The Last Words of Jesus
This Good Friday message is presented by Dr. Dillon Burroughs of the I Am A Watchman ministry. The message is titled, The Last Words of Jesus. Our prayer is that it inspires and encourages you today.
The Last Words of Jesus
A person’s last words are important. I still remember the last time I saw my dad. I was 24 years old, visiting after my semester of grad school had ended. It was May, a nice Indiana day where we enjoyed a short walk in our old yard and a simple meal together for lunch.
We discussed a lot of things, most of which I no longer remember. But when I was preparing to leave, we hugged and both said, “I love you.” I didn’t know he would pass away four days later, though he seemed to recognize his end was near. I’m so thankful our last words to one another were words of love. Words I can remember in a good way.
Why? Because last words matter.
Today we celebrate Good Friday, a tradition reflecting upon the death of our Savior Jesus Christ. In the Christian tradition, one of the ways we remember the death of Jesus is by looking at his last words.
Why? Because they are important.
The concept of reflecting on the seven last words of Jesus from the cross is not new to me. Many have used these same verses over the years. However, I hope and pray that as we look together at these words, that you will recognize once again how much Jesus loves YOU.
The first of the 7 last words Jesus gave from the cross is found in Luke 23:34:
Statement 1: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (see Luke 23:34).
Who did he talk to? The Father.
What did he ask the Father? For the forgiveness of his enemies.
Notice also some of the things Jesus did not ask for:
- Jesus did not ask forgiveness for Himself. He didn’t need to, He was sinless.
- But Jesus also did not ask for a quick, painless death. He knew His purpose for dying on the Cross. It was part of God’s plan.
- Jesus did not ask God for vengeance on the people who sentenced Him to death. Instead, He prayed on their behalf. Even in His torment, Jesus forgave those who tormented him. He cared for those without his love.
This is the application of the first cry from the cross. If Jesus could forgive those who hurt Him, He can forgive us of our sins AND give us the strength to forgive others.
Let me ask you, Are you carrying guilt in your life? The German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said “guilt is an idol some people refuse to give up.” Jesus has already paid for your sins. You only need to confess them.
But are you withholding forgiveness from someone who has hurt you? For example, sometimes a person will cut me off on the highway and make me so angry. In my mind, I’m thinking of the things I would like to say to the person or how I could get even.
Yet the other person usually has no idea of what he has done. They are going about their life, without any concern for something that I continue to stay angry about.
The same is often true when it comes to forgiving others. The other person usually is going about life without any concern. Why do we let ourselves be the ones controlled by someone else’s actions?
Let’s forgive, just like Jesus, and live without holding a grudge against someone else.
The second of the last words of Jesus is also in Luke. It’s the statement…
Statement 2: "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (see Luke 23:43).
The passage in Luke 23:39-43 share these amazing words:
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
In one of His final conversations, Jesus offered eternal life. Two criminals hung on the crosses to his right and left. At first, both mocked Jesus. Yet one soon realized two things. First, he was about to die. And second, maybe Jesus could help.
Yet this man could not use his hands and feet to help others. He was nailed to a cross. He could not be baptized. He could not serve in the church. He could not share his faith.
Yet his example has helped lead countless people to faith in Christ. For every last second conversion and every death row prayer, the man on the cross is the story that represents their story.
For me, it reminds that no matter how long a person waits to accept Christ, it’s not too late.
On one occasion, I’ve seen an 80 year old woman baptized. I’ve also seen a 90 year old great grandmother pray to receive Christ.
We don’t want to wait until it’s too late, but we can pray and share Christ with others up until their final breath.
One friend of mine shared Jesus with her brother for years with no success. When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she traveled to the hospital again, only to hear the message rejected once more. Yet a few days later, a chaplain met with her brother and he finally prayed to believe in Jesus, passing away just a few days later.
She prayed and shared until the final moment. God found a way to get the message to him. As a result, she could experience the final conversations with her brother as a brother in Christ.
If you haven’t figured it out already, maybe the current pandemic in our world has reminded you of the some things: One, you will someday die. But Two, Jesus can help.
Whether you leave this world today, or a hundred years from now, you need to be ready to be in the place Jesus called paradise.
