The words which Jesus uttered on the Cross are worthy of special consideration. His words were not many in number. They would not fill a single page of an average sized book. They are not the big, long, unfamiliar kinds of words which would cause the average person to check for meanings in the dictionary. But the last words of Jesus are important because of who uttered them, where they were uttered, why they were spoken, and what they mean. They are precious because they are deep, deep expressions of the Man of Sorrows in His time of terrible agony in those moments when He actually purchased our redemption.
Earlier, Jesus had said, "This is your hour when darkness reigns" (Luke 22:53). He had prayed earnestly three times, "if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." He know where the cup of suffering came from. And that is what hurt. It did not come from the devil, nor from the traitor Judas, nor from the Jews. It actually came from the One whom He knew to be His Father. Jesus said, "The cup which my heavenly Father hath given unto me, shall I not drink (of) it?" We read in Isaiah 53:10 that "it pleased the Lord to bruise him."
What happened on the Cross as Jesus died was that He took everyone else's place. He tasted death for all human beings. He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. With his stripes we are healed. I believe sincerely that every individual person's potential hell was condensed in that cup of suffering. And Jesus drank it all. For the first and only time He was experiencing the terrifying separation from God, by being in the place not only of the sinner, but also of the sinbearer. This was an intense kind of sorrow and involved much grief. C. H. Spurgeon said, "I am never afraid of exaggeration when I speak of what my Lord endured."
Many of us in the church today need to be careful that we do not fall prey to the temptation that leads us to constantly talk about what we are doing for God instead of emphasizing what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Perhaps we should check the words which we have spoken during the last week. What things did we talk about most? The solemn words uttered from the Cross are a profound reminder of the great price that was paid for us. Let us never take it lightly.
Seven Words from the Cross
by Harold S. Martin
The suffering and death of Jesus Christ was the most solemn moment in history. The eternal Son of God was slain. The loveliest Person who ever walked the face of this earth was crucified. Nineteen and one-half centuries have passed since the Crucifixion Day, yet the Bible account enables us to visualize the event with a great deal of accuracy. It was a turbulent afternoon in the Spring. An execution was taking place. A surging crowd stood by. It was the eve of a great annual festival that had brought thousands to Jerusalem. The earth had been rocked by an earthquake. The sky was darkened by a supernatural eclipse. There were three crosses on Golgotha. On the right and on the left were two robbers crucified for rebellion and murder. On the center cross (with its mocking title of scorn in three languages) hung a sinless Sufferer! He was dying for the sins of the world.
Jesus spoke seven times during the closing moments on the Cross. Before the darkness descended on the scene, Jesus spoke three times. During the darkness, He spoke once. And after the darkness had passed, He uttered three more sentences of love.
1. THE WORD OF FORGIVENESS
"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). It was usual for crucified persons to speak while hanging on the cross, but their words usually consisted of wild expressions of pain and pleadings for release. They would shriek and curse and spit at the spectators. But here was Jesus, suffering untold agony and dying a shameful death. He didn't cry out for pity nor did He curse His crucifiers. There was no plea for release, but instead, a prayer for all His enemies. Jesus prayed for those who condemned Him and mocked at Him and nailed Him to the Cross - and for those from all nations and kindreds who down through the years have missed the mark.
Jesus could have caused the earth to open its mouth so that His enemies would have gone alive down into the pit! But here we see Jesus practicing what He preached. One day Jesus preached on the mountain, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you." On another occasion He told His disciples to forgive 70 times 7 times. Needless to say, it is much easier to talk about forgiveness than it is to forgive. But what Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount, He practiced on the grim hill of Calvary.
Has someone hurt your feelings in some way?
Can you pray for that person? If you have the spirit of Christ, you will pray much for him, and perhaps someday you will become the best of friends. The Bible says, "Be ye therefore kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another" (Ephesians 4:32). We have been freely forgiven; therefore we should freely forgive.
2. THE WORD OF ASSURANCE
"And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:42-43). On either side of Jesus, on crosses lifted against the sky, hung two thieves. These two were guilty men. They deserved to die. The two malefactors hung there for a while in silence, but they were unable to turn away their eyes from the wonderful Man who was weltering in His blood by their side. The blood was dripping from their bodies. Their tongues had grown swollen with pain. At length, the one malefactor began to speak. He joined in the blasphemous speeches which were rising from the crowd below, and said to the Man in the crown of thorns, "If thou be the Christ, save thyself, and us." But immediately the other thief (who also had made sneering remarks), began to fear God as he came close to the borders of death. This second thief acknowledged that Jesus had "done nothing amiss," and that they indeed deserved their punishment, for "we receive the due reward of our deeds." And then the second thief humbly and devoutly addressed Jesus and said, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."
The second thief admitted that the cross was where he ought to die and that he was doomed for despair. And friend, that is the first step required in order to get saved. Every person must admit that he is helpless and lost before there is any hope of his ever getting saved. And when this man asked for mercy, Jesus did not accuse him of being a criminal and a wicked person beyond help. Jesus said, "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise." Not only will I remember you, but I will take you with me to a land where you will never suffer again, and where all your troubles and tears will be gone forever! That is marvellous grace. Here was a thief, a man not fit to live on earth, who was suddenly made fit to live in Heaven. All this was possible because the load of sin was lifted off his shoulders, and placed on Him who was hanging on the center Cross. The hymnwriter says, "There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel's veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day; And may I there (tho' vile as he) wash all my sins away."
3. THE WORD OF COMFORT
"When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home" (John 19:26-27). While the crowd mocked and jeered, it is good to know that there were those present who really cared. Jesus looked down and saw His mother standing near the Cross. By her side was the disciple John. This little group of sympathetic and bereaved souls furnished a striking contrast to the rest of the mocking crowd. Jesus lifted His voice and said to His mother, "Woman, look at John; from now on he will be your son." And then to John He said, "From now on she will be your mother."
