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Easter Meditation: Jesus’ Seven Last Words From the Cross

Easter is a time when we remember the sacrifice that Jesus gave that we might be extracted from the jaws of sin and death. Good Friday marks the moment that God used the devil’s trap and turned it into a triumph as Jesus gave His life up as full payment for our sins. It’s a poignant reminder that God can turn the most impossible situations around.

This Easter, let’s meditate on Jesus’ seven final “words” (or phrases) from the cross, and what they mean for our lives today. 

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1. Forgiveness

Luke 23:34

Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for His clothes by throwing dice. 

This word invites us to open our eyes to the full extent of God’s forgiveness. 

Even as Jesus hung on the cross, in unimaginable agony, being mocked by those who watched, He extended grace and mercy in His plea to His Father to forgive. Those over whom His grace flowed did not deserve it – and neither do we, but we, too, are covered by His grace. Think about how Jesus must have felt as He hung on the cross; imagine for a moment the strength it must have taken to utter that plea to His Father whilst He was still being mocked. Forgiveness came at a real cost to Jesus – He paid the price for our sins so that we could be forgiven. But we are forgiven so that we can extend forgiveness to people who have hurt us. The forgiveness that we can extend will never cost us as much as our forgiven-ness cost Jesus. 

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2. Salvation

Luke 23:43

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

This word invites us to remember the gift of salvation.

When Jesus was crucified, He hung on a cross between two thieves. Both thieves initially joined in the mocking of Jesus, but then one of them came to his senses and acknowledged his own sin and Jesus’ sinlessness. He asked Jesus to remember him – and in this simple acknowledgement both of his sin and Jesus’ lordship, he received the gift of salvation. He had done nothing to earn his salvation, but his willingness to ask for it, and receive it, allowed him to enter into eternal life. 

The picture of Jesus hanging between two thieves is a poignant image of salvation. Jesus’ crucifixion in the middle represents the door to eternal life, and the thieves on either side represent those who choose to accept the salvation Jesus died to give us, and those who reject Him. 

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3: Relationship

John 19:26-27

When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.”

This word reminds us to strengthen our relationship with Him and with one another.

In the midst of Jesus’ agony on the cross, He took time to make sure that His mother was taken care of. Even as He suffered, His thoughts were focused on others, reminding us of the importance of relationship. The cross is often used to represent the two important types of relationship that we need to maintain in our lives. The vertical beam represents our relationship with God, which is strengthened through prayer and worship, and the horizontal beam represents our relationship with others. We need both types of relationship in order to be healthy. Our ability to strengthen our relationship with others flows out of our relationship with God – we receive from Him so that we can pour out for others in the way that Jesus modelled – even when we’re experiencing trials in our lives. 

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4: Abandonment

Matthew 27:46

At about three o’clock, Jesus called our with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”, which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

This word opens our eyes to the persistence of His presence.

In this desperate cry from the cross, Jesus vocalised the agony that came from His (temporary) separation from His Father’s presence. God turned His gaze away as Jesus bore the full weight of our sins. Thorns are associated with the consequences of sin – the crown of thorns that Jesus wore is symbolic of the way in which He experienced separation from God, which is the fundamental consequence of sin. 

Jesus experienced abandonment so that we could experience right relationship with God – He was abandoned so that we never have to feel alone. God’s presence is persistent in our lives because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. 

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5: Distress

John 19:28-29

Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfil Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 

This word invites us to open our eyes to the depths of His love.

How could Jesus, who told the woman at the well (John 4) that He was the living water, thirst? The answer lies in the understanding that everything that Jesus did on earth was to fulfil Scripture. He said that He was thirsty to fulfil what was written in Psalm 69:21 – “they offer me sour wine for my thirst”. It was the final messianic prophecy that He needed to fulfil. The job was done. Every detail that needed to be attended to had been fulfilled. The night before, Jesus had prayed in the garden of Gethsemane for “this cup” to be taken from Him, and His distress at the thought of what He would have to endure had caused Him to sweat blood. He bowed to His Father’s will and completed His mission, and in this final fulfilment we must ponder the depth of His love – love so deep that He would endure the cross and all that it entailed so that we could be free. 

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6: Triumph

John 19:30

When Jesus had tasted [the wine] he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

This word invites us to open our eyes to the victory of surrender.

In three short words, God’s triumph over sin and death is declared. The devil thought that he had won in the crucifixion of the Son of God, but the cross is a symbol of victory, not defeat. In His death, Jesus freed all those who choose to believe in Him from the chains of slavery to sin, and took away the devil’s power to condemn. The cross is the final resting place for all the things that the devil would have us feel guilty about. When the enemy whispers in our ear to tell us that we’re not good enough, that our sin is too great to be covered by grace, or to accuse us, we don’t have to listen. Our sin was nailed to the cross with Jesus, and the devil has no more nails. The cross was meant to be the enemy’s trap, but God’s turned it into a triumph. Jesus’ victory came in His surrender to death. Our victory comes from surrendering to Jesus’ lordship, knowing that God can turn our worst situations into a triumph. 

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7: Reunion

Luke 23:45-46

The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words, he breathed his last. 

This final word invites us to open our eyes to see the resurrected Son of God. 

The curtain, or veil, in the Temple was what separated the people from the most holy place in the Temple, which was where the presence of God could be found. Until Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, people could only speak to God through the Priests. The separation from God’s presence was a consequence of sin – and the tearing of the curtain in the Temple is symbolic of the way in which Jesus died to rip away the barrier of sin to allow us to experience the presence of God. The ripping of the veil means that God is accessible – we only have to seek Him and He will be found. Our vision, once blinded by sin, is clear, and we can see God at work in our lives. 

When Jesus died, He was reunited with His Father – but His death also means reunion for all who believe. We’re restored to right relationship with God, and reunited with our Father. 

All images taken at the Good Friday Supper at Christ the Light Church, York, UK
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