The Seven Last Words of Christ

Good Friday, the day when Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, holds immense significance in the Christian faith. It is a day of solemn reflection, as believers contemplate the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for the redemption of humanity. Central to the events of Good Friday are the Seven Last Words, the final phrases uttered by Jesus as he hung on the cross.

The Seven Last Words, as recorded in the Gospels, are as follows:

  1. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)
  2. "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)
  3. "Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother." (John 19:26-27)
  4. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)
  5. "I thirst." (John 19:28)
  6. "It is finished." (John 19:30)
  7. "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46)

Each of these statements reveals a different aspect of Jesus' character and the significance of his death on the cross. By examining them closely, we can gain a deeper understanding of the Christian faith and the profound impact of Good Friday. In the following sections, we will delve into each of the Seven Last Words, exploring their biblical context, their meaning, and the lessons they offer for our own lives. As we reflect on these powerful words, may we be drawn closer to the heart of God and inspired to live a life that honors the sacrifice of our Savior.

The First Word: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

As Jesus hung on the cross, enduring unimaginable pain and suffering, his first recorded words were not of anger or vengeance, but of compassion and forgiveness. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). These words, spoken in the face of great injustice and cruelty, demonstrate the depth of Jesus' love and the power of his message. In this moment, Jesus exemplified the very essence of his teachings. He had preached love, mercy, and forgiveness throughout his ministry, and now, in his darkest hour, he lived out those principles. Jesus recognized that those who crucified him, mocked him, and reviled him were acting out of ignorance and misunderstanding. Instead of condemning them, he chose to extend forgiveness, even as he bore the weight of their sins. This act of compassion and forgiveness in the face of extreme adversity is a testament to Jesus' character and the transformative power of his love. It shows us that no matter the circumstances, we are called to respond with grace and mercy, just as our Savior did.

Jesus' words from the cross underscore the centrality of forgiveness in the Christian faith. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15). This teaching emphasizes that our own forgiveness is intimately tied to our willingness to forgive others. The Apostle Paul echoes this sentiment in his letter to the Colossians, urging believers to "bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive" (Colossians 3:13). Forgiveness is not merely a suggestion, but a command, modeled after the forgiveness we have received through Christ.

The Second Word: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)

Jesus' second statement from the cross was directed to one of the criminals crucified alongside him. While one thief mocked Jesus, the other recognized his innocence and acknowledged him as Lord. In response to this repentant thief's plea, Jesus promised, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). This remarkable exchange illustrates the depth of Jesus' grace and the power of faith. Even in his final moments, Jesus extended salvation to a repentant sinner, assuring him of a place in Paradise. This promise demonstrates that it is never too late to turn to God and that the gift of salvation is available to all who believe, regardless of their past.

Jesus' words to the thief on the cross underscore the central message of the Christian faith: salvation by grace through faith. As the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is not earned through good deeds or moral living, but is a free gift, made possible by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Furthermore, the simplicity of the thief's faith highlights the accessibility of salvation. As Paul states in Romans, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). The repentant thief's humble acknowledgment of Jesus as Lord was sufficient for him to receive the promise of eternal life.

The Third Word: "Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother." (John 19:26-27)

Amidst his own suffering, Jesus took a moment to address his mother, Mary, and the beloved disciple John, who were standing near the cross. He said to Mary, "Woman, behold your son," and to John, "Son, behold your mother" (John 19:26-27). With these words, Jesus entrusted the care of his mother to his disciple, demonstrating his deep love and concern for his family.

Even in his darkest hour, Jesus prioritized the well-being of his loved ones. He recognized the grief and hardship his mother would face after his death and ensured that she would be cared for by someone he trusted. This act of compassion reveals Jesus' humanity and his understanding of the importance of family bonds.

Jesus' words also highlight the significance of relationships and community within the Christian faith. As Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation, but in the context of loving, supportive relationships. Moreover, the Apostle John emphasizes the centrality of love in the Christian community, stating, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God" (1 John 4:7). By entrusting Mary to John's care, Jesus demonstrates the kind of sacrificial love that should characterize the relationships within the body of Christ.

