Christ Jesus died on the cross to redeem mankind, to save us from our sins because of His love for us. As recorded in the gospels Jesus Christ was mocked, scorned, tortured and finally condemned to death by Pontius Pilate. Jesus carried the cross to Golgotha to his own crucifixion and he was nailed to the cross and hung between two common criminals. He suffered an indescribable death. Jesus hung on the cross for six hours and during the course of his hanging on the cross he made seven statements. Each one of these seven statements has significance, they have meaning and they teach us something about the heart of God.
In Luke chapter 23 Verse 34 we see “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” What is Jesus saying? In his last hour, Jesus is saying a prayer, a request to God Almighty. It is remarkable, however, that Jesus isn’t asking for himself! As soon as Christ was nailed to the cross, he prayed for those who crucified him. Jesus’ prayer is one of complete unselfishness. He is concerned for the people who are responsible for crucifying him and is asking God to forgive them. Instead of thinking of himself and his own needs, he is thinking of those whose souls are in much greater peril than his own. Men of the world seek for “revenge;” but as followers of Christ we need to tolerate rebukes and persecutions with patience, and pray that God would pardon those who wound us, and save them from their sins.
In Luke 23: 43 we see Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” It is not just the religious leaders or the soldiers that mock Jesus, but even one of the criminals who hung there thrown insults at Jesus. Luke 23:39 we see “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. In reply to this Jesus uttered the second word from the cross. I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. What a wonderful faith this repentant sinner has in Jesus. Does Jesus react angrily? No! At the height of His physical suffering His love prevails. Ignoring His own suffering Jesus responds with mercy in His words. I tell you the truth today you will be with me in paradise.
In Jesus’ third word from the cross in John chapter 19:26&27 we see “Jesus said to His mother: “woman, this is your son’. Then He said to the disciple: this is your mother”. John’s gospel is the only one to record our Lord’s mother Mary at the cross. We see Jesus and Mary are together again here; at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Cana and now at the foot of the cross. The Lord refers to his mother as woman at the wedding feast of Cana in John chapter 2:4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” and now in this passage Jesus said to His mother: “woman, this is your son. Jesus addresses his mother not as “Mother,” but as “woman”. We might sense a coldness in the term as used in our culture, but in Jesus’ culture, it was perfectly proper for a man to address a woman this way, but still strange for a son to a mother. Being the good son that He is, Jesus is concerned about looking after his mother and looks to John his disciple to care for her.
The fourth word uttered by Jesus on the cross was mentioned in Matthew 27:46 and in Mark 15:34 “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? This was the only expression of Jesus from the cross seen in the gospels of Matthew and Mark. Both gospels linked that it was in the ninth hour or three o’clock in the afternoon that He cried out this fourth word. Jesus cried with a loud voice saying “Eloi, Eloi lema sabachthani?” that is to say “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As in great distress, having been silent during the three hours darkness, and patiently bearing all his sufferings and his conflicts with the powers of darkness; but now, in the anguish of his soul, he breaks out- He calls him his God, not as he was God, but as he was man.
John 19:28 says, “Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” This is the fifth word of Jesus’ last seven expression on the cross recorded in the scripture. This is the human expression of his physical suffering. Jesus is now in shock. The wounds inflicted upon him in the scourging, the crowning with thorns, loosing blood on the three hours walk through the city of Jerusalem to Golgotha and the nailing up on the cross are now taking their toll. It is the near end of Jesus’ human life. He has hung on the cross. It has become hard for Jesus to even get a breath. Hung from His arms, he must pull himself up each time he wants to breathe. His shoulders ache, his mouth parched. He is exhausted. And yet He does not want to die without a final word. He asks for something to drink to wet his lips for this final effort.
In John 19:30 we read when Jesus took the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” But what did He actually mean by saying “It is finished”? What was finished? Do you think when Jesus was on the cross that God’s work to save mankind completed? In order to redeem man from sin, the Lord Jesus became flesh, He healed the sick and cast out demons and He bestowed on man endless grace. Ultimately, He was crucified for man’s sake, He gave His holy flesh as a sin offering, and He redeemed man from sin. After that, as long as we believed in the Lord and confessed our sins to Him, then our sins could be forgiven, and we could enjoy the grace the Lord bestowed on us. Mankind was also no longer to be put to death by the law, and we were able to live on. This is the true meaning of the Lord Jesus’ words when He said, “It is finished.”
Finally in Luke 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. These words are from a Psalm 31: 5 ” Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God”. In Luke 23:44-45 we read, “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” But what does the curtain mean? The Gospel writers don’t tell us. But it probably signifies: an opening of the way between people and the very presence of God, brought about by Christ’s redemption on the cross. Jesus seems determined that his final words be heard. His words are firm and confident. It comes as a word of intimacy with his Father God. It comes as a word of surrender. He gives up his human life to his Father who gave it to him.
All I see is the love God has for man when I look upon the Cross. Recognizing that death of Christ on the Cross is true love and that was the act by which we were saved. Of course we can’t disconnect the Crucifixion from the Resurrection. They are inseparable. There can be no resurrection without death. That includes dying to self and dying to the world. This is what we take on when we follow Christ.