It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said,
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Having said this, he breathed his last.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”Luke 23:44-46 and Matthew 27:51-54
“Truly,” the centurion said, “this man was God’s Son!” It is not what the centurion said that makes this so powerful, but when and where he said it: At the cross. As Jesus breathed his last.
At this moment of sheer and utter hopelessness, this centurion comes to faith, and experiences hope.
What makes Christianity so powerful is not Christ’s victory over death, but the Son of God’s willingness to die in the first place. To commit his spirit into his Father’s hands, and breathe his last. For us. It is at the cross where we experience the depths of God’s love for us.
The empty tomb and the resurrection simply affirm what the crucifixion accomplished. The resurrection brings us true joy because the cross brings us true love. There is no greater love, and no greater gift, than what was given to us on the cross – when the Son committed his spirit to the Father, and breathed his last for us. The Son will live again. He will breathe again. And he will breathe that same Spirit on us. That day will come. But, first, Jesus must breathe his last. And all of us must one day do that, too.
One way to think of our life is an opportunity simply to give thanks for this gift. “Our life,” Henri Nouwen writes, “is a short opportunity to say ‘yes’ to God’s love.” And every time we say ‘yes’ to God’s love we make ourselves more ready for the moment when we, too, will be invited to commit our spirits into the Father’s loving hands. When we, too, will breathe our last. This last word from the cross shows us and invites us to consider our own deaths. To imagine the moment when we, too, will speak our last word. And to give thanks that, because Jesus spoke these last words for us, the very first words we will hear after our deaths will also be from Jesus: “I love you. Welcome home. Enter into my joy, now and forevermore.” Amen.
Take time in silence to reflect on this last word from Jesus, and all of these words of love spoken to us from the cross.