Fast & Loose

Jesus' Geronimo.

While doing some research on Jesus' last sayings, specifically "Father, into your hand I commit my spirit," I thought I'd see what some of the better known preachers had to say about it. Here are three that I found:

Finally, the cry, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," (Luke 23:46), also suggests that Christ expected (correctly) the immediate end of his suffering and estrangement and the welcoming of his spirit by God the Father. —Wayne Grudem in Bible Doctrine

If we are to take the Bible seriously, we must conclude that Jesus committed His spirit to the Father, not to Satan. —Mark McFall in The Apostles’ Creed and The Descent of Jesus Christ Into Hell

We should remember that God's arms are open and his hands extended to his dying children. "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit." Not: into the grave. Not: into the void. Not: into the dark unknown. But: into the hands of God. – John Piper

   I decided to add one more. D.R. McConnell created a brouhaha years ago with his book A Different Gospel where he called Word preachers anathema for teaching that Jesus' spirit was drawn into hades after he died on the cross. McConnell construed Jesus' commitment prayer this way:

Immediately before His death, Jesus committed his spirit into the hands of the Father (Lk. 23:46). At the moment of his death, he cried out loudly, bowed his head, and "yielded up His spirit" to God. (Mt. 27:50; Jn 19:30). —D.R. McConnell in A Different Gospel

   McConnell's statement is a non sequitur. Matthew and John didn't write the same thing. John's Greek literally reads handed over the spirit (παρεδωκεν το πνευμα, paredoken to pneuma) (see NET Bible notes), while Matthew's reads he released the spirit (afeken to pneuma). Importantly, neither evangelist penned "to God." That is McConnell's conclusion, not theirs.
  All four preachers appear to have played fast and loose with their rendering of commit (paratithemai). They've construed it to mean presence, that Jesus was saying something akin to I'm coming immediately to you. But this isn't consistent with what the Greek lexicons say paratithemi means. Listen to Louw & Nida:

παρατιθημι: to set before; commend; to give or provide for, with the implication of placing something in front of a person

   The New Testament writers didn't construe it the preachers' way, either. Paul, for instance, used it to signify a formal bringing before and presentation in the hope of acceptance. You can see it in these verses:

That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:17)

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. (2 Corinthians 4:14)

   He also used it for the offering of a sacrifice and bringing someone before a judge.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (Romans 14:10)

   So how are we to construe Jesus' prayer? We understand that he wasn't telling the Father that all was done and that he was on his way to heaven. He was saying, "Father, into your hands I present to you the fate of my spirit." Which is wholly consistent with the idea (the fact, really) that he had to bear the curse of the Law, the sin laid upon him, and exhaust it until the third day when the Father could accept his sacrifice on our behalf and resurrect him from among the dead.

GospelPeter Smythe