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Good Friday Lessons from Christ's Final Words (Lk 23:46)




Good Friday Lessons from Christ's Final Words

 

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Luke 23:46  (NIV)

 

When reading literature or watching a movie or a play, often the very ending is the most important part. In the conclusion, the author or director tells us what he wants us to leave with or feel. It’s similar to a person’s final words; one’s final words often reflect what is most important to them and can at times teach us many things.

 

Charles Darwin, most known for his evolutionary theory, last words were: “I am not the least afraid to die.” This showed his pride and rebellion even in death. Leonardo Davinci, inventor and painter, said, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” It is clear from his last words that he was a hard worker and a perfectionist—his life was about his work.

 

In church traditions, the Friday before Easter is called Good Friday, because it’s the day Christ died on the cross for our sins so by faith in him and his Work, we can have eternal life. In Luke 23:46, we see Christ’s last words as he was dying on the cross. He said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Why did he say these words? What do they say to us?

 

In John 8:28, Christ said, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” Christ only spoke the Father’s words. Therefore, Christ’s words weren’t simply provoked by pain. They were intentional, in line with God’s will, and they speak to us today. What did Christ want all those who stood around him to know as they heard his last words? Around Christ were friends, enemies, and those probably watching out of causal interest. 

 

As we consider Christ’s last words on Good Friday, we’ll take several lessons from them to apply to our lives. This is especially important for us to consider since Scripture says that his death not only saves us but is meant to give us encouragement to faithfully live our lives. The writer of Hebrews said this to persecuted Christians to help them not give up and to faithfully run their race:

 

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 

Hebrews 12:2-3

 

Consequently, there are many lessons we can learn both from Christ’s death and his final words.

 

Big Question: What lessons can we learn from Christ’s last words on the cross and what do they teach us about being more like him?

 

Lesson One: Be Childlike

 

One of the first things the Jew watching Christ would have noticed about Christ’s final words was that he quoted a Jewish lullaby derived from Scripture. William Barclay, a New Testament scholar, said, “every Jewish mother taught her child to say this last thing at night.”[1] It was very similar to the English nursery rhyme, “Now, I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” It came from Psalm 31:5. When the threatening dark of night came, the child would pray to God “into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jewish children were taught to trust God in the midst of darkness, even as David (the author of Psalm 31) did in the midst of his enemies. Jesus essentially recites a Jewish lullaby with the exception of adding Father to the beginning of it. Therefore, every Jew would have recognized these words as Christ said them before dying—it would have reminded them of their childhood or their children.

 

What can we learn from this?

 

Certainly, we can learn from Jesus to be childlike. Even in death Jesus was like a child falling asleep in his Father’s arms, as he committed his life into God’s hands. Earlier in Christ’s ministry, he said this to his disciples in Matthew 18:3-4:

 

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 

To become like a little child represented absolute trust and dependence upon God for salvation. We cannot be saved by our own works but by trusting totally in Christ’s work. He lived a perfect life that we could never live and died on the cross, in our place, for our sins. To enter the kingdom, we must give up striving to earn salvation by our good works and accept it as a free gift from a loving Father, with childlike faith. Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

In addition, Christ taught that childlike faith is not just needed to enter the kingdom but to be used by God greatly. Those who are the greatest in God’s kingdom are like little kids. They have learned to depend on God like a small child does his father. Instead of living independently from God, as many Christians do, those whom God uses greatly have learned they can’t live without daily studying God’s Word, being intimate with him in prayer, depending on the body of Christ, obeying and serving God. Consequently, God uses them greatly.

 

Martin Luther, whom God used greatly to bring the Great Reformation during the Middle Ages, was asked one time what his plans for the next day were. In reply, he said: "Work, work from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” He also famously said, "If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day.” He was like a child, totally dependent upon his father, as demonstrated through his prayer life. No doubt, this was the reason, God could use him so greatly.  

 

Growing spiritually is, in many ways, the opposite of growing physically. Children start off totally dependent upon their parents for food, clothing, and education. However, as they get older, they become more independent. With growing spiritually, it is the opposite. We start off dependent at salvation, and we grow in dependence for the rest of our lives. God often uses trials for this purpose. He uses trials in school, family, or friendships to show us, we need him. And as we draw near him, he delivers us from pride and independence, so he can empower and use us more.

 

Likewise, Christ, as demonstrated by his last words, was the perfect child. He perfectly submitted to the Father throughout eternity, and he walked in total dependence upon him on the earth in a way he never had as God, the Son. He said, “I only say my Father’s Words. I came to do my Father’s will.” And at death, he entrusted himself into the Father’s hands. Consequently, he was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven—the perfect child.

 

Are we like a small child with our heavenly Father? Have we run to him for salvation—repenting of our sins and putting our faith in the death and resurrection of his Son for salvation? Do we run to him daily by getting in his Word and being intimate with him in prayer? Do we run to him when we are lonely and run to him when we’re worried about our future or scared? Do we run to him to hear his voice and allow it to calm our fears? Christ said those who do are part of his kingdom, and as we grow in this, he can use us greatly for his kingdom.

