Seven Sayings of Jesus at the Cross

It is Good Friday and the day we remember Jesus’ crucifixion. I find days like this quite difficult to write on, because so much has already been said. What can I possibly hope to add to the many faithful people who have penned words on this subject over the centuries?

I woke early this morning, and as I lay in bed, I thought about the crucifixion and what I might say about it.My thoughts turned to some of the things that Jesus said while He was nailed to the cross. So we will spend some time today considering His words. 

Jesus spoke seven “Last Words” at the cross, as they are sometimes called, and we will go through each in turn. 

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

Luke 23:34 (WEB)

None of us really know who we are until we are put under immense pressure. When all is well, life is good and we go with the flow. But when hard times fall, the weight of worry can reveal who we really are. It can bring out of us the character that lies beneath. That is also true for Jesus, and we see the absolute perfection of His character in this first saying. 

Jesus, in terrible agony and suffering, takes the time to pray for the ones who have done this to Him. He would have had every right to call down legions of angels to destroy those who would even dare to dream of doing such a thing to Him. Yet He prays for them…

I could point out what we could all learn from such an example. I could say that we all should prefer others to ourselves. But today, on this Good Friday, I want to emphasise the unimaginable love of our Saviour. As His very creation turned on Him, He prayed for their forgiveness. Jesus truly deserves our worship!

Jesus said to him, “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:43 (WEB)

These words of Christ were spoken to one of the criminals crucified with Him. In Matthew’s Gospel, we read that both criminals hurled insults at Jesus (see Matthew 27:44). Yet, one of them now turns to Christ in his dying moments. Facing his death, the criminal realises that there is indeed a God to face on the other side. As he looks to the side and sees the Innocent Christ on the cross, he realises he needs a Saviour. 

Again, we see the quality of Christ here. In pain we cannot imagine, He still offers words of comfort and forgiveness to this lowly robber. 

It shows us also that while we still have breath in our bodies, it is not too late to turn to Jesus. 

Therefore when Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour, the disciple took her to his own home.

John 19:26-27 (WEB)

Once again we read words of Christ not about Him or His suffering, as you might expect from a man nailed to a cross. Instead, we see further selflessness from the Son of God, this time commending His earthly mother to the disciple whom He loved. Knowing the sorrow in His mother’s heart, He took a moment to ensure she was cared for. Jesus entrusted Mary into John’s care, and even now fulfilling the Ten Commandments and honouring His mother. 

About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lima sabachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”Psalm 22:1

Matthew 27:46 (WEB)

Up until now, the words of Jesus we have studied have been words for the benefit of others. Now we glimpse the degree of pain He must have felt. Jesus here quotes Psalm 22, and I encourage you to read it today. 

Psalm 22 was written a long time before Jesus was born, and even before crucifixion itself was invented. Yet the psalm paints a picture of a horrendous crucifixion. It is a clear prophecy of Christ’s death at the cross. 

There are many reasons to be convinced that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God. For me, the many hundreds of prophecies that He fulfilled are more than enough evidence of this truth. 

After this, Jesus, seeing that all things were now finished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I am thirsty.”

John 19:28 (WEB)

A great thirst is one of the consequences of a crucifixion death. Much has been written on the medical impacts of such a death, and most victims would have died of suffocation. They would hang by their limbs, pushing up to take each breath. Eventually they would weaken and no longer be able to breathe. That is why the Romans would sometimes break the legs, preventing the victim from pushing upwards any longer. 

Jesus, it seems, did not die this way and was already dead when they came to break His legs. This, too was fulfilment of a prophecy which said none of His bones would be broken. 

You might imagine that such a slow and terrible death would leave the victim incredibly thirsty, and so His words are a clear sign of this. 

The words themselves are fulfilment of prophecy too. 

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30 (WEB)

It is finished. Jesus completed His work. The plan that had been instigated the very moment of the Fall in the Garden of Eden, had reached its goal. Sin’s full payment had been made. Every man and woman who now looked to that cross for salvation would find it. 

Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Luke 23:46 (WEB)

Jesus very last words. Completing His work, He gives up His spirit into His Father’s hands. Those who stood by knew this was no mere man. Even the Centurion confessed that this was indeed the Son of God. 

