Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit
How does God die? It’s the cornerstone of our faith, and I cannot fully understand. When I think about it too long, my head hurts. But this I do know: it was not a charade that Christ was playing with the Father. It was a real death, and it was not taken, but given. It was a real submission. He gave up His spirit. He Himself spoke of this, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of Myself.” (John 10:18)
I lay it down of Myself. Of my own accord. We’re talking about His very life here. How could He save anybody if He was dead? How could this possibly be the way? Individualism, self-sufficiency, and worldly definitions of success are so entrenched in our cultural and religious milieu that we can hardly suffer submitting an afternoon to the Lord, much less a killed desire, a deferred hope, a lower bank account, a larger body. Much less our very lives themselves. Christ was perfectly submitted to the Father in every moment of His human life, making this final submission no less astounding, but also utterly consistent. There is no way to do this halfway, He tells us. Either God is God, and He is sovereign and good and worthy of all sacrifice, suffering, and praise…or He is not. We cannot shop God like a buffet. Christ’s submission is a full, utter, giving over to the extent of ceasing to live. Not merely a placing under, but a giving over, a relinquishment of His hold on and rights to His life.
And the words He chooses to communicate this? Again, he turns to the Psalms: the songbook of the full spectrum of human emotion. Again, He does not speak lightly or choose randomly. Again, His words point to the far more that He is truly saying. In this moment of final submission, Christ speaks David’s words from the midst of a psalm that is all about proclaiming the truth of the character of God, and how it is worthy of trust.
Today, on this strangely Good Friday, we are in need of trust. In the midst of an increasingly uncertain world, we are in need of trust. We are in need of turning to one another to remind that we serve a God who is a rock and fortress, our strength and our Redeemer. We are in need of hearing, and proclaiming to each other the words of this psalm, “Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!” We are in need of submission of all that seems broken and backwards and impossible and un-Good, to the God who is the same today as He is on Sunday; the God who is always – always – working redemption.
Yes, Jesus the God knew the grand arch of salvation history, and had even spoken of His own resurrection. But Jesus the man had experienced none of it, and He still had to die, trusting in an impossible promise. Submitting to a silent Father. Let us not cheapen the weight of this example simply because we find it so difficult to emulate.
There is a point on this day where words end. When the questions and the achings and the anger and the lament grow silent in the picture of suffering that acknowledges their worth as well as their proper place. We cannot have resurrection without death, we cannot have freedom without submission. Christ’s words, and the depth of His trust in His Father, brought Him all the way to death. To drink the cup even though He had asked it to be taken away. To submit that not His will, but the Father’s be done. But He can do so, perfectly for our example, because He knows the heart of the One to whom He is submitting. He knows the promises, even if He has not yet lived through them on earth. And He loves the Father. He loves Him enough to believe that even when He cannot see, that these hands – these mysterious hands that created light from darkness, that draw life from death, that craft pathways of goodness through pain – the Father’s hands never fail, never let go, and are never able to be snatched from.
Into those hands, Father, we submit.
And we confess that we are terrified of that prayer.
May this Good Friday be not merely one of remembrance, but one of submission. Submission to the fortress and rock, the strength and Redeemer, the One who has laid up good things for His children, who calls us to wait and to hope. On this darkest of uncertain days, may we trust the God who is making all things new, even when so much of how remains an unseen mystery.
I see my faith before me
It’s always there before me
And I can no more own it
Than I can own the road that I am on
And I don’t know where it leads me
I don’t know where it leads me
Peace and resurrection
Suffering and dejection
I don’t know
My body’s tired from trying to bring you here
My brow is furrowed trying to see things clear
So I’ll turn my back to the black
And wait for the mystery
To rise up and meet me
Sara Groves, Mystery