Good Friday is good because it gave us a way to have eternal life.
The third of the last words of Jesus from the cross is found in John 19:26-27:
Statement 3: "He said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother’" (John 19:26-27).
Jesus’ first two statements clearly revealed His divinity. Jesus can forgive sin and give eternal life. His third statement reflects His humanity. As fully God and fully human, He cared for his mother Mary.
The woman who had carried him in her womb, nursed him as an infant, and raised him as a child, now watched her son die in the most brutal way. Yet the apostle John was with her.
Jesus loved Mary as both Savior and as her son. Likewise, Jesus cares for our soul and for our daily lives. He cares about your quarantine, your health, your well being. He cares about your finances, your diet, your sleep.
Just as Jesus cares about the details and daily needs of our lives, he calls us to care for the needs of others as well. If someone in your home needs help, help them. If you can bring some non-perishable food items to your church to help those in hunger, do it.
I read a story this week that shared a great example. An anonymous Maryland mother has been leaving out hundreds of bagged lunches for her community during the coronavirus shutdowns.
She leaves the healthy meals on a tent-sheltered table at a busy intersection in Severna Park. Hanging from the table is a sign that reads: “For anyone who needs it … I will be leaving some healthy sack lunches on this table for you if you are hungry and need to eat. Made with love, by a neighborhood mom in a clean and sanitized kitchen.”
I love this! She didn’t leave her name to attract attention. Her goal is simply to meet the needs of others—and in her case, including many people she may never meet. We are called, just like Jesus was, to care for both eternal and temporary needs.
The fourth of Christ’s final statements from the cross is found in Matthew 27:26. It’s a question:
Statement 4: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
This prayer is the fulfillment of prophecy from Psalm 22. Connecting past with present, Jesus revealed His suffering was no surprise to God. Isaiah 53 offers a long list of what would happen to the suffering servant. Isaiah 53:4-6 reads:
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But 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.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
God did not really leave Jesus. Instead, these words echo the predictions of prophecy to reveal why Jesus died as he did.
He did not suffer for his own glory; He suffered to show us his love.
In Hebrews 13:5 we are given these words: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Isn’t it great that Jesus promises He will never leave us? This quote is take from Joshua 1, where God promised Joshua he would be with him as he had been with Moses. How was God with Moses?
He was with him before, during, and after his trials. He led him from his birth, rescued him from death, and led him until God’s plan and destiny were fulfilled in his life.
Let me remind you, you will remain alive as long as God still has a plan for your life. In a sense, you are bulletproof until God’s purposes are accomplished in your life.
Yes, you may face much pain, but you will stay alive until the very moment God’s final mission for you is completed.
We should be careful of the pandemic and problems around us, but we need not be fearful. God may seem to have forsaken us at times, but His plan is much greater and much better than we could ever know.
The fifth statement Jesus gave from the cross is from John 19:28. It’s simply:
Statement 5: "I thirst" (see John 19:28-29).
It is the shortest of his seven statements. He had been under distress since sharing a meal with his followers the night before. He was certainly thirsty, but there is much more in these two words.
Psalm 69:21 shows how this statement fulfilled another prophecy: “For my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” Just as predicted, Jesus was given sour wine to drink.
We also see the full extent of his human suffering. Thirsty and likely dehydrated, he likely also needed a drink to be able to speak his final two statements from the cross.
Just yesterday, I took a run near my home and forgot to take water. It took less than an hour for my body to crave a drink. I was terribly thirsty by the end of my run. Yet imagine the thirst Jesus had in His humanity at that moment. He had endured hours of suffering without a drink.
His thirst reminds us of His total commitment to God’s will. I see many Christians who live for God, but not completely for God. They may serve at 30 percent or 70 percent, but they are not completely devoted to the Lord. We are called to be like Isaiah, who responded, “Here am I. Send me.”
We must be willing to go anywhere and do any thing, at any time for our Lord, just as Jesus did in his death upon the cross.
The sixth statement from the cross by Jesus is found in Luke 23:46:
Statement 6: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
Jesus was not a victim; He was a victor. Again, Jesus echoes the words of prophecy, this time from Psalm 31:5. The statement, “Into your hands I commit my spirit” was not the end of His journey, but it would soon be the end of His pain.
