John 1:1-3 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Jesus Christ made seven final statements during his last hours on the cross. These phrases are held dear by followers of Christ because they offer a glimpse into the depth of his suffering to accomplish redemption. Recorded in in the Gospels between the time of his crucifixion and his death, they reveal his divinity as well as his humanity.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
In the midst of his excruciating suffering, the heart of Jesus was focused on others rather than himself. Here we see the nature of his love—unconditional and divine.
It makes sense that the first word of Jesus from the cross is a word of forgiveness. That’s the point of the cross, after all. Jesus is dying so that we might be forgiven for our sins, so that we might be reconciled to God for eternity. As we read the words, “Father, forgive them,” may we understand that we too are forgiven through Christ. As John writes in his first letter, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9). Because Christ died on the cross for us, we are cleansed from all wickedness, from every last sin. We are united with God the Father as his beloved children. We are free to approach his throne of grace with our needs and concerns. God “has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Ps 103:13).
“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
As Jesus hung on the cross, he was mocked by the leaders and the soldiers. One of the criminals being crucified with him added his own measure of scorn. But the other crucified criminal had recognized who Jesus was and expressed faith in him as Savior. After speaking up for Jesus, he cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Jesus responded to this criminal, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). Thus we have encountered one of the most astounding and encouraging verses in all of Scripture. Jesus promised that the criminal would be with him in paradise. Here we see grace poured out through faith, as Jesus assured the dying man of his forgiveness and eternal salvation.
The presence of Mary at the cross adds both humanity and horror to the scene. We are reminded that Jesus was a real human being, a man who had once been a boy who had once been carried in the womb of his mother. Even as he was dying on the cross as the Savior of the world, Jesus was also a son, a role he didn’t neglect in his last moments. We’re reminded of the prophecy of Simeon shortly after Jesus’ birth, when he said to Mary: “And a sword will pierce your very soul” (Luke 2:35). 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.”
Jesus, looking down from the cross, was still filled with the concerns of a son for the earthly needs of his mother. None of his brothers were there to care for her, so he gave this task to the Apostle John. He was a real man, true flesh and blood, a son of a mother, dying with unbearable agony. His suffering was altogether real, and he took it on for you and for me. Here we clearly see Christ’s humanity.
Matthew 27:46 (also Mark 15:34)
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
In the darkest hours of his suffering, Jesus cried out the opening words of Psalm 22. In the words of the psalmist Jesus found a way to express the cry of his heart: Why had God abandoned him? Why did his Father turn his back on Jesus in his moment of greatest agony? This side of heaven, we will never fully know what Jesus was experiencing in this moment. Was he asking this question because, in the mystery of his incarnational suffering, he didn’t know why God had abandoned him? Or was his cry not so much a question as an expression of profound agony? Or was it both? What we do know is that Jesus entered into the Hell of separation from God. The Father abandoned him because Jesus took upon himself the penalty for our sins. In that excruciating moment, he experienced something far more horrible than physical pain. The beloved Son of God knew what it was like to be rejected by the Father. As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” And although much has been suggested regarding the meaning of this phrase, it was quite apparent the agony Christ felt as he expressed separation from God. Here we see the Father turning way from the Son as Jesus bore the full weight of our sin.
Jesus knew that everything was now finished, and to fulfill the Scriptures he said, “I am thirsty.”
No doubt Jesus experienced extreme thirst while being crucified. He would have lost a substantial quantity of bodily fluid, both blood and sweat, through what he had endured even prior to crucifixion. Thus his statement, “I am thirsty” was, on the most obvious level, a request for something to drink. In response the soldiers gave Jesus “sour wine” (v. 29). John notes that Jesus said “I am thirsty,” not only as a statement of physical reality, but also in order to fulfill the Scripture. Though there is no specific reference in the text of the Gospel, it’s likely that John was thinking of Psalm 69, which includes this passage: Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me. But instead, they give me poison for food; they offer me sour wine for my thirst.
… he said, “It is finished!”
Jesus knew he was suffering the crucifixion for a purpose. Earlier he had said in John 10:18 of his life, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” These three words were packed with meaning, for what was finished here was not only Christ’s earthly life, not only his suffering and dying, not only the payment for sin and the redemption of the world—but the very reason and purpose he came to earth was finished. His final act of obedience was complete. The Scriptures had been fulfilled. Because Jesus finished his work of salvation, you and I don’t need to add to it. In fact, we can’t. He accomplished what we never could, taking our sin upon himself and giving us his life in return. Jesus finished that for which he had been sent, and we are the beneficiaries of his unique effort. Because of what he finished, you and I are never “finished.” We have hope for this life and for the next. We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. One day what God has begun in us will also be finished, by his grace. Until that day, we live in the confidence of Jesus’ cry of victory: “It is finished!”
Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Here Jesus closes with the words of Psalm 31:5, speaking to the Father. We see his complete trust in the Father. By quoting a portion of Psalm 31, therefore, Jesus not only entrusted his future to his Father, but also implied that he would be delivered and exonerated. No, God would not deliver him from death by crucifixion. But beyond this horrific death lay something marvelous. “I entrust my spirit into your hands” points back to the familiar suffering of David in Psalm 31, and forward to the resurrection. Jesus entered death in the same way he lived each day of his life, offering up his life as the perfect sacrifice and placing himself in God’s hands.