When Jesus called out from the cross, “It is finished,” he was saying farewell to earth. When he said to God, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46), it was an entrance greeting to heaven. His spirit was to be separated from his body. He had assurance of his spirit’s continuance apart from the body. Those who are in Christ may have that same assurance now.
His death was an act of his will. Yes, he was killed by wicked people (Acts 2:23). But in a deeper sense his death was purely voluntary. Neither Judas, nor Caiaphas, nor Pilate, nor the soldiers took his life from him. “He gave his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). No human power could have touched him unless he permitted it. Only when he declared that the appointed time had come, did he allow his enemies to arrest him (John 12:23).
He had said to his disciples, “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 I have authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 10:17-18).
This tells us of the Son of God’s complete agreement with and submission to the Father’s eternal plan of redemption. For this the Father loves him. Jesus will give resurrection life to those who believe in him. But in order to do that he must experience it himself. To be raised from death, he must first die. His resurrection must be preceded by his death. This was the Father’s loving purpose for his obedient Son.
This was not a form of suicide, nor a martyr complex, nor fatalistic resignation. This was his authority to terminate his physical life, and then to resume that physical life in the resurrection. Only the Son of God has that authority. In this he exercised his power over death, to make possible our deliverance from the power of death.
So he “cried out again with a loud voice” (Matthew 27:50), “bowed his head” (John 19:30), and committed his spirit to the Father (Luke 23:46). In one moment he lost consciousness of the terrible scene in front of him and was immediately conscious of being in Paradise, in the presence of the Father. His body was taken down from the cross to be buried by the hands of humans. His spirit was taken into the loving hands of the Father in heaven.
This helps explain the Lord’s earlier words to his disciples, “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father” (John 16:28). If you and I believe in this Jesus, his word proves as true for us as for them, “The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God” (John 16:27).
Pastor Randy Faulkner