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April 1, 2015

Seven Last Sayings of Jesus, Part 1

The last words of a dying loved one are remembered and treasured as some of the most important words spoken. On Good Friday, the Gospels record seven final sayings of Christ, from the cross, that believers have both cherished and been challenged with in processing their own struggles. No one Gospel contains all of the last words of Christ from the cross. But, a comparison of the narratives will reveal seven powerful statements that express Jesus’ humanity, love, and grace. Let’s review four of Christ’s final words together and discover what truths they reveal. We’ll save the other three for tomorrow.

 Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34, NIV)

It’s unimaginable to me that Jesus could offer a word of forgiveness to those who were crucifying Him. It’s also difficult to believe what Jesus said about those who were behind it all, that they did not know what they were doing. It appeared that they knew exactly what they were doing and that they didn’t really seem to care either. Yet, as one pastor put it, “His words are probably the most descriptive truth about all human sin…. Even when sin is calculated, planned thoroughly, conceived carefully, and executed efficiently, no one really understands the depth or dimension of sin’s destructiveness or the degree of its horrible damage to people. In a very real sense, every sin is a sin of ignorance.”  With that truth in mind and Calvary’s love in my heart, I can learn the grace of forgiveness as well.

I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43, NLT)

Imagine the comfort those words brought a dying thief, suspended on a cross next to Jesus. Luke records the exchange between the thieves on either side of Christ and the heart cry of one of them. One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, ‘So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself–and us, too, while you’re at it!’ But the other criminal protested. ‘Don’t you even fear God when you are dying? We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done one thing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’” (Luke 23:39-42, TLB).

I love the response that Jesus gave this dying thief.  He said, “I assure you…”  It’s never too late to seek God! His grace looks beyond all my faults and failures into my heart; He accepts me just as I am, and He offers me fellowship with Him!  “… today you will be with me in paradise.” His acceptance assures me of forgiveness.

Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing near her. He said to His mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that moment the disciple accepted her as his own mother. (John 19:26-27, MSG)

Despite his own suffering from the cross, Jesus was concerned for the welfare of his mother. He knew her heart was breaking as she helplessly watched His final moments of suffering from the foot of the cross. Jesus was her oldest child, and most scholars believe that Joseph had already died, leaving Jesus to care for her. Concerned for His grieving mother and her personal welfare, Jesus offers her a word of comfort and commits her care into the hands of a faithful disciple. What a lesson in selflessness. Jesus refused to allow His present pain to dull His sensitivity to the needs of one who depended on Him. We can do the same by focusing on the needs of those closest to us.

.… My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me? (Matthew 27:46, NIV)

These were perhaps the most dramatic words spoken from Calvary. It trembles with emotional anguish and the feeling of a sense of abandonment completely foreign to the oneness Jesus had always experienced with His Father. Aren’t you thankful that God is not threatened by our hard questions or our complaints? No one experiencing suffering and sorrow could possibly understand why. We’ve all had moments when we’ve wondered, “Why God?” It’s comforting to know that we have a Savior who has been there as well and understands our despair. He points us in the direction where we can lift our cry. Cry out to God. He doesn’t mind our questions or complaints and, although He may seem absent, He is never far away.

Personal Challenge:

  1. If you knew these were your last words what would you like to say to those closest to you?
  2. How do you process your pain? What are the hard questions you’ve wondered about? Take them to God in a time of prayer and be still to listen to what He may say.