Try and read the thoughts and the emotions of Jesus' mother's heart. His disciples had deserted Him; His friends had forsaken Him; His nation had rejected Him; and His enemies cried out for His blood. But His faithful mother stood there sorrowing at the foot of the Cross. His wounds bled, but she dared not stanch them; His mouth was parched, but she dared not moisten it. Surely those nails pierced her heart just as much as they pierced His body.
"Woman, behold thy son." The years of obedience to Mary and Joseph had ended for Jesus, but not the years of honor. The words which the Finger of God engraved on two tables of stone at Mount Sinai were never repealed. The Bible still says, "Honor thy father and thy mother." Those of us who have parents still living need to follow the example of Jesus on the Cross.
4. THE WORD OF DESOLATION
"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over a# the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama, sabachthani? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:45-46). Jesus had prayed for His persecutors, promised life to a thief, made provision for His mother - and now the scene changes. Several hours have passed by. From twelve noon until three in the afternoon, darkness covered the land. Gloomy night spread itself over the whole earth like a funeral pall. The animal creation was terrified. The herds of the field crowded together. The crowds that had surrounded the place of crucifixion hurried back to Jerusalem with loud cries. And then at about the end of the darkness, Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
All during His ministry Jesus had known what it meant to be forsaken. Early, the members of His own family forsook Him. Nazareth, His home town, had forsaken Him. The nation He came to save forsook Him. But in every such instance He could always steal away to the tender healing fellowship of His Heavenly Father. But now, even God turns from Him. God's just law says "The soul that sinneth it shall die." That means because we have sinned we are destined to be forsaken of God forever. But you see, Jesus offered to pay that penalty on the Cross, for the Scriptures say, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus was bearing the wages of your sins and of my sins, and therefore He had to be actually forsaken of God so that we need not be forsaken of God forever in the eternal regions of the lost.
5. THE WORD OF SUFFERING
"After this, Jesus knowing that a# things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst" (John 19:28). The darkness was now gone. The sun was shining again. But while Jesus was dying on the Cross, He developed an agonizing thirst. Death by Crucifixion is the most painful mode of torture ever conceived by man. The draining away of blood from the body brings on intensive thirst. The whole body cries out for water. The physical agony of thirst is terrible beyond the power of words to describe.
Can you picture Jesus Christ on the Cross? His whole body was racked with pain, His features swollen and bruised, His beard plucked out, and His back all lacerated from the scourging. Can you hear the dripping blood from His hands and His feet? Can you see the blood trickle from the gaping holes in His hands, making its way down His arms to the elbows and then dripping off on the ground below? At the base of the Cross there was a frothy pool of thickening blood. No wonder Jesus had a parched mouth and a burning throat - and cried out, "I thirst." Jesus was there on the Cross in our stead. The agony He endured in the substitutionary process is the agony that we must endure in Hell if we refuse to accept Him as our Substitute.
6. THE WORD OF TRIUMPH
"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished" (John 19:30). The men at the foot of the Cross gave Jesus vinegar (when He cried "I thirst") so that His throat might burn even more. And then when He had received the vinegar, He uttered with a loud voice those great words, "it is finished." The endless hours of suffering were about over. The Saviour was about to die. It was for this cause that Jesus came into the world, and now He raises His voice in a triumphant shout: "it is finished!"
Jesus lived only half the normal span of life. During that time He was criticized and despised and rejected. He was captured in a Garden, led to the Judgment Hall, and condemned to die. Now His suffering was finished. Furthermore, all that was prophesied and prefigured in the Old Testament concerning His death was fulfilled. And finally, the work of redemption was completed. Jesus Christ had tasted the death of which we were deserving - and now the great transaction was done!
7. THE WORD OF COMMITTAL
"And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father into thy hands - I commend my spirit; and having said thus, he gave up the ghost"(Luke 23:46). For six hours Jesus had been hanging on the Cross, and now we get a last look at His suffering face. His whole body is drooping and shivering with the last chill. His breath is growing feebler and feebler - until He gives one long, deep, last sigh - "Father into Thy hands I commend my spirit."
Jesus was always submitting Himself to God, and when He died, He died just as He had lived. We too are told to "Commit our way unto the Lord; trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass." The Christian may (like Stephen in Acts 7) cry with his last breath, "Lord Jesus receive my spirit."
During the last year of the Civil War, a man paid a visit to the battlefield of Chicamauga, where on the 20th of September, 1863, the Union army was almost destroyed. The battlefield was not then, as now, a beautiful place with stately monuments rising among the trees. It still bore the scars of battle. Over one of the newly made graves, the visitor saw a man on his knees planting flowers. The visitor said to the man, "Is it a son who is buried there?" And the man said "No it's not a son" - and he went on to explain why he was there to decorate the grave.
He said that he had been drafted into the Confederate army, but just before he was ready to say "good-bye" to his wife and family and report to the training camp, a young man came to see him and said, "You have a wife and family, and when you are gone, you'll be unable to support them, whereas I am unmarried and have no one depending on me. Let me go in your place." The offer was accepted and the young man went off in his place to the training camp. At the Battle of Chicamauga he was mortally wounded. The news of his death had drifted back to the southern home of the man whose place he had taken. And as soon as he had saved enough money, he made the journey to Chicamauga, and there he found the grave of his friend with its crude marker.
The visitor was much touched by the narrative, and then went on his way over the grim Battlefield. But on the way back, he passed this same grave again. It was now well covered with flowers and on a rough board, at the head of the grave, were carved these four words, "He died for me." And it is these four words that express the great truth centered in the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary. He died for you, and the Bible says, "To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God" (John 1:12).