One thing I know from seeing people at the end of life is that there is a longing for heaven. At a certain point of pain or age, people would prefer to be with the Lord. Paul even wrote he preferred to be absent from the body and in the presence of the Lord, but needed to stay to complete God’s purposes for his life.
There will be a day when you and I will come near our end and we will no longer fight.
We will be ready to say I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. I am ready to go.
But we don’t want to reach that point and look back with regret. The example of Jesus reminds us that our final moment should motivate us to live better during the rest of our moments.
I don’t want to stand before the Lord with regret. I want to bow before him, knowing that despite my many imperfections and failures, I gave everything I had to live for my Lord.
The seventh and final statement is found in John 19:30. Jesus simply says:
Statement 7: "It is finished" (see John 19:28-30).
When God’s plan was completed in Christ, He left to return to the Father. We will too.
Jesus is often noted in John’s gospel as “finishing God’s work.” In his prayer in John 17:4, Jesus told the Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” His finished work included the cross.
As I look at these words, I am reminded of how many times I’ve looked at the problems in my life and have thought, “I’m finished.”
Yet somehow God continues to make a way. He will not let me be finished until He is finished with me.
The same is true for you. He will let YOU know when you are finished. We don’t get to quit. We are called to endure, to stand firm, to follow the example of Jesus until the Lord calls us home.
One of my favorites Bible passages recently has been Hebrews 12:1-3. After noting the famous people of the faith, the focus returns to Jesus, saying:
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
If we look at the founder of our faith, Jesus Christ, what do we find?
First, he endured pain.
Second, he endured shame.
Third, he endured sinners.
But fourth, he experienced heaven. He ended up at the right hand of God.
And if you know Christ, you will too.
The application Hebrews gives us is that we do not grow weary and lose heart.
I truly believe this is our application today as well. So many of us have grown weary. We’re tired of the pressures around us or the pain around us or the people around us. We’ve prayed and prayed again, but the problems are still there. They are too big.
But God’s Word to you today is to look to Jesus. Look what he endured. If he was willing to take on the cross for you and for me, can we hang in there a little longer? Can we endure one more day?
If he could take the nails in his feet and hands, if he could take the crown upon his head, and the beating upon his back, can’t we fight for one more round? Can we press on for one more battle?
Even better, the same Spirit that empowered Jesus to make the ultimate sacrifice lives in those of us who know him.
We don’t endure in our own strength. We endure in strength of the Holy Spirit.
There is a lot of confusion taking place right now in our world. I’m reminded of Isaiah 55:8-9 that shares,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
We may not understand the why, but we can know the who. The who is Jesus. We can know him, but only when we come to him at the cross.
In Pastor Erwin Lutzer’s book on the cries from the cross, he writes:
“No one can experience the eternal favor of God if they bypass the cross. The cross is the hinge upon which the door of history swings. It is the hub that holds the spokes of God’s purposes in a grand unity.”
Let me remind you in this moment—we need a Savior. If you’ve believed in him, you can use this moment to thank him for his forgiveness and recommit to his mission.
But if you’re not sure about your faith in him, now is the moment to make sure. I want to conclude our time with a brief prayer. First, I want to pray for anyone watching who may need to pray to believe in Jesus. Settle the matter right now. Do not delay.
If you already know Christ, pray with me for those who are making their own decision right now. And also, take this time to commit your life to him once again right now.
Let’s pray together. If you need to believe in Jesus, pray something like this:
Dear Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son. I believe you died on the cross and rose from the dead to give me eternal life. I confess my wrongs and my sins. I trust in you alone to save me. Please given me the gift of eternal life. Help me to live for you from this moment forward.
And For those of you who know the Lord and may want rededicate yourself to him in a fresh way today, pray this prayer with me:
Dear Jesus, I confess my sins. I want to live completely for you. I rededicate my life to you right now. Help me to trust in your strength and follow your ways. Thank you for dying on the cross to give me eternal life.”
And for all of us, Father, we love you and praise you for this time. Help us to live with endurance, just as you showed through your Son Jesus. We thank you and praise you in Jesus name. Amen. Thank you and may God bless you on this Good Friday.
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