This Holy Week presents us with one more opportunity to enter into the mystery of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. I want to do this by meditating briefly on the Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross. This is an ancient liturgical tradition. In some churches on Good Friday these Seven Last Words are celebrated publicly. They are not merely “words” but messages to us. Just like the Jewish people speak of the Ten Commandments as the 10 words, so these “words” recorded in the Gospels tell us something significant about Himself and what is going on at the Cross. Each of these words is a healing word for us. I hope this Holy Week and Easter is a continuation of the healing work God wants to do in all of us.
First Word: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). 1 Corinthians 2:8 tells us that the people there did not really know what they were doing. The important thing that Jesus states is that forgiveness take place. You see, the Cross is all about forgiveness. The reason that Jesus was on the Cross was to provide a way for us to be forgiven. Jesus was the sacrifice. Jesus was and is the way. Jesus is telling us that the Cross is all about forgiveness.
Second Word: “This day you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). Jesus promises one of the men crucified with Him paradise. What is that? Revelation 2:7 says, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." The Cross is part of God’s plan to reconcile us to Himself. Jesus didn’t come to save just the nice people, but the most broken and the darkest sins and transgressions of humanity. The Good News is not for those who think themselves righteous, but to those who will admit they need God.
Third Word: “Woman, behold your son . . .” (John 19:26-27). Even on the cross, Jesus is not distracted by ego. He pours out His love on humanity. Some theologians tell us that as Jesus gives us His spirit as He dies, He is breathing the church into life. He pours out His love and His spirit on John and Mary, who represent us. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin.” Hebrews 4:15,
Fourth Word: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34). This is one of the most mysterious passages recorded in the Gospel about Jesus’ suffering and death. Jesus is taking on the sin of the world. He is the Lamb of Sacrifice. He is the New Covenant between us and God. On the cross Jesus takes on not just the offences against God because of sin, He takes on the effects of sin – separation from God. This is what hell is – to be separated from God for all eternity. Jesus embraces and redeems the most darkest aspect of sin.
Fifth Word: “I thirst…” John 19:29 Jesus was not only thirsty for drink. He was thirsty for our souls. Recall Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at the well in John, chapter 4, when he asked for a drink. The woman was bewildered, for Jews did not share drink with Samaritans. But Jesus replied, “If you know the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” It was not actual water that Jesus spoke of, but rather the promise of eternal life. He thirsted for the woman’s soul, to give her eternal peace in Heaven with God. Jesus the man had a chance to drink wine mixed with myrrh prior to his crucifixion, but he declined. The drink would have acted as a sedative, dulling some of his pain. But Jesus wanted to experience his full suffering — so that we would never have to know that kind of pain.
Sixth Word: “It is finished.” John 19:30 Some onlookers believed the sixth word to be a cry of defeat. But no, this was a cry of victory! Jesus had done what he had been born to do. He had fulfilled his Father’s plan. He had saved us from our sins.
Seventh Word: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46
Each year, on Good Friday, we bear witness to the death of the Savior. Imagine this year that you’re standing at the foot of the cross, looking up at Jesus as he cries out to his Father in Heaven. How will you go forward and live a life that will please Jesus, a life of gratitude for what Jesus did for us.
God bless Fr. Dennis