Good Friday: Words from the Cross
The following is a series of devotional messages on each of the seven words Jesus spoke from the cross. They were preached on Good Friday at Christ the King Church.
Luke 23:33-34 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgiven them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
His own friend betrayed him. His own disciples fled him. His own people rejected him. His own government condemned him. He was mutilated. He was humiliated. As the blood from the gaping holes in his hands and feet still dripped fresh to ground, the people drove home extra, emotional daggers. The Jews mocked him. The two criminals mocked him. The Romans mocked him. The soldiers even stole his clothes and cast lots for ownership. Could one fathom worse physical pain? Could one fathom worse emotional pain?
But they didn’t know. They didn’t know whom they were hurting. They didn’t know whom they were taunting. They didn’t know whom they were killing. This was the Son of God. But it was not only they who delivered the blows. They shouted, “Crucify him!” They held the hammers. But our sins put him there too. We share the guilt of hurting and killing the innocent Son of God.
Had we been on that cross our sinful human nature would curse such criminal behavior. We would cry out for vengeance. We would berate and belittle with every ounce of strength left. What else could such a helpless human, an innocent victim, do? But this was not just a man. This was also God. The perfect Son of God continued his perfection even in the utmost hour of torture. Seeing the sinners before him that put him on that cross, knowing the sinners that would come in the future, he spoke not in rage or spite or vengeance. He asked for forgiveness—for the Jews, for the Romans, for us.
The first word from the cross.
Luke 23:42-43 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
He must have done something terribly wrong. Besides the atrocious injustice with Jesus, normally crucifixion was reserved for the worst of the worst criminals. There must have been repeated robberies of great magnitude for him to be on that cross. Whatever the crimes, it was deserving of death in the eyes of the Roman government.
Now, as the weight of his wrongs and the sting of his sins burdened his soul, all he could but do was turn to Jesus. With a true heart of sorrow and repentance he begged, “Jesus, remember me.” He doesn’t ask for much—only that Jesus would remember him.
We understand. Seeing the sinless Savior on the cross, the full weight of our wrongs and sting of our sins strike us heavily. We know that we are the ones who should be between the criminals. Thus, we too cry out with true hearts of sorrow and repentance, “Jesus, remember me.”
The gracious love of the Savior goes far beyond remembering. Through his death on that cross, Jesus forgave. Through that death, Jesus saved. Through that death, Jesus opened the doors to eternal paradise—for the criminal, for you, for me.
The second word from the cross.
John 19:25-27 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Oh the joy that rang from her lips as the pregnant Mary sang her glorious song, the Magnificat: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior . . . From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.” Some 30-plus years later the once joyous mother-to-be gazes upon her son as he hangs nailed to a cross. Such pain it would cause any mother!
Yet even Mary needed him there. Mary was a sinner just as much as you and I. Mary needed a Savior just as much as you and I. While her heart hurt deeply, she had stilled treasured up the words of the angel Gabriel to Joseph, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
And so he was. For 30-plus years he had lived a perfect life. Even in these moments of agony he shows perfect love and care for his mother. This perfect life was lived for Mary, for us, and for all. In just a short while he would give up that perfect life for Mary, for us, and for all. He saved his people—Mary, us, and all—from our sins. Indeed, this was Jesus.
The third word from the cross.
Matthew 27:46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The absence of God. No living creature can comprehend it. No living creature has ever experienced it. Let alone one—Jesus Christ. In the darkest hour—the hour of deception, lies, and murder; the hour of sin, guilt, and grief—the Father turns his back on his Son and forsakes him.
This was nothing less than hell. When God turns his back, when God removes his love and removes his promises, when God leaves with everything that he is and does—that is indeed hell. Only the unbelieving dead had experienced it before. But now Jesus was experiencing it while alive in this world.
This was the quintessential moment of his suffering. The flogging, the beatings, the blood, the gore—it was all just rising action leading to this climactic moment. The God who reigns in heaven above was enduring the depths of hell below. Now he was really paying for sin, for that is the price and punishment for sin—eternal death and hell. Thus, the Son hung abandoned by his Father as both substitute and sacrifice for our sin.
The fourth word from the cross.
John 19:28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
He was born of a virgin. He was born of the house and line of David. He was born in Bethlehem. He was a great prophet like Moses and Elijah. He was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. They pierced his hands and feet. They mocked him and scoffed at him. They cast lots for his clothing. All prophecies. All fulfilled.
Now one more. For one thousand years earlier, King David prophesied as he wrote, “I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none. They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.”
There ought be no doubt. All in all over 300 Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus. He is the one. He is the Messiah God had promised. He is the Son of God. He is the Savior of all. His perfect life and innocent death accomplished it. His fulfillment of Scripture helps prove it. Doubt not. This God-Man fulfilling Scripture with a simple drink is your Savior.
The fifth word from the cross.
John 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
One sin. Just one sin. From the moment that Adam and Eve first collaborated their defiance against the Lord, this world has been spiraling in a tailspin of wickedness and evil. They began it. We continued it. From the tainted image that we were born with to the little things we stumble over to the gross and heinous things we dare not share with one another—we have failed to do all that God demands and we have done the wrongs that God forbids. Our lives are utterly tarnished by sin. We have fallen far short of God’s glory and hell is surely what we deserve. Heaven is but an impossible dream for sinners.
But nothing is impossible with God. The apostle Paul wrote, “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” This one righteous act of sacrificial love has brought a declaration of innocence to all sinners. As Adam sinned and brought death and punishment to all, so Christ’s life and death brought forgiveness and salvation to all. And now with these words, it was finished. The suffering was finished. The payment was finished. Our salvation was finished. A word of victory . . .
The sixth word from the cross.
Luke 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Not one breath had been wasted. Every single breath was important and had value. For with every breath—with every moment—of his life to that point he had been achieving our salvation. Every year, every day, every second Jesus lived with the greatest perfection. It was the life we ought to live.
These last few breaths had been more pants and gasps of pain. Yet these breaths—these moments—had equal value. For with these last breaths he had been carrying the sins of the world. With these last breaths he had been suffering the depths of hell. With these last breaths he had been battling Satan.
Now that all had been finished, there was one final task—to stop breathing. Thus, Jesus committed himself to the care of his Father and breathed his last. It was by his own will that he came to live for us. It was by his own will that he suffered for us. It was by his own will that he gave up his life for us. With this word, the Savior died. He died that we might live.
The seventh and final word from the cross.
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