort? What inheritance? The time has come to face the fact: It is finished, it is over.

Standing there with Mary, his mother, is John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and he saw it all. Seeing it all, he would years later write, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” As he wrote, there echoed in his mind the first words of the Hebrew Scriptures, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And God spoke his Word and said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. The Word, says John, is the light. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” And so say people beyond numbering to this very day. It is not over. It is finished.

Everything now and forever is to the glory of God. In his glory is our good. Humanity, said Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, is the cantor and caretaker of the universe. In directing the universe to the praise of God, however, we do not simply put the cross behind us. Quite the opposite is the case. In a cruciform world, the cross is the epicenter of everything. “It is finished” does not mean that suffering and loss and the rivers of tears are things of the past. “It is finished” means that they do not have the last word. It means that love has the last word. Recall Kurtz in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” who, after a lifetime of slave trafficking in the Congo, dies with the words on his lips, “The horror! The horror!” The cross means that the horror is not the last word; at the heart of the horror is hope, because at the heart of the horror is Christ. In the beginning and in the end and all along the way was and is and ever will be the Word. Jesus told them, “In the world you will have trouble, but fear not, I have overcome the world.” He will overcome the world because he has overcome the world. “It is finished.”