The SEVEN Last Words from the Cross
By Dr. David Allen
A Good Friday Reflection
The cross, the principle symbol of our faith speaks for it self. Words cannot express the deep mystery of the sacrificial healing for our bleeding hearts, overwhelmed spirits and disjointed lives.
“As we gaze in silence and reflection on the cross and remember that Good Friday, lead us, O Father, to a deeper love to refresh our lives and bless others.”
“WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed”
(1 Peter 2.22-24).
“But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal 6.14).
(Mary Magdalene with a night light - Georges de la Tour. Artist: Georges de la Tour. Start Date: 1630. Completion Date: 1635.)
The Seven Last Words From Christ On The Cross
1. ‘Father Forgive Them For They Know Not What They Are Doing.’ (Luke 23.34)
The cross is a powerful reminder that life is essentially a forgiving and letting go. In the midst of Christ’s agony He gives hope to his persecutors (and us) by appealing to His Father to forgive them. In the times of deep anguish Christ reminds us that forgiveness is the pathway to freedom. But we can only forgive when we feel compassion and pain for the one who has hurt us. Our freedom to live our lives fully is only possible if we forgive those who have hurt us. Has your spouse hurt you? A close friend? Someone in your family? Your parents? A colleague at work? A close friend in the church? Would you forgive them for the hurt, rejection and pain they have caused you. Forgiveness is a personal decision regardless how the other person responds or reacts. Christ prayed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” He taught us to pray; “Forgive us of our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And then, would you act on forgiveness – reach out in love to that person or persons?
2. ‘Truly, I Say Unto You, Today you Shall Be With Me In Paradise’ (Luke 23.43)
We can never understand the depths of these words. There were two personalities paying the penalty for their crime. One challenged and chastised our Lord about doing something about their situation. The other recognizing the presence of God, humbly asks to be remembered in Christ’s kingdom. Jesus answers unequivocally, ‘Today you shall be with me in paradise.’ These are comforting words to us humans who are troubled by our sins and death. Triumphant and victorious these words bless our hearts with the truth that there is life after death. We can be confident at the deepest level that when we trust Christ for our salvation, in that moment of death that will be ours, we will be face to face with Him in heaven. We can also have that same confidence for loved ones who have preceded us in death. With the Apostle Paul we can say, “absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5.7).
3. ‘Women Behold Your Son’ (John 19:26)
There is no more piercing pain in a mother’s heart than the tortured death of her child, particularly when her son is the Son of God. Mary, chosen to give birth to the Holy Son of God, was a person of deep thought and contemplation: ‘Mary pondered these things in her heart.’ A woman of deep passion, one can only imagine the wrenching pain and terrifying agony portrayed in Mary’s face as her Son hung on the cross. Pain often makes us self absorbed and as a result we turn upon ourselves, away from others. Our Lord showed that His love for His mother was deeply personalized and transcended His pain. He made space and time in His suffering to remind her that John would care for her during His absence. How touching. How caring. The cross with its horizontal out reach begs of us to open up and care for others, including our natural and spiritual family. While the vertical connection reminds us that God is with us. Is there someone in your family presently experiencing a time of painful grief to whom God wants you to move towards and give comfort, especially this weekend? Is there a visit God wants you to make? Is there a letter you need to write? If there is no one in your family, is there a friend in trial to whom you can reach out to, just as Jesus reached out to His mother?
Now darkness falls – it is utterly black.
4. ‘ELI, ELI, Iama Sabachthani’ “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me.” (Matthew 27.46; Mark 15.34)
‘My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken me? Piercing and gut wrenching, in our painful experience these words reverberate the deepest part of our soul. We can all attest that in such times heaven is silent and the words of even the most faithful seem irrelevant. But our balm of hope and comfort is that our Lord identifies with our dark night of God’s absence. Simply put, our Lord’s abandonment, rejection and humiliation gives us courage to face our pain when our faith runs dry and help eludes us. Our Lord carried our pain, our alienation, our isolation and our rejection to give us courage to face our struggles. He is with us. As David said; “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with Me.”
5. ‘I Thirst’ (John 19.28)
Our body is over 70% water and without water life is impossible. Jesus is the water of life and promised that if we trust Him our hearts would overflow with Living Water. But on the cross, left alone by His eternal Father to bear the sins of the world utterly alone – the Eternal Well is dry - ‘I Thirst.’ So often the Christ in us thirsts because of our rebellion and disobedience and we give him vinegar and oil to drink. Our Lord poured out Himself for us. O Lord, grant that we would open our hearts in praise and thanksgiving to let your living water would flow through us.
6. ‘It Is Finished’ (John 19.30)
As the high priest slayed the last Pashal/Passover lamb at the hour of 3 o’clock in the afternoon, it was precisely at this same hour that the Son of God offered Himself as the Passover Lamb for our salvation. As He hung on the cross at Golgatha and breathed His last, perhaps He could look down and see the temple. Perhaps He heard those very words and then uttered His own and thus fulfilled both the Scripture and the purpose of His life. At this cry the temple veil was torn, the work of redemption was complete. The earth quaked its own “Amen – it is finished!’ The rocks were split open. The Holy of Holies is now accessible to us. Thank you Lord. The writer of Hebrews said it like this; “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4.14-16).
Earth is united with heaven and fear de throned, Love wins and hope springs eternal in our breast.
‘Earth is crammed with heaven,
and every wild bush alive with the fire of God.
Those who believe take off their shoes and worship,
while the rest pluck black berries (or go shopping at the mall.)
Elizabeth Barret Browning
7. ‘Lord Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirits’ (Luke 23.46 [ Matthew 27.50; Mark 15.37])
At death our Lord commits His spirit to God. How comforting that when we come to the end of our journey, God renews our Spirit. But we must commit. It’s our choice. Often we die like we live. Jesus lived committed to God and he died in commitment to God. O God help us to live and die like our Lord. By the cross and resurrection you have freed us.
“When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15.39).
As we bow on this evening and reflect of the death that He died for us, my prayer is that we might all cry with the centurion and say with him, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
With Isaac Watts, we make our confession.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down:
Did e’re such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all. Amen.