If I knew that I had only a few breaths left before I died, I would pick my words carefully. Whatever I said would hopefully have an impact and be a lasting memory for those within earshot. Conversation about my favorite food (lobster) or television show (Songland) or movie (The Greatest Showman) or vacation spot (Mazatlán) would not be important. Jesus’ last words demonstrates such importance. As he hung on the cross, his body torn to shreds from the torturous flogging, he fought desperately to take air into his lungs. Words were precious. So, what did he say? Seven memorable things, listed here in chronological order:
1. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
2. “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23: 43
3. “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” John 19:26-27
4. “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” Mt. 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
Jesus chose his words with eternal implications. The first three demonstrated merciful compassion. Let’s revisit them. 1. He offered forgiveness to his persecutors. He could have called for their eternal damnation (and who could blame him), but he chose instead to show them both grace and a second chance to get it right.
2. He offered eternity (with no works attached) to the criminal hanging on the cross next to him after the thief said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom!”
3. He offered concern and love for his mother, Mary, that she be taken care of for the rest of her life by his best friend, John.
Three statements, each demonstrating Jesus’ unfailing love for others.
The next two phrases show Jesus’ relentless, human struggle.
4. He felt abandoned, alone, forsaken by his Father. Many theologians believe that this was when God saw Jesus covered with the sins of mankind and could look on His son no longer. At this moment our Savior felt the weight of humanity’s evil and could take no more.
5. Jesus was fully human and fully divine, yet his divinity did not allow him to sidestep the realness of the anguish he was feeling, thus his thirst came from a parched mouth. He needed the ability to say two more things.
6. Jesus’ work on earth was done (a Hallelujah moment).
7. And then, finally, finally, the horrific cruelty was over. Jesus took his last breath and went Home to Heaven, thirty-three years after he came to earth.
Seven statements, some showing the humanity, some showing the divinity, of our crucified Savior. Fortunately, Jesus had more to say. Starting three days after he was buried, he appeared to offer encouragement at least 10 more times to his followers. And then again, he ascended into Heaven, once and for all. Jesus left the cross and the grave empty.
What does that mean for us?
Jesus is alive!!! (I cannot add enough exclamation marks!)
Today he sits at the right hand of the Heavenly Father where he intercedes for you and me. May we all remember that as we celebrate Resurrection Sunday!