Famous last words:
“Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”
Consider what some have said as their death approached:
Macbeth: “Out, out brief candle; life’s but a walking shadow.”
Goethe: “Light! More light!”
Anatole France: “Draw the curtain; the farce is played out.” and
Jesus Christ: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”
As a hospital chaplain, I’m sometimes privileged to share someone’s final moments of life. As I look back these passing’s, I see how these words of Jesus reflect his deep belief in a God who loves and will not abandon any of God’s children. And these words remind me of something Dr. Karl Barth said while on a lecture tour of prestigious American universities during the early 1960s. Barth was a Swiss Reformed theologian who is still regarded as the greatest Protestant theologian of the 20th century. For while teaching in Germany he dared to confront Hitler, preaching Christian truth to power. Barth was then driven from his teaching position in Germany and exiled to his native Switzerland. He is very much a saint of our times.
People jammed the University of Chicago’s chapel to hear Barth speak. Perhaps his most memorable answer came to a jaded journalist who asked: “Dr. Barth, what is the single, most important discovery you have made in your years of theological work?”
After pausing for a moment, Barth replied: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” To Barth, as Jesus was about to die on the cross, in his final moments of life, Jesus returned to this basic truth: God loves me. Jesus did not lecture us on arcane points of theology or dispute fine points of the law. He did not call down hellfire on those who nailed him to the cross. He did not judge his friends who had abandoned him. Instead, he said the first prayer he ever learned. This is what gave great comfort to his soul in his last moments: these last words were a testimony to what his life was about; to what our life can be about. Jesus began life with God–and he completed his earthly journey with God. He had maintained a direct, personal relationship with God.
In his book, The Strength to Love, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared how he moved from believing things about God to believing in God. He wrote of coming to see God as “a living reality that has been validated in the experiences of everyday life. [A] God [who] has been profoundly real to me in recent years…When the chains of fear and the manacles of frustration have all but stymied my efforts, I have felt the power of God transforming the fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope. I am convinced that the universe is under the control of a loving purpose, and that in the struggle for righteousness man has cosmic companionship.”
In this prayer that makes up the Seventh Word from the Cross, we see that it is a Prayer of Communion with God, it is a Prayer of Confidence in the power of God, and finally, it is a Prayer of Commitment–Jesus entrusting God to prosper the work he had done on the Cross. He deposited his soul, his love, his life with the Father. May each of us as we face the trials of these times of Trump remember this simple truth: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”