 

Are we like a child—constantly depending on him? Or, are we independent (Christian atheists)? That’s the first lesson we can learn from Christ’s words.

 

Application Question: Why did Christ say that it was necessary to become like a child to enter the kingdom and become great in the kingdom? How should this childlikeness be seen in our daily lives? How can we grow in childlikeness?

 

Lesson 2: Be Hopeful

 

The fact that this was a typical Jewish lullaby children prayed before bed also symbolized to the Jewish readers and those originally watching that he was confident and hopeful that he would “wake up.” He knew that his death would not be the end, but only a sleep. His Father would ultimately protect him. It would not be an ultimate separation from God and others, but only a temporary one, as he would soon awake to eternal life through the resurrection.

 

In fact, Jesus used similar terminology with Lazarus when he died. He said to the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up” (John 11:11). Christ essentially prophesied Lazarus’ future resurrection by speaking about his death as sleep. Some Jewish bystanders might have understood the implication of Christ’s last words and maybe even mocked him and considered him a crazy person. He was on the cross, bloody and bruised, and yet he spoke like a child going down for a short nap.  And as you know, Jesus did sleep, but only to wake up three days later. He was confident and hopeful.

 

Listen, if we are “in Christ”—meaning we profess him as our Lord and Savior and identify with his life—then we can be hopeful as well. Our death will be as temporary and harmless as sleep, and our last words will only be a lullaby to wake up to eternal life and to one day have a resurrected body like Christ.  

 

Hope for All Trials

 

But not only that, I think the hope of the resurrection that Christ demonstrated in his last words also should speak to us about any trial we go through. If God can use the worst thing that ever happened on the earth, the crucifixion of his Son, and make it the most triumphant thing, how much more can he use our trials, or even mistakes and failures for the good? We have a God that throws nothing away; he can use it all for his glory.

 

Christ’s final words speak to us and say, “Be hopeful!” Are we hopeful? There are too many depressed and discouraged Christians who are living without hope and joy. Paul said this in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9:

 

... We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

 

There will be times when we are under great pressure, far beyond our ability, even to where we despair of life. But hear this: God allows these times so that we will not rely on ourselves but on him who raises the dead.

 

Are we hopeful? Our Savior slept only to rise again and so will we.

 

Application Question: Why is hope so important in our lives? Why is our future resurrection so important and how should this reality affect our lives? How should God’s promise of working all things to our good affect how we go through trials (Rom 8:28)?

 

Lesson Three: Be Biblical

 

Another application we can take from Christ’s last words is not only his childlike trust and hope in God, but also his love for his Daddy’s words. Two of the phrases right before his death were, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” which comes from Psalm 22:1 (Matt 27:46), and now, he quotes from Psalm 31:5. In death, Christ’s words and thus his heart was full of Scripture.

 

Likewise, Charles Spurgeon, a famous commentator and preacher, said Christians should spend so much time in God’s Word that if someone cut them open their blood would be Bibline, full of the Bible. Listen to what he said about John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress:

 

I would quote John Bunyan as an instance of what I mean. Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like the reading the Bible itself. He had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress—that sweetest of all prose poems — without continually making us feel and say, “Why, this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God. I commend his example to you, beloved.[2]

 

If someone curses, hits, or cuts us, what would come out of our mouths? Does Scripture spill out? Jesus said whatever comes out of the mouth shows what is in the heart (Luke 6:45). This is what we see from Christ; his blood was Bibline. When they mocked him, cursed him, and even put a spear in his side, Scripture flowed out of his being, and this should be true of us as well.

 

As we see scripture flow out of Christ in the hour of his greatest trial, let this remind us to be people who hide God’s Word in our hearts. Let us be people whose words are Bibline, whose prayers are Scriptures before God, and whose encouragements or rebukes to others come from our Father’s book.

 

What’s in our hearts? What daily comes out of our mouths? Let it only be our Father’s words. Christ’s final words tell us to be biblical.

 

Application Question: Why is abiding in God’s Word so important for our spiritual lives? How do you practice the spiritual discipline of studying the Bible? How is God calling you to grow in its study, so your blood can be “bibline”?

 

Lesson 4: Be in Awe of God

 

In Christ’s last words, we also see a paradox. Luke does not quote all the words Christ said right before death. Jesus actually speaks two other phrases before this last one. As mentioned, he said, “My God, My god, why have you forsaken me” (Matt 27:46) but also, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The paradox is that Christ declares before his final words that God has forsaken him, which no doubts reflects how he bore the sins of the world and the consequent separation from God. But yet, his very last phrase speaks of deep intimacy with God, as he says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” The reader who is paying attention, must ask, “What is going on? How can he be forsaken and at the same time be intimate?”

 

Here we see the paradox. Many believe this is a picture of Christ’s full humanity and his full divinity. As the Son of man, fully human, Christ was separated from God, as he bore the sins of the world. He took the separation we, as humans, deserved. But yet as the “Son of God,” fully God, the second person of the Trinity, Christ could never be forsaken. The Son of God has never not been one with the Father. Therefore, in his last words we see both his humanity—forsaken of God—and his divinity, “asleep in the Father’s arms.” A regular man could never die for the sins of the world. Only the God-man could. Jesus was both the Son of God and the Son of man. In Christ’s last words, we are called to stand in awe of God and worship him.

