The Seven Words from the Cross
When people speak upon their deathbeds, others bend near to listen and carefully consider the weight of what is being said. The parting words of a loved one linger in the minds and on the hearts of those gathered for years to come—My grandmother’s last words will always be written on my heart.
Here we will reflect upon the final seven words—that is, phrases—of Jesus while on the cross, just before he died. Let us pay attention carefully, for his words were intentional, deep, and heavy, and they are powerful.
The first of these seven is:
1. Luke 23:34: When they came to the place called the skull, there they crucified him. … And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The first words are a prayer. The heavy heart of Jesus is focused on those for whom he is dying, including the very ones who are crucifying him. The center of Christ’s passion can be summed up in these words; allow them to cut deep into your heart. “Father, forgive them.” Jesus Christ is on the cross, and he prays for you—that your sins will be forgiven.
CONCERN FOR OTHERS
The next two phrases are to individuals. Both express Jesus’ deep concern for those around him.
2. Luke 23:39–43: One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
3. John 19:26–27: When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
Jesus, in excruciating agony, looks out from upon the cross and focuses his attention not on himself, but on those who are suffering around him. Jesus looks upon a repentant criminal paying the penalty for his deeds and offers him both hope and comfort. Jesus sees his mother, and makes sure she will be taken care of after his death. What this means for us is this: Jesus is deeply concerned that you, broken by sin, find mercy and eternal comfort in him.
HUMANITY OF CHRIST
These next two phrases both come from the book of Psalms, the prayer book of God’s people. Both are about the Messiah, and both express Jesus' broken humanity on the cross.
4. Matthew 27:46 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “אֵלִ֣י אֵ֭לִי לָמָ֣ה עֲזַבְתָּנִי” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (from Psalm 22)
5. John 19:28: After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” (from Psalm 69:21)
Jesus is human. and he is the messiah. He is praying and quoting from the only source of hope that he has while in the moment his agony. Jesus feels the weight of the curse of sin, and his body, broken, bruised, and afflicted, tells him he is thirsty.
This is the love of Jesus. He endured the curse of our sin so that we can have hope in the midst and beyond our suffering. He is taking your sin, and he is paying its penalty.
These are last two phrases spoken by Jesus before he died.
6. John 19:30: When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,”
7. Luke 23:46: Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
As is often the case, the greatest words are saved for last. The very words that seal our forgiveness and our salvation. The work of Christ in atoning for our sin, finished. He commits his last breath to God, and he stops breathing. For a moment, death and darkness fall upon the world, as Christ rests on the Sabbath, awaiting the first day of the new creation.