Jesus' Last Words, Psalm 31 and Psalm 22
In this Lenten devotional, we look at two verses from Psalms that Jesus said in His last moments on earth and what His work on the cross means for us.
BY Hannah Buchholz
We are in the season of Lent, with Holy Week right around the corner. As a quick refresher, Lent is the 40 days before Easter; it is a time to lead our hearts to the Cross. We remember what Jesus did for us and repent of our broken way of life. It’s also a good time to remember your baptism, as Lutherans like to say. The season starts with Ash Wednesday declaring that we came from dust and will return to dust, but because of our baptism, we have been brought into new life and the family of God.
As we approach Holy Week - Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday - let’s look at two Psalms Jesus quoted as he hung dying on the cross:
- Psalm 31:5 - Into your hand, I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. (Luke 23: 46)
- Psalm 22:1 - My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? (Matthew 27:46)
The Last Words of Jesus
Into your hands, I commit my spirit
As He died, Jesus was still praying the Psalms. This quotation from Psalm 31 shows us that Jesus was in control of His death. As He said in John 10, “No one takes [my life] 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 charge I have received from my Father.”
In obedience, Jesus gave His body to death on the cross and gave His spirit to God. As commentator David Guzik shares, “This shows that Jesus gave up His life when He wanted to and how He wanted to. No one took His life from Him; He gave it up when His work was finished. Jesus is not a victim we should pity, but a conqueror we should admire.”
Those who heard Jesus' final words and knew the scriptures would have known the second part of the Psalm: You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
Jesus knew his Father to be a faithful redeemer. At His death, Jesus trusted His Spirit to His Father. We can also trust our spirits to him with confidence they are safe and secure in His hands (John 10:29).
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me
This prophetic psalm was originally sung by King David. We can find parallels to Jesus' situation throughout Psalm 22:
- He was mocked and scorned (Psalm 22:8 and Matthew 27:43)
- His hands and feet were pierced (Psalm 22:16 and Matthew 27:35)
- They cast lots for his clothes (Psalm 22:18 and Matthew 27:35)
Jesus is the Messiah that fulfills the Scriptures.
As Jesus cried these words, a transaction was taking place. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). As commentator David Guzik shares, “Jesus endured not only the withdrawal of the Father’s fellowship but also the actual outpouring of the Father’s wrath upon Him as a substitute for sinful humanity. Horrible as this was, it fulfilled God’s good and loving plan of redemption. Therefore Isaiah could say, Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him (Isaiah 53:10).”
King David could identify with feeling forsaken by God. Maybe you can too. Jesus sympathizes with us in our weakness because He, too, has experienced suffering (see Hebrews 4:15, 2:18, and 5:8). The writers of GotQuestions.com put it this way, “Our fully God, fully human Savior identifies with us in every way, even in our weakest moments—even when we feel like God has abandoned us. Through Christ’s total identification with us, He gives us permission by His own example to pour out our hearts to God.”
What this means for us
- Jesus prayed to the very end, and we should, too. Jesus’ prayer rhythms throughout His time on earth can help us pattern our own rhythms. And when we don't know what to pray, we can pray the Lord's prayer or scripture as He did with His final breath. Prayer is powerful and effective (James 5:16)
- Our spirits are safe with God our Father. Many have followed Jesus’ example and said, "Into your hands I commit my spirit" as they died, including Stephen the Martyr and Martin Luther. Christians take comfort in knowing our spirits are safe with Him for all eternity.
- He was forsaken so we don't have to be. Of all seasons, Lent is a time to remember our desperate need for a savior. As we look to the cross and then the open tomb, we take comfort that the punishment that we deserved - the punishment that brings us into peace with a Holy God - was put upon Jesus' shoulders. He felt the wrath of God but now, our hope is secure. Jesus did this because He wholly loves you.
Looking to the cross this season reminds us of our own sin and the brokenness of all humanity. And in that light, the empty tomb - a reminder that we are beloved heirs, redeemed and saved - is made even sweeter.
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