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"SEVEN LAST WORDS AT THE CROSS"



JOHN 3:16


16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life

INTRODUCTION

The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the corner stone of our faith. It is the chosen symbol of the Christian faith. Thank God, we see it now as an empty cross because the seeming tragedy for good and apparent victory for evil was overturned by the power and purposes of God into the triumph of the resurrection of Jesus. But what does it mean to us? Is the Cross in our experience more meaningful than a nicely sculpted piece of wood or an elegantly-shaped piece of gold hung around the neck?Jesus went to the Cross so that we, through his death and resurrection might have a personal relationship with God and that we might know its power in every area of our lives. When we speak of "the Cross", we’re not thinking of it in the purely physical sense of two rough pieces of wood, bolted together and suspended by its vertical section before being dropped into a hole in the ground.
•To the Christian, it is much more than that - "the Cross" is a "shorthand" expression meaning the death of Jesus by which he made full atonement for sin. It’s Jesus stretched out between heaven and earth, suffering more than anyone has ever suffered, for you and me. The Cross is Jesus as our Savior. There is no holier place that we can ever hope to come to - the Cross is the place "to where heaven’s love and heaven’s justice meet". The Gospels contain a most wonderful commentary on the Cross in the words of Jesus himself, spoken from the Cross itself. Seven sayings are recorded: if there were more we don’t know but surely it’s significant that seven is God’s perfect number. It represents completeness and wholeness. As Jesus hung upon that Cross almost two thousand years ago, he made seven great statements, treasured by believers as the Seven Words from the Cross. They cover the basic needs of mankind. Let’s meditate on them together as our Lord’s testament to a world wrecked by sin, bowed down by needs of healing in body, mind and spirit. The Words from the Cross reveal God’s answer to our basic needs

THE FIRST WORD

"Forgive them" said Jesus. Who, I wonder, was Jesus referring to? There were many groups of people around the Cross. Closest to him would have been the execution party, soldiers of the Roman garrison, coarsened by discipline and cruelty. They had the unspeakable task of nailing a human being to a cross, but perhaps they were the least guilty of all parties who were responsible for putting to death an innocent man - after all, they were under the strict instructions of the Roman Governor, and to fail to co-operate in the execution would have meant instant death for themselves. Yet they were involved - they crucified the Lord of glory. As Jesus prayed his utterly unselfish prayer "Father, forgive them" his eyes would have taken in other groups: they were the teachers who hated him, the priests who bought him with silver, the traitor who sold him to them, the crowd who had cried "crucify him" at the farce of his trial, and in the distance was Pilate in his palace trying to salve his conscience by blaming somebody else for what was happening. But I like to think that Jesus was encompassing a wider body of people than those I have  mentioned: there was the band of disciples who had been his constant companions for nearly three years. Had they lifted a finger to prevent this act of barbarism? But as Jesus endured the torture of crucifixion, they failed to make even a token protest against the terrible atrocity being committed.
•The wonder of this Word from the Cross is that there is forgiveness. Forgiveness for the disciples who forsook Jesus and fled in the night. Forgiveness for the evil ones who drove Him to the Cross. Forgiveness for the soldiers who nailed him to the tree. Forgiveness for the bitter hearts of his religious enemies, the priests and teachers. Forgiveness for every person who has ever sinned or made a mistake. Forgiveness for you and for me. Thank God, there is forgiveness but it is a forgiveness that requires to be taken individually, to be drawn upon in the way that God has planned. Years later, one of the disciples, John, restated this truth when he wrote, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).


