THE FIRST WORD FROM THE CROSS
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…
Your work week has dragged on and on. Your assignments at school have piled up. Your children have been constantly fighting. Your nagging injury won’t stop throbbing. You can’t sleep. You’re worn out. You don’t want to talk to anyone. You’re a ticking time bomb, waiting for someone to make a wrong move, say the wrong thing or look at you in the wrong way.
Then someone does. They make the wrong move. They say the wrong thing. They look at you in a way you don’t appreciate. How would you describe the words that come out of your mouth? Angry words? Bitter words? Frustrated words? Sarcastic words? Probably a combination of them all.
As the nails were driven into Jesus’ body, as that cross was lifted upright, as his body hung suspended to that cross, he had every reason to react like this—every reason to let words of explosive shrapnel fly in all directions. He was worn out! He was being wronged! He was in unthinkable pain!
And yet, “Father, forgive them…” These are the first words spoken by our Savior as he’s being nailed to a cross. It’s these words that remind us why he willingly went to that cross in the first place. To win forgiveness—not for some—for all! Even for the men driving the nails.
THE SECOND WORD FROM THE CROSS
Today you will be with me in paradise
How did this criminal know that Jesus had a kingdom? Better yet, how did he know that the Jesus hanging on the cross next to him was not a defeated Jesus? Had he followed Jesus for a while? Had this criminal heard Jesus teach? Had someone else told him about Jesus? We’ll never know.
But this much we know. Somewhere along the way, he heard enough to be dangerous. Somewhere along the way, this criminal had learned about God’s promise to send a Savior—the Messiah—the promises recorded in the Old Testament. And somewhere along the way, this criminal had heard that Jesus was that promised Messiah—that promised Savior. Somewhere along the way, this criminal had heard about Jesus, and the Holy Spirit went to work.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” What did this criminal have to fear!? The moment the solders would crush his legs? The moment his life would slip away? NO!! NOTHING! He had nothing to fear because that very day he would be with Jesus in Paradise!
And the same can be said for you! Thanks to Jesus, you have nothing to fear in this life. Hardship? Bring it on! Suffering? Let me suffer! Because you know, that when you die—at that very moment—on that very day—you too will be with Jesus in Paradise!
THE THIRD WORD FROM THE CROSS
Dear woman, here is your son . . . here is your mother
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread. And God does. He gives us everything we need for our daily lives.
When we are fully grown, God blesses us through work. He gives us the ability to get out there and work— to earn a paycheck so we can provide for our needs and the needs of our family. But when we are young, he uses our parents to provide for our needs. Children have food to eat, clothes to wear and roof over their heads not because they earned the money to pay for those things themselves, but because God gave them parents to provide for them. It was no different for Jesus.
33 years earlier, a man named Simeon held the baby Jesus and praised God because he was holding God’s promised Savior in his arms. But then he turned to Jesus’ mother, Mary and said, “a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
And when Mary saw her son on that cross, Simeon’s prophetic words came true. She was in pain. And Jesus saw her pain. In the midst of his own suffering, he did not forget his mother—his daily bread—a gift from God! So to his mother he says, “Woman, here is your son.” And to John the apostle, “Here is your mother.”
THE FOURTH WORD FROM THE CROSS
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me
Isaiah 59:2 says, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.”
What does it mean to be forsaken by God? It’s to be separated from him. That’s the essence of hell. Complete and utter separation from God.
We don’t experience that on this earth. Even in the worst of times – When rain falls – Sun shines – We taste the goodness of God.
Hell is none of that. Hell is the absence of God. Hell is never-ending terror and fire. It’s beyond imagination
From noon to three the sky went black. Christ bore the weight of the world’s sins, and God turned his back. Why? Why did Jesus experience this hell? The prophet Isaiah tells us why. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
THE FIFTH WORD FROM THE CROSS
I am thirsty
Just a minor detail, right? Of course he would have been thirsty. Just a minor detail, until you see the pattern.
To Peter: “Put your sword back in its place. . . . Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26)
Again, at his arrest “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” (Matthew 26)
On the cross: “Let’s not tear it,” [the soldiers] said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. So this is what the soldiers did.” (John 19)
In Psalm 22, King David wrote of the Messiah, “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth”
And so, in order that every bit of Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said in effect, “My tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth” . . . “I am thirsty.”
This is not a minor detail. There was a plan. It was God’s plan—laid out for us in the Old Testament so we would have no problem identifying God’s promised Messiah. God would go so far as to direct the events of history to ensure that this plan would be carried out to the final detail. He would direct all things to ensure that eternal life would be won for the world.
That’s power. God’s power to work his plan for your life. Jeremiah chapter 29 - “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God’s promise to you? “I will work out all things for the good of those who love me, who have been called according to my purpose.” (paraphrase of Romans 8:28)
Afraid things are out of control? “I am thirsty,” just to prove that God is in absolute control.
THE SIXTH WORD FROM THE CROSS
It is finished
We’re nearing the end, because Jesus’ work was finished. In fact, John tells us Jesus knew his saving work was completed even before he said “I am thirsty.” But one Scripture prophecy had yet to be fulfilled, so Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” so he could then say “It is finished.”
It’s a word a merchant would have understood very clearly. Τετέλεσται. (pronounced "Tet-EL-estai") It’s a word that’s been found on many an ancient receipt and bill of sale. On those receipts it means “paid in full.”
Paid in full. We had accumulated a debt before our God. The price attached to rebellion was eternal death. We had death sentences piled on top of death sentences. It was a debt we could never pay.
But now it is paid! Τετέλεσται. Paid in full! There is nothing left to pay. No decision to jumpstart our salvation. No good works to finish it off. Our debt of sin has been paid for in full, by the blood of The Lamb! As the apostle John wrote in 1 John chapter 2, “He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
THE SEVENTH WORD FROM THE CROSS
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit
It was time. That moment we will all face when the shadows of death will overtake us. Our lungs will stop breathing. Our hearts will stop beating. Blood will stop pulsing through our arteries and veins. Our brains will cease to function. The light of this world will fade away
When this moment came for Jesus, we’re told he cried these words with a loud voice. But why a loud voice? Why not a whisper? Why a shout?
I propose to you he did this to make a point – to assure you of the peace that is yours in your last moment. In the moment of his death, he was not left alone. There stood his Father – The same Father who abandoned him to suffer our hell – That same Father, having witnessed His Son’s victory now stood there with open arms.
In your last moments, Satan will try to convince you that your debt of sin has NOT been paid – that you are NOT at peace with your God – that you have left something undone – that you need to do something! Something more! When Satan tries to insert doubt in between your dying breaths, think of what Jesus said in his dying breaths. Remember how in his moment of death, he was not left alone. There stood his Father – The same Father who abandoned him to suffer our hell – That same Father, having witnessed His Son’s victory now stood there with open arms. Just as he will for us.
Your bill is paid! And just like Jesus, unafraid, you too can say, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”