March 17, 2021

The Seven Last Words of Jesus on the Cross

Bruised and bleeding, the Savior’s final hours were spent crucified on a cross. Although racked with excruciating pain, he made seven significant statements as the last words of his mortal ministry. As we look more closely at these final statements, Christ shows us how he is a healing, human, and divine Savior to each of us.

A Healing Savior 

Though in desperate need of comfort himself, Jesus Christ’s first three statements show his compassion and desire to heal others.

First Statement 

The first statement was spoken as the soldiers crucified him. The Savior said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Amazingly, the Savior generously pleaded for mercy for those who were in the very act of crucifying him. He is showing by example what he taught during the Sermon on the Mount that we should love our enemies and “pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:44). Christ is teaching us how we should be willing to extend forgiveness and mercy, even when it is not merited, asked for, or acknowledged.

Second Statement 

The Savior’s second statement also displays tender compassion for others even while he himself suffers. As Christ hung between two thieves, one of them taunted him by saying, “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.” (Luke 23:39) But the other man rebuked him, by saying that they both were getting what they deserved (see Luke 23:41).

At this point, this penitent thief then pleads with the Savior, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” (Luke 23:42). These words, spoken by a convicted criminal, are the final recorded words addressed to the Savior before his death. His plea captures a special intimacy as he is the only person recorded in the Gospels as asking Christ to remember him. 

Christ and the Good Theif by Titian

Others might easily see this thief as worthless or beyond redemption. Yet, in his response to the man hanging beside him, Jesus shows us what he truly thinks of the human race. The Savior makes the second statement by saying, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). Can you imagine the reunion when Jesus and this man see each other after they have died? Christ would personally minister to him and teach him that very day. 

According to Luke, Jesus began his public ministry at a synagogue in Nazareth stating that he would “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” (Isaiah 61:1). How appropriate that he ends his mortal ministry by proclaiming freedom to one who is physically bound on a cross and spiritually bound by sin. Like this thief who hung beside Christ, we too can be freed from our own bondage and sins because of a healing and merciful Savior.

Third Statement 

When Jesus saw his mother Mary and the disciple whom Christ loved watching him as he suffered on the cross, he said the third statement. First to Mary, “Woman, behold thy son!” Then, directing his words to the beloved disciple (often assumed to be John), “Behold thy mother!” (John 19:26-27). Even in his greatest agony, the Savior focuses on the needs of his mother. He is showing by example how to obey the commandment he gave to “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Matthew 19:19). In John, the first miracle Christ performed was at the request of his mother by turning water into wine. Here, again, Christ lovingly attends to her needs even in his moment of greatest need. He inspires us to look outward, even when we are suffering.

Jesus Hangs on the Cross by Gebhard Fugel

The Savior demonstrated his healing power by forgiving the soldiers, comforting the thief and honoring his mother. Just as Jesus met them where they were, he will also meet us where we are—even those who make serious mistakes. No one is beyond the reach of the Savior’s healing love. 

A Human Savior 

In the next two statements we are reminded that though his Father was our Immortal God, Jesus was born of a mortal woman. In agony on the cross, he shows us his humanity through his suffering.

Fourth Statement 

As Christ experiences the effects of shock due to the loss of blood, with parched and shriveled lips, he cries out his fourth statement., “I thirst!” (John 19:28). During his ministry, Christ said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). What a powerful testament that he truly bears all of our pains as our Savior. Christ thirsted so that we can drink the cool, refreshing, water that he himself so desperately needed. As the Living Water, he strengthens us in our own challenges.

Fifth Statement

As the time of his death approached, Jesus “cried with a loud voice, ... My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34, see also Psalm 22:1) making his fifth statement. In his moment of greatest distress, Christ is left to bear the full brunt of the sins of the world without the accompanying help of his Father. [1]

During his ministry he told those who loved him, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18). Even in his final painful hours he has sought to forgive, comfort, and honor those around him. And now he is the one in need of comfort, for even his Father has left him to suffer these pains alone. In this statement, we more fully see a human Savior who is suffering. In our pain, we can connect with Christ, for he knows how to heal our pain perfectly.

Jesus on the Cross by Jean Francois Portaels

A Divine Savior

As the end of the Savior’s life nears, we become acquainted with his divinity in his final two statements. Despite intense suffering, as the Son of God, he retains power over all things and completes his atoning sacrifice. 

Sixth Statement

In great agony, Christ makes his sixth statement, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Earlier in his ministry, Jesus taught that his purpose was “to obey the will of the one who sent me and to finish the work he gave me to do.” (John 4:34, GNT). In spite of earth and hell combining against him, thirsty, forsaken, and in agonizing pain, Christ has indeed completed the work his Father had sent him to accomplish. We can be confident that even when our lives spin out of control, Christ is completely in control. He is always at the helm. 

Seventh Statement 

Finally, moments before Jesus ended his mortal ministry on earth, he cried, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). [2] Perhaps the keyword in this seventh and final statement is I—indicating the Savior’s personal agency—he willingly gave up his life (see John 10:17–18). Note also the Savior intimately addresses God as “Father.” In the Gospel of Luke, Christ’s first recorded words at a young age of just 12 years are when he asks Mary and Joseph “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49, NKJV)—and now Mary’s witness provides the heart-wrenching answer. He had finished the work his Father sent him to do. Christ gave himself completely to God. Do we do the same? Are we willing to allow our will to be completely swallowed up in the will of the Father? 

Reflecting on these seven statements Jesus said from the cross, we see Christ as a healing Savior who extends mercy and comfort even in his own agony. We see Christ as a human Savior who can relate to our anguish and our suffering. He is a divine Savior, able to help us in every circumstance because he is all-powerful. In these seven simple yet poignant statements made in Christ’s final moments when he suffered the most, we see that Jesus Christ is the Messiah who has come to save us all. 

Script written by John Hilton III adapted from Considering the Cross: How Calvary Connects Us with Christ (Deseret Book, 2021).

[1] Jeffrey R. Holland, None Were With Him (April 2009 General Conference).

[2] In this statement, Jesus echoes the first half of Psalm 31:5: “Into your hand I commit my spirit.” Left unsaid by the Savior, though still true, is the second half of this verse: “you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” See Brown, Death of the Messiah, 1066–69.

3 comments:

  1. This is absolutely beautiful! It makes one so very very grateful for Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Not that I wasn’t before this but it really helps to personalize Christ’s atonement. It helps you to get that much closer to knowing the Savior. Thank you.

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  2. I m glad to learn God's word. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song

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