Wednesday in the Thirty-Third Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; John 19:28-30

Jesus Gives Up His Spirit

John says, “He bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”  Matthew says that he “yielded up his spirit.”  Mark and Luke say, “He breathed his last.”  Whichever way it is written, the meaning is plain: Jesus died on the cross.  It was a real death; there was nothing fake about it.  Yes, technically speaking, his divine nature did not die as deity, by definition, cannot die.  As the finite cannot contain the infinite, the divine nature of Christ, though fully united to his person, was not limited to his human body but was omnipresent throughout creation, just as the Son ever was before and after his incarnation.  But his human nature, having a human soul with the faculties of mind, affections, and will, enfleshed by a human body – just like us but without sin – that did die.  His body lay in the tomb while his soul either went to the abode of the dead to finish his victory over death and set the captives free, or to be with his Father, depending on your view (I opt for the former).  But the result is the same: Jesus died a real death.  And this he had to do that he may redeem his people, for “since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15).  He lived our life AND died our death.  (Incidentally, we might say things like, “the Son of God shed his blood,” by which we mean his human nature, and this is okay; in doing so we are subsuming both his divine and human natures in the one person.)

The gospels depict how even nature objected to its creator’s death: there was darkness over the land from the sixth hour to the ninth (12 to 3 p.m.).  In John’s Gospel, Jesus knows that the time has come and says, “I thirst,” for which they offer him sour wine which could quench thirst.  In Matthew and Mark, having misunderstood his cry, “Eli, Eli,” they mock him by giving him sour wine to keep him alive a bit longer to see if “Elijah” will come to rescue him.  Upon receiving the wine, Jesus says (triumphantly, I think), “It is finished,” and then, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  And then he “yields his spirit” and “breathes his last.”

We often focus on his suffering, which, quite frankly, the gospels don’t spend a lot of time with.  But they do spend time telling us that he died.  Granted, he rose on the third day, but it’s Friday that makes Sunday possible.  His life was our life, but his death was ours as well.  He died that we may live, and we should live that we may die for, with, and in, him (Galatians 2:20).

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