Death on the Cross

KEY VERSE: “When Jesus had cried with a loud voice he said, Father into thy hands I commend my spirit, and having said this he gave up the ghost [spirit].” —Luke 23:46


THESE words of Jesus do not mean that he relinquished his hold upon an immortal soul which flew away to God when his body died. The word ghost, more correctly rendered ‘spirit’, is a translation of a Greek word which means ‘air’ or ‘breath’, the breath of life. It is often translated life, so Jesus’ expression simply means that he was giving up his life, and that in death he depended upon his Heavenly Father to restore his life. He had offered his human life to God in sacrifice, and now that the sacrifice was about completed he was leaving himself entirely in the hands of his God as to what the future might bring.

Earlier, Jesus had cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” These words might seem to indicate that for the moment his faith in the Heavenly Father’s care faltered; but not so. Jesus, recognizing what was taking place, identified the fulfillment of a prophecy. This prophecy was in the nature of a prayer, and Jesus quoted from it in the expression, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”—Ps. 22:1

In this psalm mention is made of the piercing of Jesus’ hands and feet, casting lots for his garment, and the derision of the people who watched him die. We think it not unreasonable to suppose that Jesus may well have given expression, at least in his heart, to this entire prayer while he hung on the cross. The fact that he could see the fulfillment of many of its details taking place before him would certainly strengthen his faith in the victorious outcome of his distressing experience.

Some who stood by the cross when Jesus raised his voice in this prophetic prayer, announced that he had called for Elias. This seems to be a case of falsification, a further heaping of ridicule upon the Master, for if he called Elias and Elias did not come to his aid it would help to prove the case they had trumped up against him; namely, that he was an impostor.

Just why the name Elias was introduced in this connection is not clear. Perhaps it was based upon a superstition which may have been held by some of Jesus’ enemies. Certainly the Master had never called upon anyone for help except his Heavenly Father. Besides, Elias was dead, and could not help him in any case.

Jesus knew, from the detailed prophecy of this psalm, that his opposers would say, “He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him.” (vs. 8) But he also could take comfort in the assurance that though all, including some of his disciples, had concluded that God had forsaken him, this prophecy voiced his assurance that even as his Heavenly Father had so wonderfully overruled all the circumstances of his coming into this world, he would also that of his death and resurrection. “But thou art he that took me out of the womb, thou didst make me hope upon my mother’s breast. I was cast upon thee from the womb; thou art my God from my mother’s belly.” (vss. 9,10) And now he was in a situation of complete helplessness once again, and had to rely solely upon the power of God to protect and restore his life from death. These thoughts, too, were prophesied: “But be not thou far from me, O Lord, O my strength, haste thee to help me.”—vs. 19

We recall also another meaningful prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection—Psalm 16:10—expressing his own confidence that his soul would not be left in hell, and that the Heavenly Father would not permit his Holy One to see corruption.

Jesus had made no claim of ability to raise himself from the dead, but was confident that his Heavenly Father would not leave him in death, so in his last words on the cross he said to his God, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit”—my life, my existence. The Apostle Peter, speaking on the Day of Pentecost, said, “This Jesus hath God raised up.”—Acts 2:32

The Apostle Paul refers to the mighty power of God which was exercised to raise Jesus from the dead, and to exalt him to the right hand of the Father. He wrote to the brethren at Ephesus that they might understand the “exceeding greatness” of divine power which was exercised in that outstanding event. This same power, he shows, is also available to “us-ward who believe.”—Eph. 1:17-22

Dawn Bible Students Association
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