Giving Up His Spirit?

J.C. Ryle

Notice the remarkable words our Lord spoke when He died. We read, "When he had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit - and having said this, he gave up the spirit" (Luke 23:46).

There is a depth of meaning, no doubt, in these words that we cannot understand. There was something mysterious about our Lord's death, which made it unlike the death of any mere man. He who spoke the words before us, we must carefully remember, was God as well as man. His divine and human nature were inseparably united. His divine nature, of course, could not die. He Himself said, "I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:17-18). Christ died, not as we die when our hour is come - not because He was compelled and could not help dying - but voluntarily and of His own free will.

There is a sense, however, in which our Lord's words provide a lesson to all true followers of Christ. They show us the manner in which death should be met by all God's children. They afford an example every believer should strive to follow. Like our Master, we should not be afraid to confront the king of terrors (that is, death). We should regard him as a vanquished enemy, whose sting has been taken away by Christ's death. We should think of him as a foe who can hurt the body for a little season, but after that has no more that he can do. We should await his approach with calmness and patience, and believe that when flesh fails, our soul will be in good keeping. This was the mind of dying Stephen: "Lord Jesus," he said, "receive my spirit." This was the mind of Paul when the time of his departure was at hand. He says, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day" (Acts 7:59; 2 Timothy 1:12). Happy indeed are those who have a final end like this!

Adapted from The Gospel of Luke by J.C. Ryle (Chapter 23).

Originally published July 19, 2010.

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