‘It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.’ (Luke 23:44-46)
The final word is the loudest of the seven. Although Jesus is broken and breathless, on the brink of death, he summons the energy to cry out ‘with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”’ (v46).
It is a harrowing moment, when God stops breathing.
In Scripture, the breath of God is a creative, powerful force. It brings life. Genesis tells us that God created mankind – male and female – in His image (Genesis 1:27) and He did it through His breath: ‘The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being’ (Genesis 2:7).
The Hebrew word ruach can mean both spirit or breath, and Job says that the breath of God is the Spirit of God: ‘The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life’ (Job 33:4).
Mankind is comprised of dust and breath. It is the presence of God’s Spirit/breath within us that makes us human, made in His image.
So as Christ gives up his spirit and breath, it is like the undoing of Creation. Death is the ultimate dehumanising act.
In fact, the breath of God not only gives life to human beings, but to all of creation: ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath/spirit (ruach) of his mouth’ (Psalm 33:6). It is no wonder, therefore, that as God stops breathing, the sun itself ceases to shine (Luke 23:44-45).
But whilst the breathless silence of Jesus may seem like the end, it is actually the beginning. The final undoing of the old creation is paving the way for New Creation.
Tomorrow – Easter Sunday – will begin, like Genesis, in a garden. God will once more reach into the dust and bring forth a man; breathing into him His Spirit and raising him to life. Jesus is the new Adam. The new head of the New Creation.
All mankind made in God’s image – that fragile mixture of breath and dust – is invited to become part of God’s new humanity. Though we will all face death, and will one day give up our spirit and our breath, we too have the hope of resurrection.
From the beginning, the fate of creation was tied to humanity; the ones who were tasked with caring for this world (Genesis 1:28; 2:15). In the same way, Paul writes that the fate of creation is still tied to God’s new humanity. All of creation is yearning for the day when we will be resurrected. When our bodies are restored and made new and imperishable, Creation will share in our freedom, also being restored and made new and imperishable (Romans 8:18-24).
The last word is louder than any of the previous six. But the last word is not ‘the last word’, for tomorrow the Word will arise, louder and clearer than ever before…
Questions for Reflection
- How does Jesus’ seventh word, and the anticipation of Easter Sunday, affect the way we think about death in our own lives, and the lives of those we love?
- Like Adam and Eve, we are tasked with caring for this world (Genesis 1:28; 2:15) in anticipation of the day when God restores all things. Where can you seek to bring a taste of New Creation today?
Who breathed your Spirit into us and raised us to life,
Would you remake us again into your image,
Transforming us more and more to be like you.
And would you empower us to care for and cultivate your creation,
In anticipation of the day when you will return to make all things new.
You may want to join us tomorrow to celebrate the resurrection:
Easter Sunday: April 16, South (10.00), Central (11.00), West End (16.30) and East (18.00)