Peninsula Community Church
The Last Words of Jesus on the Cross
April 9, 2017
Luke 23:34, 42-43, 46 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments… And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise…” 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.
Throughout history one’s last words have meant something and are powerful epitaphs to the one speaking the words. For the guys who were at the men’s conference this year you might remember that Pastor Eric shared a few last words spoken by men of history. Benjamin Franklin lay dying at the age of 84. As his daughter tried to help him change his position in bed so he could breathe more easily, Franklin uttered his last words. “A dying man can do nothing easy.” Samuel Clements stated that “Some die at 27 and then they are buried at 72.” General Sedgewick during the battle of Spotsylvania in 1864 made this somewhat arrogant statement. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…” Unfortunately he was looking over the parapet at the enemy lines when he was shot and he was not able to finish his sentence. The redneck’s last words were “You hold it and I will light it.” I also love a couple of tombstone inscriptions. The first says “Here lies Charlie McCraw, He was quick on the trigger, but slow on the draw.” Then there is the one that says “Here lies an atheist, all dressed up, and nowhere to go.”
While these are funny last words, the words of Jesus were nothing to laugh at. The words Jesus spoke upon on the cross were powerful words that still affect us today. They continue to challenge us some 2000 years later. For the next few moments, let us look at His words, the meaning behind the words, and how these words can apply to our life today. Altogether, there are seven sayings that we will review this morning. This is by no means an exhaustive study of these sayings but will serve as a launching pad for our discussion and for your ongoing consideration.
The first of Jesus’ last words was a word of forgiveness. “Forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). In any circumstance, these words are powerful but in the context of the moment they were even more powerful. These words were spoken when the very son of God was being tortured and was about to give His life for mankind’s sin, and that means every sin committed or to ever be committed. In the best of circumstances, these words are hard to utter but here is Jesus in one of the most difficult times of His life and yet He was able to muster the strength to proclaim forgiveness.
It is noteworthy that this forgiveness was extended to those who probably deserved forgiveness less than anyone else. The reality is that in this special moment in time Jesus was modeling the very thing that He requires from us. On multiple occasions Jesus calls us to forgive others. In Luke 6:28, Jesus calls us to pray for those that abuse us and that is exactly what He does. He not only preaches forgiveness, He models it in one of His last acts before His death.
With this in mind there are two lessons learned from this. First, through Jesus we are empowered to pray for those who mistreat us and abuse us. They may not deserve it, but forgiveness can be and should be extended to them. Those who were beating, mocking, and spitting on Jesus did not deserve forgiveness but Jesus forgave them because it was the right thing to do. It also speaks to us that we may not deserve Christ’s forgiveness but His forgiveness is bestowed upon us not because we deserve it but just the opposite. His forgiveness is bestowed on us because of grace which is the undeserved gift of God. For that reason, we can receive God’s forgiveness and we can forgive those that do not deserve forgiveness.
The second statement of Jesus is focused on salvation. “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). What a powerful word to the thief who could not do anything to merit the gift of God. After all he was hanging on a cross just like Jesus. He did not have time to attend a church. He did not have time to accomplish any works of service to purchase his way into heaven. The only thing he could do was to call out to Jesus who received him. Too often we believe that we have to work for our salvation by being good enough or achieving certain things but the thief on the cross could not do any of these things. By an act of faith, Christ forgave him and gave him a promise of being in heaven with Him. The work was accomplished by faith. He asked, Christ gave, and the thief received.
Another amazing aspect of this story is that the thief did not receive Christ in Christ’s glorified state. In fact, it was the oddest of all times that he made a stand for Christ. Jesus was in fact at His lowest point in life. He was at His weakest and most frail moment and yet it was in this moment that the thief responded to Christ’s invitation. It was here that Jesus received the thief not as a thief but a born again transformed believer in Christ. If He can do that in His weakest state of being, imagine what Jesus can do in His glorified state as He sits at the right hand of the Father to make intercession for us.
The third saying from the cross focuses on relationships. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home“ (John 19:26-27). In this we hear the heart of Jesus for relationships and connectedness. Jesus wanted to be sure that his mother was taken care of. He also wanted John to know that he too would be in relationship with his mother.
John Piper suggested that this was a powerful saying for a number of reasons. First of all, if Jesus was so eager to care for his mother in her hour of need, how much more is he eager to care for his disciples who hear the Word of God today and do it. Secondly, if Jesus could provide for His mother in a moment of his deepest weakness and humiliation how much more can He care for us in His present power and exaltation. Think about it, He is at the right hand of the Father and is praying for us every moment of every day.
The fourth saying of Jesus was one that expressed abandonment. “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). The lesson here is that the holiness of God could not look upon the sinfulness of man. The word “forsaken” used in this passage is one of the most appalling words that could be used. It is one of the most tragic words in all of human speech. God could not look upon the sin of mankind because at that moment Jesus took all of our sin upon Himself and the father had to look away. He could not bear to look upon His son as HE took all of our sin and all of the sin of mankind upon Himself.
It is here that you might question the lesson for us in this. It is my belief that Jesus experienced what we experience in our lives. He felt the coldness and divisiveness of abandonment. We experience it as marriages break up. People leave us. Businesses shut down. Kids rebel. Friends reject us. You name it and we can experience the feeling of abandonment on a number of levels. While we experience abandonment nothing compares to the moment that Jesus found Himself abandoned by God. This was necessary for us so that He would be tested and tried by every experience known to mankind. He passed the test so we could pass the test as well by depending on the one who suffered it all for us. He know us and He knows what effects us.
The fifth saying of Jesus on the cross is “I Thirst” (John 19:28). Most commentators suggest that this was a saying of distress. Jesus after a long day and night of insult and pain was now thirsty. Jesus the King of Kings had to deal with the emotion of need. It is noteworthy that the one who was the everlasting water cried out in thirst. This was Jesus’ great moment of distress. For us this means that we can be honest with Him when we are distressed and in need. Jesus knows the pain of need and the power of distress upon our lives. And better yet He knows what we need! He knows how to quench our thirst.
The sixth saying of the cross was “It is Finished” (John 19:30). Here we have the greatest words of triumph ever spoken. The Greeks could boast in being able to say much in little. If one word would do the trick that is all they would use. That is what Jesus did here. Wrapped up in these three words is all of salvation’s plan. Through these three little words the work of salvation was now complete. Through these three words we can be assured that there is nothing that can be added to the work of the cross. It was complete in its self. He paid the ultimate price for our sin. The curse of Adam and the power of sin was being dealt with by the one new Adam, Jesus.
Through this three little words all of the prophecy regarding Jesus’ death had been fulfilled. Through these three little words His suffering was complete and the goal of His incarnation had been reached. The atonement for man’s sin was now a reality. As a result, man no longer had to depend on a high priest who was tarnished by sin but he could go right to the Father who would hear and answer every prayer. It was here that we find the end of our sins and the fulfillment of the Law’s requirements and best of all we find here the destruction of satan’s power. It is finished. It is complete.
The seventh saying of the cross was “Into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). This relates reunion and restoration. Jesus was now reunited with God and His place in heaven. The one who was once separated because of sin was now restored. This speaks to us in powerful ways as the overarching need we have is to be in right relationship with God. Through Christ’s death we have the power and the ability to be restored to right relationship with Christ. Remember the passage we read last week. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2). And then here is more we can read about this. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).
The work was finished. We now have power over sin and we have the power to have a right relationship with God. So how are you doing today? Which of these sayings speak most to your heart? Which of these sayings minister hope and life to your need?
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom