It was the reason he came to Earth, the fulfillment of his life. The Son of God became man so he could pay the price of our sins on the cross. His whole human existence pointed to this moment. His death and rising is the key moment in all of history. No other event in history is remotely close in impact and permanence of effect.
The scriptures record what Christ said while he hung on the cross. For all believers his words are worth meditating on. The seven last words of Christ are seven statements he made. They are the last teachings he gave to us before he gave up his mortal life and connect to his teaching on how we should pray.
First Word: Found in Luke 23; 33-34 “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they do.” When the apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray he replied, “Our Father …” On the cross Jesus speaks to God the Father and reminds us of the importance of forgiveness, “As we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus showed that even those who tortured and killed him should be offered forgiveness.
Many people often feel they are on a cross. Abusive marriages where physical and emotional abuse occurs can feel like crucifixion. They can see no way out with mixed feelings of love and hatred towards the abuser. Abuse is always wrong and never deserved. But Jesus shows us that even with the greatest evils, the act must be condemned but we must still pray for the perpetrators. We help ourselves by turning from hate and offering forgiveness to those who have hurt us so profoundly. And Jesus is ready to lend his strength to us if we find it too difficult to forgive.
Second Word: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:33-34)
“Who art in heaven…” Jesus hung between two thieves. They were guilty of terrible crimes, even murder. One reviled Jesus but the other honored him and begged that Jesus would remember him. Jesus promised that man he would enter paradise today. We know with absolute certainty that the Good Thief is in heaven because we have Jesus’ word. This is wonderful news for all of us. No matter what terrible acts we have committed Jesus shows us that our salvation is possible. Jesus died so that our most horrible sins could be forgiven. That is the Good News of the Gospel.
Third Word: “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:25-27)
Everyone has a father and mother even if they are not in our lives now. As death approached him, Jesus made sure that his mother would be cared for. In Jewish society women could not hold property. On a practical level John now became Mary’s guardian. But there is something much more important happening here. Jesus tells Mary, “Behold your son.” He does not mean himself hanging before her on the cross, he means John, the only apostle to not abandon him. He then tells John, “Behold your mother.” In this act Jesus indicates that John and Mary are now family. Real, actual family! John becomes Jesus’ adopted brother. God the Father entered into covenants with Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses and David. Each time he did so mankind sinned and the covenant was broken. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the final and eternal covenant. Covenants create new family relationships. John is adopted into Jesus’ family. So are we! Now we can call God Father because we are his adopted children through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. So when we pray to God for help, we aren’t praying to some remote unfeeling deity, but a powerful Father who loves his children beyond words. “Hallowed be thy name.”
Fourth Word: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:33-34) Have you ever been hurt by someone you love and trust completely? The astonishment is often greater than the pain, you simply cannot believe they did it. Jesus was one with the Father. He knows he is not abandoned but the real suffering of the cross brings out his anguish in these words. The Father has not abandoned Jesus. He will not remove the cross but he will stay by Jesus and see him through his ordeal.
“Give us this day our daily bread …” Do you know someone suffering profoundly? It can be difficult to be near people who are dealing with extreme pain, especially emotional pain. Their suffering can drain us. These are the times we are needed the most, needed more than food or water. Being a disciple of Jesus will cost you! Jesus was an innocent victim. People can bring on their own suffering. They are not innocent. The Good Thief was not innocent. They still deserve our love. Anyone of us can be the guilty person in need of help.
Fifth Word: “I thirst.” (John 19:28) Jesus’ thirst is unquenchable until the last drop is collected. It is not water or wine he desires but our very souls. Jesus tells us that the Father desires not one least soul to be lost.
“Thy kingdom come …” Every soul that God has ever created and ever will create he wishes to be with him in heaven for eternity. Jesus is so committed to us that he suffered torture and death to make that happen. His thirst is for the salvation of all people. You can help quench part of his thirst by accepting him into your life. You can be a cup of fresh water for Jesus.
Sixth Word: “It is finished” (John 19:29-30) “Thy will be done …” From heaven Jesus became a helpless baby, lived a human life full of work, sweat and pain and fulfilled his destiny by dying in agony on the cross. He did that out of obedience to the Father and love for us. Like a marathoner who has finished the race he proclaims his victory. He appears to have lost the race but in three days he will smash the chains of death. He has paid the price for our sins, a price that’s beyond counting. We are called each day to pick up our cross and help those that God puts before us. At the end of each day and at the end of our lives will we be able to say triumphantly, “It is finished!”
Seventh Word: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46)
“But deliver us from evil. Amen!” Jesus was crucified because of the works of evil men and the Evil One. His trust in the Father knew no bounds. He was afraid but despite the fear he continued to do the task given to him. We have tasks to do. Sometimes they are positive tasks we must accomplish like go to work. Sometimes they are negative tasks, things we must avoid today, like drugs or pornography. God stands ready to help us in everything he asks us to do.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Amen!