 

As a human, our God understands us. He understands pain. He understands being misunderstood and being left alone. He understands temptation and can relate to us. But as God, he can save us and give us daily grace to be delivered from sin.

 

Christ’s final words, tell us to stand in awe of God and worship him. No religion offers such a God. The God of Scripture is beyond human comprehension. He is the transcendent—outside of creation—and yet immanent—near us and intimate with us. We must worship and love him with all our hearts, minds, and souls.

 

Application Question: Why was the union of deity and humanity in Christ so important for our salvation? In what other ways do we see this mystery demonstrated in Christ’s life? How should we respond to this seemingly impossible reality?

 

Lesson 5: Be Prayerful

 

Christ’s last words were not only a nursery rhyme and Scripture, they were also a prayer to God. Throughout his life, Christ was known for prayer. Before he began his ministry, he spent forty days in prayer and fasting (Matt 4:1-2). Throughout his ministry, he would commonly get up early in the morning and go to a solitary place to pray (Mk 4:35). Before he chose his disciples, he spent a night in prayer, seeking the Lord’s will (Lk 6:12-13). He prayed so much the disciples asked him to teach them how to pray as well (Lk 11:1). Before he went to the cross, he spent three hours in prayer in a garden (Matt 26:36-44). And even on the cross, Christ was in prayer (Matt 27:46, John 19:30, Lk 23:46, etc.).

 

We likewise must be people of prayer. Scripture tells us that when we’re worried, we should pray. First Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Instead of worrying, we should pray about everything and trust that God hears, cares, and will respond in the best way. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray continually” or “pray without ceasing.” This does not mean we need to always be in constant dialogue with God, including while we are sleeping. The word “continually” or “without ceasing” was used of somebody with a hacking cough. A person with a hacking cough does not cough without ever stopping, but they cough continually throughout the day. Likewise, we should constantly come to the Lord in prayer, with thanksgiving, praise, lament, intercession, and requests, even as our perfect Lord did.

 

Lesson 6: Be Saved

 

Christ’s last words, which were a lullaby Jewish children would pray to God before they went to sleep and was a picture of his trust in God that he would wake up in the resurrection, is also a challenge for us to call out to God for salvation and put our faith in him. On the cross, Jesus entrusted himself to God who would save him from death. Likewise, Scripture calls us to call out to God to be saved from eternal death—separation from God and his blessing in a place of eternal fire. Jesus died so we could be saved and have eternal life, and the resurrection was proof that God accepted his payment for our sins.

 

However, in order to be saved, we must cry to God in faith, even as Christ did on the cross. Romans 10:13 says, “for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” God has provided a means of eternal life through his Son’s death on the cross and his resurrection.

 

Being saved is as easy as ABC.

 

1.     A. We must ACCEPT that we are sinners under the judgment of a holy God (Rom 6:23).

2.     B. We must BELIEVE that Christ died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead (Rom 10:9).

3.     C. We must COMMIT to Christ as our Lord and Savior and follow him for the rest of our lives (Rom 10:13). In committing to Christ, we must repent, meaning turn away from our sin and living for ourselves (or others) and commit to living for God.

 

Romans 10:9-10 says,

 

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

 

If we accept, believe, and commit, God will save us and give us eternal life through his Son, even as God heard Christ’s prayer and raised him from dead. Have we committed to Christ and turned away from our sins? God is calling us to do that today.

 

Conclusion

 

The last part of a movie, a play, or a book is often the most significant. It’s the same for a person’s last words. They often tell us a great deal about that person: what was most important to them, what they regretted or wished they would have done, or even what the person wants us to do. They are often very informative and teach us how to live our lives or not live our lives. Again, Charles Darwin’s words demonstrate his pride and rebellion. Da Vinci’s words demonstrate his passion for work and perfection. What do Christ’s final words before death say to us?

 

They tell us to, “Be Childlike, Be Hopeful, Be Biblical, Be in Awe of God, Be Prayerful, and Be Saved.”

 

Application Question: Which principle gained from Christ’s last words stood out most and why? What other questions or applications did you take from this study?

 

 

Prayer Prompts

 

·      Pray for God to draw us to a greater, childlike dependence on him through prayer, time in his Word, fellowship with the saints, obedience, and service.

·     Pray for God to deliver us and those around us who are going through difficult times in health, family, work, studies, or concerns about the future. Pray that what the devil means for bad that God would use for good, and that God’s resurrection power would be demonstrated mightily in their lives.

·      Pray for grace to fully commit our lives into God’s hands and that he would use us for his glory and kingdom.


[1] Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of Luke (p. 342). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.

[2] —”Mr. Spurgeon as a Literary Man,” in The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, Compiled from His Letters, Diaries, and Records by His Wife and Private Secretary, vol. 4, 1878-1892 (Curtis & Jennings, 1900), p. 268.

 

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