The Seven Last Words Of Jesus From the Cross
The death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith. Jesus’ death is the most precious event in human history, and Jesus’ resurrection is the most powerful event in human history. We Christians celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection at Easter because in them we find salvation for our body and soul— that is, we find forgiveness from sin and our hope to reenter the kingdom of God. This is our faith! This is what we believe and hold to be the truth in a world hostile to God and his Son. On a day like this 2000 some years ago, the world witnessed one of the greatest events in human history. After crucifying the Lord of glory on Friday, the world woke up on Sunday to an empty tomb. It was the beginning of a new era for all who believe. Today, instead of talking extensively about the Resurrection our Lord, I want to focus on the cross of our Lord Jesus because what Jesus said while he was on the cross became our reality through his resurrection. So today, we will look at the 7 last phrases Jesus uttered on the cross before he gave up the spirit.
According to the gospels, Jesus spoke seven times from the cross. And each time he spoke, he revealed something very significant about himself. His words from the cross tell us in some way what the cross was all about.
Jesus’ first word from the cross is this: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) The first thing Jesus did in his moment of extreme suffering was to pray to his Father on our behalf. Remarkably, Jesus, on the cross, prayed! He prayed to his Father God. He prayed for us. In the midst of his suffering, Jesus still called God Father. He called God Father even though it was the will of the Father that Jesus die such a horrible death on the cross. How could Jesus pray to the Father on the cross? He prayed because Jesus never doubted the love of his Father God for him. He was in great pain. But Jesus loved his Father even in the midst of his suffering. Whom did he pray for from the cross? He said: “Father forgive them.” It was for the soldiers who put nails in his hands. It was for his enemies who condemned him to die like this. He prayed for his disciples who abandoned him in his greatest time of need. He prayed for all of us because we all participated in his crucifixion. He said: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” He prayed for us because in our sinfulness, we really didn’t know what we were doing when we crucified the Lord of glory. How could Jesus pray for our forgiveness when we have done to him such a terrible thing? He prayed like this because Jesus deeply understood and shared God’s broken heart for lost sinners and his desire to forgive them. In spite of our sins, God loved us so much that he was willing to crucify his Own Son to offer us forgiveness. So Jesus prayed for our forgiveness. In the cross, we marvel at God’s unconditional forgiveness for our sins. There is nothing more precious and liberating in life than to know that God wants to forgive all our sins if we confess them to him and ask for his forgiveness. If you haven’t experienced God’s forgiveness in your life yet, Easter is a good time to believe his love and to ask for his forgiveness.
The second word Jesus spoke from the cross is this: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) These words were spoken to one of the two thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus. There were two thieves, each crucified on either side of our Lord. One of them hurled insults at him saying: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us.” It was an insult to Jesus who was being crucified for our sins, including the sins of these two thieves. The thief who insulted Jesus had no shame over what he had done. He was a despicable thief who robbed people of their possessions. One of the crucial things we teach children is to never ever steal anything from anyone. Even if they are in need, we warn them to never ever take anything that doesn’t belong to you. Why? Because to steal is to break one of God’s 10 commandments. And because stealing is most disgraceful. A thief is as low life as low life can be. But this thief didn’t care that he had sinned against God and against his fellow man. His conscience didn’t bother him. Instead he wanted to use Jesus to get out of his punishment. He’s like those who have no shame in sinning, yet invoke the name of Jesus when they’re in trouble. But the other thief was different. He told this other thief: “Don’t you fear God…. since you are under the same sentence.” He said: “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong” Then he said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” After hearing Jesus’ words on the cross: “Father, forgive them”, his hard heart was melted within him. He was convicted and repented of his sins. He saw Jesus as the Messiah— the One who could forgive him and offer him eternal life. In answer to his faith, Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” He was a nobody— a dirty thief. But when he repented and believed in Jesus, Jesus forgave him and welcomed him into his kingdom.
Thank God for conscience— that voice within that tells us that we have sinned and done what is wrong in the sight of God— that small voice which nags us to repent and make things right with our Father God. Which of the two thieves on the cross are we? Are we cold and unrepentant or are we convicted and repentant enough to say to the Lord of Glory “Jesus, remember me”. There’s forgiveness in the Cross. In the cross of our Lord Jesus, even the worst of sinners can find forgiveness and hearty welcome into heaven.
The third word Jesus spoke from the cross is this: “Dear woman, here is your son.” This was spoken to his mother. And to his disciple, Jesus said: “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27) On the cross, Jesus didn’t think about himself, but he thought about his mother’s anguish and his disciple’s sorrow. In other words, Jesus thought about all that causes us sorrow in this world. How terrible it must have been for Mary to be losing a son. But Jesus understood her anguish and her wounded heart and gave her another son to take care of her. How terrible it must have been for young John to lose his beloved teacher and friend. But Jesus understood his sorrows and his wounded heart and gave him a mother to care for him. Jesus comforted them by bearing their sorrows upon himself on the cross. Jesus really knows our sorrows. He really understands the wounds this life bears on our hearts. We are all born in sorrow and raised in sorrow and bear many wounds in our lives. So many people are wounded because they have no real fathers or mothers to love them and care for them. Others are wounded because life has treated them so unfairly. At the same time, we are all wounded by the stain of sin on our souls. Some feel abandoned by God. Others feel rejected by the world. Still others feel all alone even when there are many people around them— as if no one understands them. Everyone has a sorrow or wound that nothing and no one can heal. Some grin and bear it. Others lash out in hostility at the world and at each other because of their wounds. Still others drown their sorrows and cover their bleeding wounds with bandages. Who can heal our wounded hearts? Jesus saw the gaping wound his mother had and the sorrow his disciple had and bore them himself on the cross. Jesus alone understands our wounded hearts even when no one else does. And he bears on the cross. Jesus also did something else then. He gave Mary a son and his disciple a mother. In other words, he gave us a family of mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters to share together his liberating grace. Everyone in the Christian family is our mother and brother. Everyone in the Christian family is our son and daughter. Together, we can bear anything to Jesus on the cross!