The Fourth Word: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)

In the midst of his agony on the cross, Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34). These words, which are the opening line of Psalm 22, express the profound sense of abandonment and suffering that Jesus experienced in his final moments.

This anguished cry reveals the depth of Jesus' suffering, not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually. As he bore the weight of humanity's sin, Jesus experienced a momentary separation from the Father, a pain beyond comprehension. This moment of abandonment highlights the immense cost of our redemption and the magnitude of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. Jesus' words from the cross directly quote the opening line of Psalm 22, a prophetic psalm that describes the suffering and ultimate victory of the Messiah. Many of the details in this psalm, such as the mocking of the crowd (Psalm 22:7-8) and the piercing of hands and feet (Psalm 22:16), find their fulfillment in Jesus' crucifixion. By quoting this psalm, Jesus identifies himself as the suffering servant foretold in Scripture, underlining the divine purpose behind his death.

The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus, the sinless one, took upon himself the sins of the world, experiencing the full consequence of our transgressions. As Isaiah prophesied, "But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus' cry of abandonment underscores the profound depths of his sacrifice on our behalf.

The Fifth Word: "I thirst." (John 19:28)

As Jesus neared the end of his earthly life, he uttered the words, "I thirst" (John 19:28). This simple statement serves as a powerful reminder of both Jesus' physical suffering and his spiritual longing.

The words "I thirst" underscore the physical agony Jesus endured on the cross. After hours of torture, blood loss, and hanging in the scorching sun, Jesus experienced the intense pain and thirst that come with crucifixion. This statement highlights Jesus' full humanity, reminding us that he bore our physical limitations and suffered in ways we can relate to.

On a deeper level, Jesus' thirst can also be understood as a spiritual longing for righteousness and the fulfillment of God's will. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew 5:6). Throughout his ministry, Jesus emphasized the importance of seeking God above all else, as he told the Samaritan woman at the well, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again" (John 4:13-14). Jesus' thirst on the cross can be seen as a manifestation of his unwavering commitment to accomplishing the Father's will and securing our salvation.

The Sixth Word: "It is finished." (John 19:30)

As Jesus' earthly life drew to a close, he declared, "It is finished" (John 19:30). These powerful words signify the completion of his mission and the fulfillment of God's plan for our redemption.

With this statement, Jesus proclaimed that the work he came to accomplish was now complete. He had perfectly fulfilled every prophecy and every requirement of the law, living a sinless life and offering himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. As Jesus himself declared in his high priestly prayer, "I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do" (John 17:4). His death on the cross marked the culmination of his earthly mission and the fulfillment of Scripture.

The writer of Hebrews explains the significance of Jesus' finished work, stating, "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:11-12). Through his death, Jesus accomplished what the old sacrificial system could not: a complete and permanent atonement for sin. Furthermore, as Paul writes in Romans, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (Romans 3:23-25). Jesus' finished work on the cross provides the basis for our justification and reconciliation with God.

The Seventh Word: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46)

With his final breath, Jesus entrusted his spirit into the hands of the Father, declaring, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46). These words, which echo Psalm 31:5, reveal Jesus' unwavering trust in God and his submission to the Father's will.

Even in the face of unimaginable suffering and death, Jesus demonstrated complete trust in his heavenly Father. He had consistently sought to do the Father's will throughout his ministry, as he affirmed in the Garden of Gethsemane, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39). Now, at the moment of his death, Jesus reaffirmed his trust and surrendered his spirit into the Father's loving hands.

Jesus' final words serve as an example for all believers, reminding us of the importance of entrusting our lives to God. The book of Proverbs urges us to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6). As we face the challenges and uncertainties of life, we are called to place our trust in God, knowing that he holds our lives in his capable hands. Similarly, the Apostle Peter encourages us to follow in Christ's footsteps, writing, "Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good" (1 Peter 4:19). Just as Jesus entrusted his spirit to the Father, we too can find comfort and strength in surrendering our lives to God, confident in his love and faithfulness.

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