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Jesus Speaks from the Cross – The Last Seven Words

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By Pastor Dave Rajoon

Editor’s note: this article is adapted from the Pastor Rajoon’s book, Jesus Speaks from the Cross – A Devotional on the Seven Last Sayings of Jesus.

Last words are powerful, and when a patriarch (or matriarch) is about to die, family members make it a point to be present to hear their last words. If the last words of our human relatives are important, how much more significance is there in the dying words of Jesus? On Good Friday, many pastors will spend time exploring these last words. In Jesus Speaks from the Cross – A Devotional on the Last Words of Jesus, we see that each utterance from Jesus also pertains to a reflection on His life and ministry.

From the Gospel of Luke, we hear Jesus saying: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). This is not an offer of forgiveness; it is an intercessory prayer on behalf of people who are doing Him harm. That is not to say Jesus cannot offer forgiveness for we know that The Son of Man certainly has the power to forgive sins (Luke 5:24). However, in this moment, He takes on the role of intercessor, asking His Father on behalf of His tormentors, to forgive them.

Hanging next to Jesus on the right and left are two thieves. One is incorrigible; he has no remorse for his crimes. Taking a cue from the derision and mocking of the chief priests who are present, he cries out: “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us” (Luke 23:39). The other thief senses his partner’s disrespect and asks him: “Do you not even fear God…?” He rebukes his partner in crime and points out that they are justly condemned but this man has done no wrong. Finally, he addresses Jesus and says: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). This is where Jesus gives Him an offer of heaven and eternal life: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The Gospel of John gives the only account of an interaction between Jesus and His mother Mary during His suffering.  When Jesus saw His mother standing at the cross, together with John, He said to her, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” (John 19:26-27). This was not the first time Jesus showed compassion toward a suffering widow. In Luke’s gospel we read the story of the widow of Nain in a funeral procession, about to bury her only son. When Jesus saw her, “He had compassion on her.” Without being asked, Jesus goes to the open coffin, ‘wakes’ the boy and “presented him to his mother” (Luke 7:11-15).

Jesus’ “hour” had finally come. For His entire life and ministry, He had enjoyed a relationship with His Father second to none. He claimed Oneness with the Father, in a way that would have immediately earned Him a death sentence. Now it seems, He is forsaken by God.  Mark tells us:

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34) The Gospel writer does not indicate an answer from heaven. The Father’s voice seems strangely silent, but we have heard those words before. Hundreds of years ago the Psalmist prophetically declared them (Psalm 22:1): “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  In verse 21 we read: “You have answered Me.”

The words, “It is finished” (John 19:30) follow Jesus’s request for a drink. The Gospel writer John adds this explanation, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished” (John 19:28). Several times in scripture Jesus spoke of the “work” that He had come to do and which He was doing together with the Father. In John 4, His disciples brought Him food. When they urged Him to eat, Jesus said to them: “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” Confused, the Disciples looked at each other, questioningly. Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). The work that Jesus did on the cross is the only “finished” work in history. When Jesus cried out for a drink by saying, “I thirst” He demonstrated His humanity. He was the ‘second Adam’ from whom life everlasting flowed.

Finally, Jesus cried out: “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit’ (Luke 23:46). Luke tells us that after He had said this, “He breathed His last.” Jesus lived His whole life on earth in relational trust and intimacy with His Father, and in these last moments He surrendered His Spirit to His ever-loving Father, as He laid His body down for a short time, to the pangs of death.

Pastor Dave Rajoon is the senior pastor at Grace Evangelistic Ministries in Jamaica, Queens.

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