THE SECOND WORD

•If the First Word embraced all mankind within the scope of the dreadful act of crucifying Jesus and the potential of forgiveness through his prayer, then the Second Word narrows its focus to one single needy sinner. God not only sees the whole world but he sees it made up of individuals. On that fateful day in the history of the world, it happened that there were two thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus.
•This ancient prophecy was fulfilled quite literally when Jesus was crucified in the company of two thieves, obviously known to each other. Something of the way that Jesus conducted himself must have convicted one thief of his own vileness when contrasted with the righteousness of Jesus, visible to all who had eyes to see it. It soon dawned on his understanding that he was witnessing something not of this earth. Instead of curses from the lips of Jesus as the soldiers hammered in the nails, it was a prayer of forgiveness for his torturers. It seems likely that he had known of the life of Jesus for when the other thief was casting abuse at Jesus, this fellow tried to restrain him and told him that, although they were receiving the just reward of their misdeeds Jesus had done nothing amiss. Evil man though he was, he feared God and that was the beginning of his repentance. No man is beyond hope of redemption in whose soul still lingers some fear of God. And as he spoke, faith rose in his soul and he blurted out his appeal, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." It was a plea that did not fall on deaf ears. The response was immediate, "Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." . It was more than immortality that Jesus promised the penitent thief. He promised the honoured place of a companion of the garden in the courts of heaven. "You will be with me" said Jesus.
•This Word from the Cross teaches some wonderful truths. It illustrates that the way of salvation is wondrously simple. The devil has blinded the eyes of men and women to thinking that it is hard to be saved, difficult to come to Christ and to become a Christian. But this clearly isn’t true. The man was saved simply by asking the Lord to save him. In the words of his request, there’s the implication that he felt and confessed his need of salvation; he believed the Lord could and would save him and he committed himself to the Lord and trusted him to save him (Romans 10:13).
•This Word from the Cross reminds us that the worst sinner may be saved. There can be no doubt that the man was a criminal. He had broken the laws of the land and he was crucified for that reason, but the measure of his sin didn’t alter his chance of being saved one little bit. Let no one despair in thinking they are too bad to be saved, as the hymn writer put it, "the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives." There is one further point to mention before we leave this Word. It’s a solemn one. You see, there were two thieves crucified with Jesus - one repented but the other didn’t. The time of decision came for both. When it came to the choice of rebellion or repentance for the dying thieves it was irrevocable. It was now or never. There is a dual tug - the eternal pull of evil, and the eternal pull of God’s Spirit. As James Russell Lowell put it: "Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, In the strife of Truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side; Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight, Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right, And the choice goes by forever ’twixt that darkness and that light."
We may think that time is on our side before we commit ourselves, but beware, the next moment is promised to no-one. We never know amid the flow of life’s choices, which will be final and irreversible. Someone once said that the story of the dying thieves was recorded so that no one need despair, and also as a dire warning to presume on God’s mercy by delaying trusting in Christ.
Thank God for conscience - that voice within that tells us that we have done wrong, that nags us to a point of hurting for the mistakes that we’ve made; when we’ve missed the mark and fallen short of God’s best for our lives. It’s then we too can look up to God and say, "Lord, remember me".
There’s salvation in the Cross.

THE THIRD WORD



Jesus said to his mother, ’Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple ’Here is your mother’" (John 19:26,27).
The Second Word from the Cross ministered salvation to the penitent sinner, but the Third Word introduces us to the wider implications of this great salvation. It illuminates relationships as seen through the Cross of Jesus, especially that of love. I wonder what tortured thoughts were passing through Mary’s mind as she saw her son in such extremity. Very likely she would recall the words uttered in a prophecy when the infant Jesus was presented in the Temple,  It was suffering for Jesus to see his mother among those who stood near the Cross. He suffered because of her suffering. He always entered into the needs of his people. He wept over the rebellious people of Jerusalem.
•Here he is touched with his mother’s suffering, but he doesn’t refer to her as "Mother" rather as "Woman". Have you ever wondered why? On the face of it, it would have seemed to be more tender and loving to have done so, and Jesus lacked nothing in consideration and compassion. The reason is that Mary must no longer think of him as being her son. The more she thinks of him as her son, the more she will suffer when he suffers. Mary must begin to look upon Jesus as her "Lord". Mary’s merely emotional suffering must be replaced by something higher, that is, by adoration. This was the way that Jesus ministered love unto the broken hearted. It shows that in the Cross all barriers have been broken. Mary represents the women of the world, all too often treated as inferior. She represents those getting on in years. But at the Cross there’s no age barrier, no sex barrier, for all who come to Jesus are part of his household.
•This Third Word from the Cross also reveals the relationship of Jesus with his disciple John, the one who had been closest to him. It didn’t require a long explanation for John to know what was meant. We read that from that hour John took Mary into his own home. The question might be raised, "But why was not Mary committed into the care of one of her other children?" The answer is probably because they as yet hadn’t received him by a living faith. John was ready and acted without hesitation.

THE FOURTH WORD

There is a depth of feeling in this cry from the heart, made with an intensity matched only by the darkness which had draped itself over the terrible spectacle. It’s surely symbolic that the sun couldn’t shine upon such a scene as the crucifixion of its Creator. The darkness lasted three hours and was an outward sign of the darkness that now wrapped itself around the soul of Jesus. Wave after wave of evil swept over his consciousness. All the sin of the world, the awful legacy of the fall of mankind was laid upon Jesus. "He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor 5:21).
•Only the night before, Jesus had told his disciples that in his hour of trial they would all desert him but he said, "Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me" (John 16:33). But now at the climax of his passion, at the moment of making atonement for our sin it was necessary that even his Father should stand aside.  He who was made sin for us was feeling the punishment of the sinner, being separated from God. His humiliation was complete.
•How Jesus felt as his loud cry broke the dreadful silence of that moment of destiny we cannot know. Never before had he stood alone, forsaken by God his Father. Yet, although he was forsaken he never ceased to be his Father’s well-beloved Son, for he was carrying out his Father’s will and purpose in becoming our atonement for sin. This Word from the Cross points us to the cost of the atonement made. Thank God, there’s atonement for sin at the Cross by the Lord Jesus. It’s something we must never lose sight of.

