Luke 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he said this, he breathed his last.
What would you like to be “king” of? At different stages of life, we aspire to be king over different things. When I was four or five, I would have been happy to be king of my own bedtimes, to be the ruler of my night time hours. That power was beyond reach, but one can always dream.
As we grow older, the dreams and goals change. In our teens we would like to have control over our transportation, own a car, be kings of our travel. In adulthood life becomes more complex. We scramble to be kings of our finances, our careers, our family life, and our waist lines. None of these are ever completely under our control. Cars break down and investments fail. Jobs are terminated and family members all have a mind of their own. Metabolisms slow down. Still, we strive to become the kings of our own little corner of the universe.
Then there are those who thirst for power over others. They set their eyes on ruling a company, or even a nation. A few madmen have entertained notions of ruling the entire world. Then everyone would bow down and call them “king.”
The thirst for power and control stems from the very first sin of our very first parents. No longer willing to live under God, they wanted to be like God and replace him in their lives. They would make the decisions about right and wrong. They would choose their own path. They would rule the world the way that they wanted it to be. Isn’t that what we want, too? Let’s not deceive ourselves. Even our service in the church is often more about making things the way we want them to be than it is about seeing God’s will fulfilled. The words Milton gives Satan in Paradise Lost occupy some dark corner of our own souls, “It’s better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven.”
Neither the most powerful dictator or most glorious emperor ever possessed power like Jesus did. “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” His disciples exclaimed when he calmed the storm. Lifeless loaves of bread grew and multiplied in his hands. Sickened, crippled bodies became whole and healthy at his touch. Souls returned and re-inhabited the dead at his command. Even the demons fled in terror when he rebuked them. What other king on earth ever ruled a kingdom like Jesus ruled?
Do you suppose that Jesus left this kingship behind when he went to the cross? He looks so passive and helpless there. But that agonizing suffering and death is rather a marvel of his power and control. At every moment he had the power to stop it. Though he dreaded the price he would pay for our sins, as we know from his prayer in Gethsemane, Jesus controlled even himself. He ruled over his fear and dread of the cross. He suffered willingly. This man suffered pain and agony of body and soul unknown to anyone else who has ever lived, but he did not give in to the impulse to escape and find relief. Even when he cries out to the Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” does this move him to give up, to admit that it is too much for him, to go away in defeat? Only the most powerful King of heaven and earth could endure what Jesus endured to the very end.
And then there are the final words from his lips: “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” Jesus is the King of this world with all its forces. He is Ruler of his own mind and will. Now he is also the Lord of life and death. “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life– only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18). Jesus dies when he chooses. His own soul stays or goes only at his command. And now he says to his soul, “Go! Go to my Father. Everything I came to accomplish has been done.”
Why does Jesus rule like this? Why does the King subject himself to suffering and death? The Kingship Jesus covets is not to be king of the weather, or king of diseases, or king of the demons. He does all this so that he can be the King of our hearts. He suffers and dies to purify them from the sins that otherwise make them unfit for his kingdom. He reveals such love to win those hearts to his side and bring them home.
He gives up his soul to be King of you and me.