Friday, April 10, 2009

Famous Last Words on Good Friday

The last seven sentences of Jesus Christ

Sermon Statement

Jesus’ famous last words revealed who he is and what he had done for us – God incarnate and the penal substitution for our sins


The climax of the passion week started in Gethsemane when Jesus agonized with God over what he is to do. Finally he surrendered in obedience and took the path to the cross.

  • Jesus was betrayed and arrested
  • Jesus before the Sanhedrin (and Peter’s denial)
  • Jesus delivered to Pilate
  • The trial before Pilate
  • Jesus before Herod
  • Pilate declares Jesus innocent
  • Jesus or Barabbas?
  • The scourging and mockery
  • Pilate delivers Jesus to be crucified
  • The road to Golgotha
  • Jesus derided on the cross
  • the two thieves
  • The death of Jesus
  • Jesus’ side pierced
  • The burial of Jesus

In the synoptic gospels, it was recorded that Jesus uttered seven sentences while he was dying, crucified on the cross. It was often said that the last words or dying words are often the accumulated wisdom of a person’s lifetime. These seven sentences are his last words. What can we learn from them? These sentences are not in any particular order because we do not know when he said them.

The First Sentence

Luke 23:33-34 -- "Forgive them, Father! They know not what they do."

In this time of pain and suffering, it is striking that the first “sentence” of Jesus from the cross is of forgiveness. Who is ‘them’ that needed forgiveness? Peter later explained that though it was the Jewish and Roman leaders which crucified Jesus, they acted out of ignorance because they did not know he is the Messiah. He also explained that this happened because God planned it - the ‘them’ that need forgiveness is every single one of us (Acts 3:17-18).

As we take time to reflect upon the forgiveness Christ offers to each and every one of us through his sacrifice, may we not forget to forgive one another. If Jesus is willing to forgive those who crucified him then we should also be willing to forgive others who had hurt us.

The Second Sentence

Luke 23:39-43 -- "I tell you this: Today you will be in Paradise with me."

The second sentence is of grace. Jesus did not promise only that the crucified man would be in Paradise, but that he would be with Jesus in Paradise. So the thief, who is a sinner, received grace which he did not deserve. Grace was freely given. If we know that, beyond this life, we’ll be with Christ, then we need not fear. The grace of Christ cannot be earned. It is given freely to all.

The Third Sentence

John 19:25-27 -- "Woman, here is your son."

Jesus is entrusting the care of his mother to John so that she will be well looked after when he is gone. It is heart warming to note that Jesus still thinks of his mother’s welfare in this moment of excruciating pain.

As we reflect upon the meaning of Christ’s death, Mary’s presence at the cross reminds us that God is deeply involved in the human drama that we are daily living. It reveals a God that is caring in the smallest details of our lives.

The Fourth Sentence

Mark 15: 33-34 -- "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani

Jesus quoted from Psalm 22:1 as he is being crucified. In his moment of greatest anguish Jesus drew upon the Psalms to express how he felt. Jesus isn’t simply a man crying out to God as he is being tortured. This is also the divine Son of God crying out to God the Father. Through the fourth sentence from the cross we enter into the essence of Christ’s sacrifice. God is forsaking his Son in that he is allowing Jesus to bear the sin of the world. God is regarding his Son as if he were sin itself!

The Fifth Sentence

John 19:28 -- "I thirst."

The thirst of Jesus reminds us that he is human like the rest of us. He feels pain and he is thirsty. Jesus had to be fully human in order to save humans from sin and death. Because he is human, Jesus understands our weaknesses and our sufferings.

The Sixth Sentence

John 19:29-30 -- "It is finished."

What is finished? Jesus is dying. With his death, Jesus knew his passion will be over. His time of pain and suffering on the cross is finished. On another level, Jesus is proclaiming that God’s great plan for salvation has been completed. The penalty for human sin has been paid. The gap between sinful humanity and a holy God has been bridged by the sinless Son of God who was fully God and fully human. Now, because of what Jesus has done, we can be reconciled to God and be saved from eternal damnation.

The Seventh Sentence

Luke 23:46 -- "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!"

Jesus again quoted from the Psalms. By quoting from Psalm 31, Jesus is not only entrusting his spirit to God, but also affirming his ultimate trust in God, even the God who has laid upon him the sin of the world. It is affirming that in spite of all that has happened, Jesus still uses the word, Abba/Father to show the close relationship they have.

As we meditate on the seven last sentences of Jesus of Nazareth during this Lenten season, let us again be reminded of forgiveness, of grace, of care and concern, of sacrifice, of being human, of the completeness of God’s plan of redemption and of our trust in God.

(1) Luke 23:33-34 -- "Forgive them, Father! They know not what they do." (forgiveness)

(2) Luke 23:39-43 -- "I tell you this: Today you will be in Paradise with me." (grace)

(3) John 19:25-27 -- "Woman, here is your son." (care and concern)

(4) Mark 15: 33-34 -- "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (sacrifice)

(5) John 19:28 -- "I thirst." (humanity)

(6) John 19:29-30 -- "It is finished." (redemption)

(7) Luke 23:46 -- "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" (trust)

Soli Deo Gloria