Every year, the Human Development Report Office for the United Nations Development Programme releases a report focusing on a particular area of human development. In 1994, the report focused on human security and identified seven key areas associated with human security: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community, and political security.
Economic security includes things like basic income and employment. Food security is access to basic nutrition and food supply. Health security covers many different issues such as access to safe water, living in a safe environment, access to health services, etc. Environmental security addresses issues like prevention of water and air pollution, prevention from deforestation, land conservation, etc. Community security covers conservation of traditional and cultures, languages, and commonly held values and includes things like the abolition of ethnic discrimination. Political security is concerned with protection of human rights and well-being of all people, which includes matters like freedom of press, freedom of speech, and freedom of voting.
Unsurprisingly, each of these securities is a freedom, as Solomon might say, “under the sun.” They are temporal, earthly securities, which, while important, fail to address our greatest, eternal need. But it is that need that Jesus addressed in his last words from the cross: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). We might say a great deal about this particular saying, but we will limit our focus to the primary issue of security.
To cast that issue into its proper context, we must first consider the uniqueness of Jesus’ death, which can be seen in the word “commit.” As he was dying, the martyr Stephen looked into heaven and saw Jesus at the right hand of the Father. He prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:54–60). But notice the contrast: “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” The Father did not receive Jesus’ spirit but Jesus committed it to the Father. The difference is one of passivity versus activity. Stephen’s life was taken from him, while Jesus willingly and authoritatively gave his life.
The Gospels bear consistent testimony to this. Jesus said it plainly in John 10:17–18. But consider also the different Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death. Matthew tells us that Jesus “yielded up his spirit” (27:50). The word translated “yielded” means to dismiss and carries with it an air of authority, as when a king dismisses his servant. Jesus’ life could not leave him without him authoritatively dismissing it. John similarly tells us that Jesus “gave up his spirit.” The word for “gave up” means to (actively) deliver something and implies that the one delivering it has complete control.
Here is the point: Jesus’ life was not taken from him; he actively gave it up for those he came to save.
But how does this speak to us of security? Consider again Jesus’ words: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Observe, first, Jesus’ reference to God as “Father.” Earlier, he had uttered a cry of abandonment: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But now his sense of security was restored and he experienced God afresh as his Father.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus knew this intimate relationship with the Father. The first time he uttered the word “Father,” he was but twelve years old: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:50). In his first public sermon—the Sermon on the Mount—he spoke of God as Father no fewer than seventeen times, while his last discourse (to his disciples in John 14–16) referenced God as Father at least 45 times. His high priestly prayer in the garden (John 17) contains at least six more reference to God as Father. Now, at the end of his life, he once again prayed to his “Father.”
Our security lies in the fact that Jesus’ Father is also our Father. If we are found in Christ, he loves us as he loved his Son (John 17:23). We stand in awe of the incredible love that the Father has bestowed on us (1 John 3:1). What comfort and assurance is communicated in the word “Father,” particularly since our Father is the all-loving, all-powerful Father who promises to supply our need and work all things for our good!
Observe , second, where Jesus committed his life: “into your hands.” Don’t miss the marked contrast. Jesus knew that he would be “delivered into the hands of men” who would “kill” him (Matthew 17:22–23). He assured his disciples that he would be “betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45) and the angels reminded the women at the tomb that he was “delivered into the hands of sinful men” (Luke 24:6–7).
But, here, Jesus commits his life, not into the hands of sinful men, but into the hands of his holy, loving Father. As he had voluntarily handed himself over to sinners to be crucified, so he now voluntarily handed his life to his Father than he might be vindicated. And the Father indeed vindicated him so that he who was once tried by sinful men and crucified will one day sit in final judgement upon men. “Once they cried, ‘Away with him,’ then he shall say, ‘Depart from me’” (Pink).
But what does this have to do with our eternal security? Having given himself into the hands of sinners for the salvation of his people, Jesus once again experienced blessed security as he committed his life to his Father. But what does that have to do with us?
It has everything to do with us for, let us remember, Jesus went to the cross in our place and as our substitute. He hung on the cross and died at Calvary in our stead. His experience on the cross was for us. He experienced his suffering, his death, and his security on our behalf!
As Jesus committed his life into his Father’s hand, so we are safe in the Father’s hand. He said of his elect, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28–29). Jesus drained death’s cup for us so that we could experience the promise of eternal life. What words of utter security were his last: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”