When someone is about to die or leave us, it is important to hear and understand the words that they leave us with – their last words. When Jesus was on the cross crucified, He gave us seven significant things to take into our heart.
THE FIRST WORD
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Gospel of Luke 23:34
Jesus asks his Father in heaven to forgive the soldiers, who have scourged him, mocked him, tortured him, and - just now - nailed him to the cross. But could this not also apply to his Apostles and companions who have deserted him; to Peter who has denied him three times, to the fickle crowd, who only days before praised him on his entrance to Jerusalem, and then days later chose him over Barabbas to be crucified? Could this not also apply to us, who daily forget him in our lives? Does he react angrily? No, he asks his Father to forgive them, because they are ignorant!
At the height of his physical suffering, his Divine love prevails and He asks His Father to forgive his enemies. Right up to his final hours on earth, Jesus teaches forgiveness. In the Lord’s Prayer, He teaches forgiveness, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" (Matthew 6:12). When asked by Peter, how many times we should forgive someone, Jesus answers, “seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22).
On Good Friday and throughout the year, we followers of Jesus need to live in forgiveness.
THE SECOND WORD
"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Gospel of Luke 23:43
Now it is not just the religious leaders or the soldiers that mock Jesus, but even one of the criminals - a downward progression of mockery - but the criminal on the right speaks up for Jesus, explaining that the two criminals are receiving their just due, and pointing to Jesus, says, "this man has done nothing wrong." He then turns to Jesus and makes a request, "Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). What wonderful faith this repentant sinner had in Jesus. Jesus, ignoring his own suffering, mercifully responds with His second word. The second word again is about forgiveness, but this time it is directed to a sinner.
THE THIRD WORD
"Jesus said to his mother: "Woman, this is your son". Then he said to the disciple: "This is your mother." Gospel of John 19:26-27
Jesus and His mother Mary are together again. At the beginning of his ministry at a wedding in Cana, Jesus reacted with His mother. Now at the end of his public ministry, she is at the foot of the Cross. What sorrow must fill her heart, to see her Son mocked, tortured, and now just crucified? Once again, a sword pierces Mary's soul, the sword predicted by Simeon at the Temple (Luke 2:35). There are four at the foot of the cross, Mary his Mother, John, the disciple whom he loved, Mary of Cleopas, his mother's sister, and Mary Magdalene. But again Jesus rises above the occasion. His concerns are for the ones that love him. The good son that He is, is concerned about taking care of his mother.
THE FOURTH WORD
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 [Psalm 22:1]
It was in the ninth hour - after three hours of darkness - Jesus cried out this fourth word. The ninth hour was three in the afternoon in Palestine. One is struck by the anguished tone of this expression compared to the first three words of Jesus. This cry is from the painful heart of the human Jesus who must feel deserted by His Father and the Holy Spirit, not to mention his earthly companions the Apostles. Jesus feels separated from his Father. He is now all alone, and he must face death by himself. Matthew Henry writes:
“The believer may have tasted some drops of bitterness, but he can only form a very feeble idea of the greatness of Christ's sufferings. Yet, hence he learns something of the Savior’s love to sinners; hence he gets a deeper conviction of the vileness and evil of sin, and of what he owes to Christ, who delivers him from the wrath to come.”
(Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary.)
THE FIFTH WORD
"I thirst" Gospel of John 19:28
The fifth word of Jesus is His only human expression of His physical suffering. Jesus is now in shock. The wounds inflicted upon him in the scourging, the crowning with thorns, and the nailing upon the cross are now taking their toll, especially after losing blood on the three-hour walk through the city of Jerusalem to Golgotha on the Way of the Cross. Jesus was carrying out the commission the Father had assigned to Him. This commission had been prescribed by an Old Testament prophecy. The phrase "I am thirsty" recalls Psalm 69:21 "They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst." Jesus' loss of blood, his nervous tension, and his exposure to the weather had generated a raging thirst.
THE SIXTH WORD
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished"; and he bowed his head and handed over the spirit. Gospel of John 19:30
The sixth word is Jesus' recognition that his suffering is over and his task is completed. Jesus was obedient to the Father and gave his love for mankind by redeeming us with His death on the Cross. When Jesus died, He "handed over" the Spirit. Jesus remains in control to the end, and it is He who handed over his Spirit.
During the time of Christ, when a person had been convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison, he was given a piece of paper describing the sentence he was to receive. This paper was called a certificate of debt. When the sentence was completed, the warden of the prison stamped his paper with the word Tetelestai . Translated into English, this means, “It is finished,” the sentence had been paid in full.
It was not a whimper, It was a shout of Victory, "I have completed the will of my Father, I have satisfied the demands of his justice, I have accomplished all that was written in the prophets, and suffered at the hands of my enemies; now the way to the holy of holies is made open through my blood." The work of man’s redemption and salvation is now completed; a fatal blow has been given to the power of Satan, a fountain of grace opened that shall flow forever, a foundation of peace and happiness is laid that shall never fail.
THE SEVENTH WORD
Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit": Gospel of Luke 23:46
Just before He dies Jesus quotes Psalm 31:5 - "Into thy hands, I commend my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God." The innocent Lamb had been slain for our sins so that we might be forgiven. Jesus fulfills His mission, and as He says so clearly in John's Gospel, He can now return: "I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father" (John 16:28). Jesus practiced what He preached: "Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).