THE FIFTH WORD


The hours of torture on the Cross took a tremendous toll on the body of Jesus. Execution by crucifixion was not a sudden death like being shot by a firing squad. It was a long drawn out, lingering death carried out under the Eastern sun. His wounded hands and feet would be quickly inflamed, resulting in a fever of thirst and his body would soon be dehydrated. The prophetic 22nd Psalm which anticipated our Lord’s passion speaks graphically of his condition, "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth" (14,15). Yes, our Saviour’s sufferings were real. Although Jesus was divine he was also uniquely man and felt all the emotions and pain as we feel them. In fact it was necessary that his lips should be moistened because he had yet two momentous Words to utter which the world must hear clearly. The second reason was that there was a Scripture still to be fulfilled. Psalm 69:21 had predicted that the Suffering Servant of Israel would say "They ... gave me vinegar for my thirst." Jesus knew that for him to do his Father’s will required him to fulfil all that had been prophesied of the Messiah down the ages. This Fifth Word from the Cross serves to tell us that there is suffering in the Cross.

THE SIXTH WORD


This Sixth Word from the Cross consists of one single word in the Greek - "Finished, accomplished." It was a loud cry that rang out over the ghastly scene. What did Jesus mean? What was finished?
•Was he referring to his sufferings or his life’s work? Certainly it was those things, but even more. It was the end of an era. The Old Testament contains a long list of prophetic utterances, beginning with the first family of mankind, when God told the serpent in the Garden of Eden that he would "put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel" (Gen 3:15)
•It was this great conquest that was being enacted. Jesus’ cry was proclaiming his victory over the evil one. In the gigantic struggle between good and evil the Son of Man had suffered grievously but he had finished the work of redemption that his Father had committed to him. He didn’t say "I am finished" but rather "It is finished." It was a shout of victory over sin, death and hell.
• The work of man’s redemption was finished, accomplished. Jesus had offered himself without spot or blemish to God, and by that one sacrifice for sin, once and for all he had done all that was required to reconcile the world unto God."It is finished.Word tells us there is nothing left for man to do but to enter into the results of Christ’s finished work. The Greek word for “finished” was used in business life of the time to indicate that a debt had been paid. It’s like the message of a rubber stamp bearing the words ‘Payment received’ when stamped across a bill. That’s what Jesus was proclaiming from the Cross - "it is paid, man’s account with God has been settled, the debt is wiped out." That is the very essence of the Gospel. The Redeemer has paid the price for our redemption. Salvation has been obtained for all who accept and rely upon the finished work of Calvary. "A full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world." Yes, there is victory over sin in the Cross.The First Word from the Cross begins with Jesus addressing His Father - "Father forgive" and now it begins the last. God, the Father, had accepted the sin offering made by Jesus, as would soon be demonstrated by his resurrection from the dead. Jesus had come from his Father and to his Father he would return, but first he had to die physically.

THE SEVENTH WORD


•The First Word from the Cross begins with Jesus addressing His Father - "Father forgive" and now it begins the last. God, the Father, had accepted the sin offering made by Jesus, as would soon be demonstrated by his resurrection from the dead. Jesus had come from his Father and to his Father he would return, but first he had to die physically. These words tell us that his life didn’t just ebb away - in fact Jesus had previously said that no one could take his life "but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father" (John 10:18). And so it was that Jesus consciously gave his life. He laid it upon the altar, just as the burnt offering of the Old Testament which had spoken of the greater sacrifice to come.
•"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." This speaks of his confidence in God, his Father. He found security in his Father’s hands and in so doing pointed the way to all who die believing. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, left this life with the same security. "Lord Jesus" he said, "receive my spirit." They have been used by countless believers in Christ ever since. This is the security that comes from knowing "him whom we have believed and are persuaded that he is able to keep that which we have committed unto Him." Yes, there is eternal security in the Cross.

CONCLUSION

The Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation of our faith. The prophet Zechariah looked forward to the coming of Jesus when he said, "on that day a fountain will be opened to the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity" (13:1). Have you been to the Cross? The Cross meant death for Jesus but, praise God, it is the place where life is ministered to us through His death.
Allow these wonderful Words of Jesus from the Cross to speak to you - feed on them in your hearts by faith. They have so much to teach us.
"Father, forgive them" - there’s forgiveness for you at the Cross.
"Today, you will be with me" - there’s salvation for you at the Cross.
"Woman, here is your son" - there’s love for you at the Cross.
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" - there’s atonement for you at the Cross.
"I thirst" - Jesus suffered for you at the Cross.
"It is finished" - Jesus was the victor over sin for you at the Cross.
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" - there’s eternal security for you at the Cross.