The fourth word Jesus said from the cross is this: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) Every minute on the cross was painful beyond imagination. Jesus was forsaken by all, even by God himself. Even God left him for a some time. Jesus was forsaken by his disciples, whom he had loved and cared for so much. He was forsaken by the world which hated him and condemned him to die on a cross. Only a few women and a young disciple stood at a distance from the cross. Jesus was utterly forsaken. Let me ask you, have ever felt forsaken? Jesus was— by men and by God. But Jesus understood that he needed to be forsaken by God. The sins of the whole world were upon him now and God his loving Father could not but turn away from him because Jesus was carrying our sins upon himself. Jesus could bear being forsaken by us. But to be forsaken by his Father God was intolerable. He was literally cut off from God for the whole time he hung on the cross. That pain was worst than the pain of the crucifixion itself. Jesus, however, had to endure it. He expressed his own pain of separation when he cried out: “My God, why have you forsaken me.” Yet he endured it because it was the only way he would rid us of the stain of sin on our souls. Someone had to pay the price for all our sins. And Jesus was paying the price!. Never ever had Jesus ever been cut off from his Father God. But now he was because he loved us. Having been forsaken, Jesus suffered. God suffered. But it was the price for the atonement of our sins. And we should never forget that! If you do not know how much God loves you— how much he suffered to forgive us for our sins— just listen to Jesus’ cry on the cross. If that doesn’t convince you that God loves us, nothing else will.
The fifth word Jesus said on the cross is this: “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28) The author John tells us why Jesus said these heart wrenching words from the cross. He did so, so that the Scripture might be fulfilled. In other words, Jesus obeyed the will of God to the last detail. Psalms 69:21 says of Jesus: “They … gave me vinegar for my thirst.” And that is what they did when Jesus cried out that he was thirsty. The soldiers wetted his lips with wine vinegar. At this point, Jesus was suffering more than we can imagine. Here is what Psalm 22:14-15 tells us about his suffering. Speaking for the Messiah, it says: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” Jesus was suffering unbearable thirst at this point. Jesus, experienced all the feelings and sensations of any and every human being. In his suffering, he said: “I am thirsty.” Through his suffering, Jesus tasted all the pain and anguish that we human beings taste in our lifetime. The Bible tells us that: “He had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18) “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus really understands our pains and hardship. Only he can sympathize with our failings and weaknesses.
The sixth word that Jesus said from the cross is this: “It is finished.” (John 19:30) No one ever says, “it is finished” at the time of their death. Most people have regrets about unfinished things in their lives. Some regret not reconciling with loved ones. Others regret wasting their lives in the pursuit of useless things. Still others regret not fulfilling their dreams. But Jesus said, “It is finished.” What was “finished”? The mission God gave him to save the world was finished. It was not an easy mission. He was to suffer and die a most cruel death on the cross. Jesus could have quit anytime! Many were unthankful and demanded much more from him. His disciples were selfish and self centered. The crowds whom Jesus loved and served turned on him and said “crucify him, crucify him”. Surely Jesus could have abandoned his mission and gone back home to heaven ending all his suffering. But he didn’t! Jesus fought the temptation to quit. He finished the work God gave him to do. How could he endure to the end? He could because the whole fate of humanity depended on him— because the work of saving the human race from the hand of Satan depended on him— because our future hope depended on him. On the cross, Jesus finished (completed) our salvation— He completed our redemption. Jesus brought to an end our captivity to sin, to Satan and to death. Jesus rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us to his kingdom of light— all through his finished work. Now, through the finished work of Christ on the cross, anyone who repents and puts his faith in Jesus can be delivered from the power of sin and death. When Jesus proclaimed that “It is finished”, all our weaknesses, all our failures, all our failings— were finished— and a new era of victory had begun for us. No Christian lives in defeat. His or her victory had been sealed.
The seventh word Jesus spoke from the cross is this: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) This is when Jesus gave up the spirit and finally died. And his words here are also heart wrenching as all his other words on the cross. The words of a dying man always tell much about his life, his faith, his hope and his security. Jesus completely entrusted his spirit to the hand of God. He completely trusted that God would receive his spirit and do as he had promised, to raise him up on the third day. This was Jesus’ faith. Jesus lived by faith throughout his life. His faith that God is sovereign and in control of all things never wavered. Now, at the moment of his death, his faith stood fast to the end. His security was in the living God, the Father whom Jesus trusted with his life and his death. This is real security— real confidence— knowing that our spirit is ever in God’s hand, and trusting him with our life.
Jesus died in victory providing salvation to all who believe. And in his death, there was power to change our hearts! His resurrection was the evidence that all that Jesus accomplished on the cross had been secured by God for Him and for us. Praise God, then that there is power in the cross of Jesus to forgive and power in the resurrection to bless anyone. May this power work in our hearts this Easter day. Today we celebrate the Lord’s death and resurrection. We who believe are as much victors as he is because those who are in Christ also share all things with Christ as well.
1. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
2. “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
3. “Dear woman, here is your son,” “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
5. “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
6. “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
7. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)