What Is the Significance of Jesus’ Last Words on the Cross?

Parts make up a whole. This is true in art, nature, and even in the design of human bodies. Seemingly small details can be easily overlooked or ignored despite being important to understanding an entire painting, flower, or individual cells of skin.

For instance, a tree may seem sturdy from a distance, but examining the small details of the leaves up close can indicate health or sickness. Details are significant.

Not only is this principle helpful in different aspects of life and areas of study, but this is true in biblical passages as well. Individual words and phrases can carry great meaning, although they can be easily overlooked.

Some Christians may be so familiar with the crucifixion account in the gospels that they forget to examine the details, which not only provides meaning to the crucifixion but also provides greater insights into the significance of Jesus’ death.

Jesus spoke seven different times on the cross. Each statement holds great meaning. Specifically, in Jesus’ very last words recorded in Luke 23:46, many significant truths can be found.

These words signify that not only did Jesus willingly die, but He also displayed a deep trust in the Father and knew that death was not the end of the story for Himself and neither is it for His followers.

Father into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit Meaning

Crucifixion by the Romans was an extremely painful and humiliating way to die. Jesus endured ridicule and curses while struggling to push His body up the cross to breathe (Matthew 27:41-43).

The Savior suffered, but He was always in control. His life was not at the mercy of the Romans, Jews, or even the tortures of the cross. He gave up His life and willingly died in place of mankind for their sins (John 10:11,15).

Although most translations are clear that Jesus entrusted or committed His spirit to the Father, some do not make His willing death as clear as it should be. For instance, the Good News Translation simply states, “He said this and died,” (Luke 23:46).

While it is true that Jesus died at that moment, the wording seems to imply that it was a passive death. The Weymouth New Testament translation is helpful in showing that Jesus “yielded up His spirit,” indicating His control and choice in dying. Jesus freely committed His spirit to the Father.

This last statement on the cross correlates with Jesus’ previous teachings about His willing death. No one forced Him to die nor was He a helpless victim to which the wrath of God was poured out. Jesus is the God-man who came to die for the sins of the world (John 1:1,29).

As Christ stated in John 10:17-18, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (NIV).

Father Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit Old Testament Origin

Significantly, Jesus’ final words on the cross are a direct quotation from Psalm 31:5. In this Psalm, danger surrounds David, and his enemies seem to be winning (Psalm 31:1-4). David describes himself as the contempt of his neighbors because of his enemies (Psalm 31:11).

Interestingly, David described his plight in a way that mirrors the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion: “For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side. They conspire against me and plot to take my life” (Psalm 31:13, BSB; Matthew 27:1). Amid the seeming victory of his enemies, however, David expressed trust in God (Psalm 31:5,25).

Likewise, Jesus’ enemies sought to take His life and convinced the crowds to call for His crucifixion (Mark 15:11-15). Although He was completely innocent, Jesus was nailed to the cross (Luke 23:33). This follows the theme of Luke’s gospel, which focuses on how Jesus is the sinless Son of God.

Multiple times throughout Luke’s narrative of the crucifixion, he shows how Jesus is innocent; a fact recognized by many including Pilate and Herod (Luke 23:4,13-15), the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:40-41), and the Centurion (Luke 23:47).

The quotation from Psalm 31:5 further solidifies Jesus’ innocence and follows the theme of Luke’s gospel.

Jesus’ enemies, including Satan, thought that they had won because of Jesus’ death, but failed to see that the death of Jesus was not the end of the story. Jesus’ quote from Psalm 31:5 showed His deep trust in the Father, knowing His enemies would not be victorious.

Just as David trusted in the Lord, Jesus trusted the Father, whom He committed His spirit to when He willingly died. The crucifixion is not the end of the story, for Jesus rose victoriously on the third day, as He said He would (Luke 24:1-8). Following the empty cross is the empty tomb.

Into Your Hands

In Greek, the word “commit” or “entrust” (paratithémi) has the idea of presenting, entrusting, or even depositing (Strong’s Greek: 3908).

So, when Christ states “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” He is presenting His spirit to the Father to be kept safe, as a deposit (Luke 23:46).

Because of His close relationship to the Father, Jesus fully “entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23, NIV).

Believers can find great comfort in Jesus’ statement, for just as Christ entrusted His spirit to the Father, so also can they be assured of their spirit going to Christ at death.

A person’s spirit does not cease to exist after death, for Jesus’ statement teaches the soul’s immortality, which is affirmed elsewhere in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 5:6).

Later, when Stephen was being stoned to death because of his testimony of Jesus, he earnestly cried in prayer, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59, NIV).

Having learned Jesus’ statement and its significance, Stephen expressed a similar steadfast trust of his spirit being received, just as Jesus had at the crucifixion.

Because Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), Stephen trusted that Jesus would receive his spirit in Heaven because of the Savior’s willing sacrifice.

Other Christians throughout time, in addition to Stephen, have also prayed a similar prayer at their death. Jan Hus (or John Huss) also entrusted his spirit to Christ when he was being burned at the stake.

Reformer and theologian, Martin Luther, prayed the words of Psalm 31:5 the night before he died, entrusting his soul to God.

Christians can fully trust that they will be with the Lord when their physical life ends since their soul will automatically be in Christ’s presence (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23).

Details Matter

All of Christ’s seven statements on the cross hold great significance. Jesus’ final words in Luke 23:46 are noteworthy because they indicate that He willingly and freely gave up His life, trusted in the Father despite His enemies’ evil intentions, and reminds Christians that their souls will be received by God when they die.

Seemingly small details or statements can be easily overlooked when reading the Bible, including the crucifixion account. However, Jesus’ final words before His death are very important, not only theologically, but also regarding how Christians live in the present.

Followers of Christ can live in confident trust that their eternal destiny was secured by Christ, who freely gave up His life to die in the place of sinful mankind. Because of their faith in Him, believers have the hope of being with Him forever.

For further reading:

Why Does it Matter That Jesus Rose from the Dead?

What Is the Significance of the Cross?

Why Did Jesus Have to Suffer So Badly?

Who Is to Blame for Jesus’ Death?

What Is More Important, the Death of Christ or His Resurrection?

What Is the Importance of the Empty Tomb?

What Does it Mean That Our Citizenship is in Heaven?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/ronniechua

Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.   

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