The Seven Words from the Cross
Seven meditations on the seven words from the cross
from a Good Friday Tenebrae Service.
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, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
How could human beings be so cruel? How could human beings be so cold-blooded? How could human beings be so calloused? They arrest an innocent man. They conspire and lie in order to bring false charges against him. They riot and demand execution. They beat him. They flog him. They mock him. They spit on him. They pound nails through his hands and his feet. Then they mock and taunt him some more. This was sinful humanity at its worst.
Any one of those actions might spark our fiercest rage and revenge. How hard would you fight back? What angry thoughts would fly through your mind? What choice words would you say? Here’s what Jesus chose: silence, humility, willingness, and this, “Father forgive them.”
They didn’t know what they were doing. The Jews thought their zeal was carrying out religious justice. But they were killing their own promised Messiah. The Romans thought they were doing their official duties—just another execution. But this was the Son of God they were killing. They didn’t know how severe their sins really were.
Rarely do we realize this either. But on this day, we see just what our sins have done. Our sins put the Son of God on the cross as well. We share the burden of responsibility. But Jesus spoke forgiveness. Jesus won forgiveness—for the Jews, for the Romans, and 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.”
This was an execution reserved only for the real bad guys. Only the worst of the worst were crucified—pirates, slaves, murderers, rebels. If he was a thief it must have been quite the series of robberies, or perhaps robberies that involved murder. Whatever this criminal did, it must have been serious if the Romans found him deserving of crucifixion.
Now he was facing the reality of what he had done, and his conscience hurt. The guilt was heavier and more painful than the gaping wounds the nails had made. What was going to happen to him now? When he finally died this painful death, where would he be eternally? He did the only thing that seemed right. He turned to the only possibility he saw for help—Jesus. This was a plea of confession. It was a plea of repentance. It was a cry for mercy. And Jesus answered.
So also Jesus answers us. Especially on this holy day the guilt of our sins weighs so heavily. It pains us to admit all the wrongs that we have done. So this night, and every day, we raise our cries and pleas to Jesus. We confess. We repentant. We cry for mercy. And Jesus answers.
Whether a criminal who has believed for a few minutes, or a struggling Christian who has believed an entire lifetime—Jesus hears the cries of those who turn to him for salvation. He answers us. He promises paradise to us. For that is why he was on the cross, to give paradise to sinners.
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.
Surely it was a conflicted evening for this specially blessed mother. What joy was hers from the very beginning as it was promised that she would be the mother of the promised Messiah. What joy was hers as she watched him grow—never sassing back, never disobeying, always perfectly obedient. But to fulfill his name his mother gave, Jesus, which means “He saves,” this death was necessary.
Yet even while Jesus suffered in agony and fought the darkness of evil, it was not beyond his loving care and attention to provide for his mother. He made sure that she would be supported. He made sure that she would be taken care. He made sure that she had family.
True man had love and care for his mother. True God was able to give attention to everyone that needed it. This loving Savior gives the same individual care and attention to every one of us. He knows our needs. He knows our concerns. So he loves, and he provides—just as he did for his own mother.
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?”
When God leaves, when God is not there, that is hell. Hell is more than just a fiery place down below us. Hell is when God will not be with you. Hell is when God will not bless you. Hell is when God turns his back and forsakes you.
Jesus was suffering hell. It is a moment that the mind cannot comprehend. How could the Father turn his back on the Son? How could God be experiencing hell? How could the innocent and perfect be punished so severely?
Yet this moment was of such great importance for you and me. Had the perfect Son of God not suffered hell, we would. Had the Father not turned his back on the Son, he would have turned his back on us. So Jesus came to be the sacrifice and payment for us and in our stead. He was forsaken and suffered hell for our sins so that we would never have to.
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.”
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.” Let no one doubt. This was the promised Christ. Nothing was left undone. Every prophecy was fulfilled. Every righteous act was accomplished.
It looked like a simple drink, but it was so much more. Jesus showed his true humanity. He was a human like every one of us. He was thirsty. Yet Jesus also showed his true divinity. Only God himself could fulfill every promise and obey every command. Here was a man to save mankind and able to die. Here was God able to live with perfection and die a death of value for all. True man. True God. The perfect 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.
Thousands of years before this, a promise was given. It was a single promise made to two fallen humans in a paradise they had lost. It was a promise that one would come who would crush the head of the serpent whose evil snares they had fallen into.
Year after year, from generation to generation, that promised was carried forward. Some day—some day one will come to overthrow evil. Some day one will come to reverse the curse. Some day one will come to erase what happened in Eden.
That Messiah came. That day came. That victory happened. As Adam and Eve brought sin and death into this world with their one act of unrighteousness, so Jesus brought life and salvation through this one act of righteousness.
Everything Adam and Eve had done was now forgiven. Everything the Israelites had done for ages was now forgiven. Everything you and I would ever do in the future was now forgiven. Jesus had finished. He finished his suffering. He finished his substitution. He finished forgiveness. He finished salvation. 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.
Posted on April 23, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, Crucifixion, Good Friday, Jesus' Death, Paradise, Sermons, Seven Words from the Cross, Tenebrae. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.