Editor’s note: Throughout Holy Week 2015, the diocese offered on its social media platforms a reflection series on the seven last words of Christ. Excerpts from that series appear below. To read and participate in the complete series, follow the diocese on Twitter @SyrDiocese, Facebook at facebook.com/DioceseofSyracuse, and Instagram @syracusediocese; search #7LastWords.
The “seven last words of Jesus” are not really seven words, but rather seven incredibly poignant phrases uttered by Jesus as he died on the cross.
Why are they so important? These are the last words spoken by Jesus before he died. His last words to his mother Mary, his beloved friend Mary Magdalene, the apostle who stood at the foot of the cross as he died. His last words to his Heavenly Father. His last words to the mob who captured him, beat him and nailed him to the cross. His last words to the onlookers who watched him died. They are the final utterances of a man who would be resurrected from the dead to be seated at the right hand of his Father.
Join us as we read and reflect on the seven last words.
1: “Father, forgive them,
they know not what they do.”
— Luke 23:34
Jesus is asking God to forgive the people who had a hand in his death — despite enduring hours of shame, intense pain, fear and sadness. Imagine that you were in Jesus’ place. Would you ask God to forgive the men who murdered you? Would you be able to do that?
2: “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
— Luke 23:43
We are all sinners. We know that, if we repent, God grants us forgiveness and we will be welcomed into His kingdom when we die. Jesus spoke of forgiveness twice on the cross: First, he asked his Father God to forgive those who put him to death and now, despite his pain and suffering, he offers a promise of mercy and life everlasting to the criminal hanging beside him.
Jesus offers us the same promise. So how do we make it to paradise? We pray. We repent. We live out the example of Jesus, our savior. And when we make mistakes — which we will — we ask for forgiveness.
3: “He said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’”
— John 19:26-27
Mary knew that when she said “yes” to God and gave birth to his only son that her journey would not be easy. She most certainly suffered a great deal as she watched him be tortured, mocked and crucified.
And again, in the midst of great physical pain, Jesus is thinking of others and not of himself when he speaks the third word. He wants his mother to know that she is going to be all right, that she will be taken care of. He tells her that John, the “disciple whom he loved,” is now her son. He then tells John that Mary is now his mother. Consider how desperately Jesus may have wanted to touch his mother, to have her comfort him one final time. Bringing John and Mary together was his way of saying goodbye to her, and “I love you.”
But Jesus did not only give his mother to John. He gave her to us, too.
4: “My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?”
— Mark 15:34
By calling out to God, Jesus showed us that he could be vulnerable. He showed us that he was human.
In today’s society, many people are afraid to be vulnerable because they think it may be mistaken for weakness. But showing our sensitive side is actually a sign of strength. It shows people that we’re not afraid to admit that we have shortcomings, because we know that God loves us anyway.
By calling out to his Father, Jesus showed us that he’s no different from us. He was scared. And in that moment, he cried out in fear to his Father.
5: “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.
6: “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.
7: “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?