Vol. 4, No. 6
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The Gospels tell the story of Jesus' birth, life and death. In order to get the entire story, we need to read from all four books (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). We know that all four books were written through inspiration, so they will not contradict each other.
By compiling the records from all four books, we get a full picture of the events of our Savior on the cross. In this full picture, we find the seven last sayings of our Lord, uttered while on the cross. Not all seven sayings are found in one book alone. In fact, only the final saying of Christ is recorded in all four books.
The records of Matthew and Mark run the closest together. They show the same events, but Mark adds that Christ was crucified at the third hour. Luke runs closely to Matthew and Mark with the addition of two of the last sayings. John records the least amount of detail regarding the crucifixion, yet contains the majority of the last sayings. To make it easier to follow the whole story, these seven last sayings of our Lord will be presented in chronological order rather than book by book.
The first of the last sayings of Christ is recorded only in Luke 23:34, "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots." Here, our Lord requests that the Father forgive the very people that hanged him on the cross. From this, we learn forgiveness. Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr, learned and showed forgiveness when he asked the Lord not to charge his killers with his death (Acts 7:60). We are commanded in Luke 17:11 to forgive as often as necessary. Furthermore, Matthew 6:14-15 recorded the words of our Lord, "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.
The words of Christ to his mother and the apostle John are only recorded in John 19:26-27. Some people think Christ was referring to himself when he stated, "Woman, behold thy son," at the end of verse 26. But verses 26 and 27 need to be read together to be fully understood, "When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." Verse 26 informs us that Christ saw his mother and the apostle that he loved. It is then that he speaks to his mother, "Woman, behold thy son," and to John, "Behold thy mother." Afterward, the apostle John took Mary (Christ's mother) to his own home. Our Lord was simply ensuring that his mother would be taken care of.
Likewise, we are to care for our parents when the time comes. Ephesians 6:1-2 says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise)." In this verse, honour is to value or revere. Reverence includes deep respect and love. What better way to show love for our parents than to care for them as they did us? Our parents will always be our parents, no matter how old we may be, so we should always honor, value, revere, respect and love them. God even promises us longevity for doing so, "That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth" (Ephesians 6:3). Furthermore, Proverbs 23:22 commands, "Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old."
The next words of our Lord come after a conversation between the two thieves crucified with Christ. Luke 23:39-43 is the only Gospel to record this account.
"And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."
Even the thief hanging beside Jesus knew of his innocence. The thief stated that they were guilty and hanged justly, while the Lord was wrongly accused and innocent.
Jesus said he and the thief would be in paradise. Where or what is paradise? Paradise is refereed to in Luke 16:22 as Abraham's Bosom. From the text there, involving the rich man and Lazarus, we learn of the Hadean realm. Paradise is the upper part of Hades and Tartarus is the lower. Lazarus enjoyed comforts in Paradise while the rich man suffered torment in Tartarus. That text also informs us that once in Hades, travel from Paradise to Tartarus is impossible due to the fixed gulf dividing them. Here on earth, however, those who are lost can be saved by obeying Christ (Acts 2:38). We must make sure that our souls are right with God before death because after death we cannot change the state of our souls.
Matthew and Mark record the phrase that is probably most known of the seven sayings, "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" When recorded in Mark 15:34 "that is to say" is replaced by "which is, being interpreted." Why did our Lord say that God had forsaken him? The answer is simple; God did forsake him. First, God delivered Jesus into the hands of his enemies and allowed him to be tortured and tormented. Second, God withdrew Christ's' contentment. When he was troubled (John 12:27-28), God comforted him with his voice. When in agony (Luke 22:42-44), Christ was strengthened by an angel sent from heaven. In Matthew 4:11, Christ was ministered to by angels after he faced the devil and his temptations. In times past, Jesus had the Father with him. However, as he was on the cross, he did not receive comfort from the voice of God. He did not receive strength from an angel of God. Nor was he ministered to by angels sent from God. God had forsaken him in that he did not allow divine intervention to ease the mental and physical agony faced on the cross.
We must make sure that we do not forsake God and Christ. They will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5), as long as we do not leave them. If we confess Jesus to others, Jesus will confess us to God (Matthew 10:32). If we do not confess Christ, he will deny us before God (Matthew 10:33). Like the father of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), God will always be waiting for us to go to him. He has come as far as he can. The choice will always be up to us to go to him.
In John 19:28, we read that Christ was thirsty, "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst." Christ had been thirsty before. When at a well near Samaria, he requested a woman to give him drink because he was weary (John 4:6-7). Why would it be unusual for him to be thirsty now? If anything, he should have more reason to thirst due the anguish and loss of blood he suffered. John 19:28 also says he requested a drink to fulfill prophecy. Psalms 22:15 foresees that his tongue will cleave to the roof of his mouth while Psalms 69:21 tells us that he will be given vinegar to drink while in thirst. This is probably why Christ refused the vinegar earlier (Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23). He simply was not thirsty. In order to fulfill Psalms 69:21, he had to be thirsty when given the vinegar.
We too should thirst. Matthew 5:6 says that those thirsting and hungering after righteousness will be filled. Christ is our spiritual bread and our spiritual drink. Those seeking him will never hunger or thirst again (John 6:35). John records the words of Christ in John 6:48, "I am that bread of life." It cannot be put any simpler than that. Without Christ, we are without life!
The last of the last sayings of Christ is recorded, in part, in all four of the Gospels. Matthew and Mark both say that Jesus cried with a loud voice and then gave up the ghost (Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37). Luke 23:46 reads, "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." Finally, John 19:30 reads, "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." What Christ said word for word we do not know. However, we do know that Christ cried with a loud voice, commended his spirit into the hands of the Father and said that it was finished. We know all of these are true because the Scriptures will not contradict each other due to the fact that they are all divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3:16).
When Christ stated, "It is finished," to what was he referring? First, his physical life on earth was ending. After this statement, he bowed his head and died (John 19:30). However, there was more to it than that. Christ knew he had fulfilled all prophecies of the Messiah. John 19:28 says that he knew all things were accomplished. The "all things" refer to the fulfillment of prophecies. Everything prophesied about the Messiah was fulfilled by Christ Jesus, the last of which was the thirsting and drinking of the vinegar (John 19:28). With all prophecies being fulfilled, Christ's work on earth was complete and he allowed death to take him.
We have something to learn from every word that came from the mouth of Jesus. I am most grateful, however, for the last words of Jesus Christ on the cross. Without Christ completing the prophecies, we would have no hope of eternal life. Jesus suffered and died on the cross for our sins, completing his duties on earth. The gates of hell (Hades) could not keep him. He rose after three days, fulfilling more Scripture. In so doing, he completed the way of salvation for lost souls. We have the opportunity to touch his blood through baptism and have that blood wash our sins away (Acts 22:16). Without that blood, we are lost. Christ is the only door into heaven (John 14:6). All we have to do is walk through!