The last seven sayings of Jesus Christ were uttered while nailed to the cross on Calvary, where He died for our sins. For centuries, these phrases have touched millions of lives, transformed the hardest of hearts, and opened the eyes of the blind. Today, Jesus' words are just as powerful and relevant as they were thousands of years ago, providing us with a lasting example of how we must live.
1. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).
In saying these words while enduring persecution at the hands of His enemies, Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy that He would make "intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). Despite his agony, Jesus' concern was for the forgiveness of those who hated and despised Him. In His infinite mercy, Jesus still loved them and would have forgiven them had they humbled themselves and repented before Him.
What can we learn from this phrase? Although because of sin we, too, were enemies of God, He is ready and willing to forgive us of our sins, as Jesus' words demonstrate. When we understand the magnitude and depth of Christ's love for us, we, in turn, are able to unflinching "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44)?
2. "You will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Here, Jesus is speaking while nailed to a cross between two criminals, both guilty and deserving of death. However, while one criminal blasphemed Christ, the other experienced a change of heart and confessed their just condemnation and Jesus' innocence-"this Man has done nothing wrong" (verse 41). He also expressed faith that Christ would rule over God's coming Kingdom-"Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom" (verse 42).
Jesus replied by giving him the promise of Heaven - a reward given to those who, like the thief on the cross, repent of their sins and put their faith in Him. Jesus, who through his death and eventual resurrection received the ultimate in authority, is able to forgive sins, and provide us with the assurance of eternal life. This 11th hour salvation is a reminder that it's never too late to bow before the Lord and ask for forgiveness
3. "Woman, behold your son!" (John 19:26-27).
For Mary, the mother of Jesus, the pain of witnessing her son rejected and mocked by those He came to save must have been unbearable. The Bible tells us she stood by and watched as her son died - she "stood by the cross of Jesus" (verse 25).
Following this phrase, Jesus spoke to His beloved disciple John, saying, "Behold your mother, to whom you must pay a sonly duty." The Bible then tells us that John took Mary to his home, where he cared for her (verse 27). As Jesus suffered on the cross, He thought about the needs of the mother who had loved and cared for Him and making sure she'd be cared for by John.
It's important for us to honor and love our parents, likewise, as the commandment reads: "Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12)
4. "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46).
Jesus knows our loneliness - He experienced it to the greatest degree. While on the cross, He felt horrific separation from the Father, bearing the sins of the world. While his physical pain was great, His spiritual pain was even greater. But, Jesus suffered it willingly, for the joy set before him, knowing that through His suffering, we would never be separated from God. The extreme pain Jesus endured to save us from our sins shows us just how much He loves us. Christ knows that feeling of being alone and rejected - and can thus give us the understanding and faith we need in such times.
John Piper notes that Jesus' words are not a cry of despair, as despair would have been sin: "Even in the darkness God was, 'My God,' and though there was no sign of him, and though the pain obscured the promises, somewhere in the depths of his soul there remained the assurance that God was holding him. What was true of Abraham was truer still of Jesus: Against all hope, he in hope believed (Romans 4:18)."
5. "I thirst!" (John 19:28).
In saying this phrase, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy found in Psalm 69:21: "For my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."
Jesus also demonstrated that he understands human suffering, and thus understands our hurting and physical needs, too. John 4:14 reads, "but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
Writes author Ray Pritchard: "It is one of the ultimate ironies of the biblical story that Jesus cried out 'I thirst.' He who is the water of life now dies of thirst."
6. "It is finished!" (John 19:30).
When He uttered this words, Jesus was just moments away from concluding His ultimate work as a man-offering Himself as our atoning sacrifice, shedding His blood for our sins. Jesus had triumphed over the grave; "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame" (Hebrews 12:2).
Writes B. F. Westcott: "The earthly life had been carried to its issue. Every essential point in the prophetic portraiture of Messiah had been realized (Acts 13:29). The last suffering for sin had been endured. The "end" of all had been gained. Nothing was left undone or unborn. The absence of a definite subject forces the reader to call up each work which was now brought to an end."
In dying, Jesus also sealed Satan's fate. It was through Jesus' death that "He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14).
7. "Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit'" (Luke 23:46).
Jesus' final words were those of complete faith and submission - He is no longer forsaken; the Father now holds out His hands to welcome His son. Writes John Piper, "The sacrifice is complete, the curtain torn, and the way into the Holiest opened once and for all; and now Jesus joy finds expression in the words of another psalm, Psalm 31:5. In the original, it had not contained the word Abba, but Jesus inserts it: 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit' (Luke 23:46)."
As was prophesied, three days later God brought Jesus back to life, and now He reigns in glory - seated at the right hand of God!
Like Jesus, can we put our lives in God's hands, completely trusting in His perfect plan for us?