Jesus, at His death, trusted His spirit to His Father. Every day and in every way, you and I should learn to trust the Father to a greater degree. Every time we worry or fear, we are saying that we do not trust Him. If we do not trust God in the everyday, how can we trust Him with our eternal security? 

One day every one of us will “give up their spirit” and enter eternity. Only those who put their faith and trust in Jesus’ work at the cross will find peace that side. Let this Good Friday be the one where you give yourself wholly to Christ. Don’t live in doubt anymore, put your trust in Him now and forever. 

Jesus died for you. He suffered on your behalf. He paid the full price for your sin. Do not let that go to waste! Accept that gracious gift and be forever free!

Who’s calling the shots?

It is Maundy Thursday, and the day we remember the Last Supper. On this night, Jesus has His last meal with His friends before He is arrested and crucified.

I saw a post on Facebook the other day posing a question about this night, and particularly about the devil’s and Judas’ roles. If the devil entered Judas Iscariot, as it says in Luke 22:3, then why did the devil lead him to betray Christ and send Him to the cross – His ultimate victory?

I suggest that the devil is a murderer, and without fully understanding the plan of God, was simply trying to kill Jesus before He could fulfil His role. Essentially, I think the devil unwittingly played into God’s hands. God’s will and purpose is always fulfilled.

My post today is not really about that issue however, but does pose a related question – who was calling the shots that night? Who was really in charge of the events that took place?

From Matthew’s Gospel, we read:

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’

22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?’

23 Jesus replied, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’

25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?’

Jesus answered, ‘You have said so.’

Matthew 26:20-25 (NIVUK)

Jesus’ last meal with His disciples would have been quite an interesting experience. Most of them probably would not have realised that this was the last time they would spend time with Him before the cross. But Jesus of course knew.

The events of the Last Supper were significant in a number of ways. Not least was the instigation of the Lord’s Supper, or what we call Holy Communion. It is an important sacrament, and one we should take seriously, but we must not also lose sight of its original simplicity. Jesus broke bread and shared wine with His closest friends. The bread and wine represented His body and blood, and encourages us to remember Him and His sacrifice for us.

The account above tells us how Jesus broke not just bread that night, but bad news indeed! The disciples were shocked to learn that one of them would betray Him. But who?

Jesus, in front of them all, shines the spotlight on to Judas. “Surely not I, Lord?” he says, knowing full well it is him. “Yes, you!” says Jesus. There is nothing to indicate that Jesus did this privately or in a whispered corner. I think He pronounced this in front of them all.

What could Judas do now? Every eye was likely resting on him, accusing, wondering, and confused. What would you do in his shoes? Run? That’s exactly what he did. Clearly he had not planned this, and had not suspected his betrayal would be exposed in front of them all. He had to run for it, and immediately put his plan into action.

It is not always easy to grasp the timings of events in the Bible, but it seems that Judas would have run straight to the Pharisees and report to them where Jesus would go after dinner. There, in the garden, they would find him.

Jesus instigated this. Jesus forced Judas’ hand. They would not have wanted to arrest Jesus on a festival day – at Passover. They knew that to hold His trials overnight, as they did would be totally illegal. They had not yet had time to prepare the false witnesses who would later contradict one another in the kangaroo court.

The point is this. God is in charge. He was in charge that night, and He is in charge now. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection were all part of God’s plan right from the very beginning.

God is not evil, but He will use evil to fulfil His plans and purposes. The devil wanted to destroy Jesus, and he used the evil heart of Judas to try it. Perhaps as Jesus was nailed to the cross, the devil may have thought he had won. But death could not hold the Lord!

This night, as you remember Jesus, imagine yourself as a fly n the wall at the Last Supper. What must Jesus have been feeling? If you were one of His disciples, would you have known what was coming?

We have the luxury of hindsight. We sometimes look down on the disciples for not seeing what we do, and yet had we been there, I’m not sure we would have fared much better than they.

However you commemorate this night, remember that Jesus did it for you. You may not be able to share in Communion with your church (if they are closed due to COVID) but you can still take time to reflect and remember.

Worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – because He’s the One who’s really in charge.