If someone very dear to you ever shared with you his or her last words, it is very possible that those last words left a lasting impression on you that remains to this very day. Someone dear to me shared with me last words, among which included the words of a hymn, “Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed his blood for me. Died that I might live on high. Lives that I might never die.” “Lives that I might never die.” Those last words of the life of a child of God can only be spoken because of the work of the Son of God. And it is the last words of the Son of God – the seven last words of our Savior Jesus as he died – that help us understand the three words of truth which today are part of our ongoing Lenten season theme– those three words of Jesus, “It is Finished.”
The seven last words – or statements — of Jesus which allow us to know that his work of salvation is finished are all printed out in your worship folder on the top of the next seven pages, so I invite you to follow along one by one and listen to Jesus speak from the cross these words which I pray will find their way into your heart as you hear them now and as we all respond to them later.
There are three things about Jesus which those seven words can help us understand about the three words, “It is finished.” Those three things are his concern, his suffering and his victory – three things that I pray can be helpful to help you see how these seven last words all tie together – three things that assure that before Jesus left us, he made sure all was taken care of – that all was finished.
The first three last words of Jesus show his concern.
His first last word: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” What does that tell you about Jesus’ concern? He has concern for those who sin. That means he has concern for every single person of the world, including those who put him on that tree – which includes you and me, who in reality also put him on that cross. If we really knew what we were doing, would any of us do anything to hurt the Son of God? But because of the sin that we are born with in our hearts that leads us to actually commit sin in our lives, we don’t know what we are doing. Jesus, however, knows what he is doing, and what Jesus has done, which goes beyond our comprehension, is forgive. Most people don’t believe that or care about it, but thank God that he has placed in our hearts the faith that makes us different from most people, even though we are no different than any people. May this first last word of Jesus help us show a concern that desires many more to know that “It is finished” means they are forgiven and can live with God after they die, too.
His second last word: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus’ concern for sinners was even for those who were on that cross right next to him, getting, as the one thief confessed, what they deserved. Jesus allowed himself to make it look like he was one of them – a criminal – yes, like he is one of us – a sinner – “numbered among the transgressors,” the Bible says. But because he is also not like one of us, since he never did anything wrong, he can speak the truth that when we die, we will be live with him in the paradise of heaven.
His third last word: “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” Jesus’ concern for us is also a deep concern for our earthly life before we get to heaven. His mother was the one his heavenly Father had chosen to bring him into this world. He loved her. He wanted to make sure she was taken care of after he was gone until she got to join him in heaven. Jesus loves us, too, so he makes sure there are people to take care of us until we get there, as well.
The next two last words of Jesus show his suffering.
His fourth last word: “Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is amazing to think of the concern Jesus has for sinners, especially when we think of the suffering he endured to show that concern. Forsaken by God? Really forsaken – left alone – God forsaken by God? How is that even possible?! This is something that we cannot even begin to comprehend, even though in our weakness and self-pity we may sometimes feel that way ourselves. Jesus was that way – left on the cross for that time on the cross to face the devil alone – all so that he could suffer alone the hell in which Satan dwells – all so that you and I would never have to – and all so that you and I can know that there is no way we can ever be forsaken by God, because nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord, the only one ever truly forsaken.
His fifth last word: “I am thirsty.” The most intense aspect of Jesus’ suffering was being forsaken by his Father, which we cannot in any way fathom. Another aspect of Jesus’ suffering was something that we can in some way fathom – his physical suffering of being so thirsty from all he had been going through that he needed something to drink. The Bible tells us the truth of what we obviously experience – that we will have physical, earthly sufferings. But not only does the Bible tell us that that should not surprise us – after all, suffering is in the world because sin is in the world – but it also tells us that whatever suffering we go through in God’s love is meant to help us participate in the sufferings of Christ. It is meant to give us even the most little taste of what Jesus went through so we will not ever have to go through any suffering anything like that here on earth or, more importantly, after we die. What a reason that is for us to show kindness to other people in their suffering, so that, especially if they don’t believe in Jesus, they can see Jesus in us, and through hearing about him maybe be led to come to believe what all these last words of Jesus mean for them.
The last two last words of Jesus show his victory.
His sixth last word: “It is finished.” Jesus’ concern and Jesus’ suffering resulted in victory. All that he came to do in paying for the sin of the world was accomplished by offering his holy life as the once and for all sacrifice demanded by the holy God. But the price demanded by God was truly paid by Jesus. There was nothing more that Jesus could do to make it more paid. There is nothing more you or I could ever do to make it more paid, no matter how much the devil might try to get us to think otherwise. It is finished. And the victory that Jesus won is the victory you and I have won by believing that what he did, he did for us.
His seventh last word: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” The work of saving us was complete, but the official acceptance of that work was still to come, because when Jesus was taken off that cross, he was dead. A dead Savior could not be the Savior. However, just as the prophets of old had said the Messiah would die for sin, so they also said he would rise to life. And since that was going to be done through the power of the Father, Jesus could say with confidence and with a loud voice as he bowed his head, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” “Father, now that it is finished, there is more to come.”
“Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed his blood for me. Died that I might live on high, Lives that I might never die.” The last words of Jesus are very humbling and very sobering and very serious to think about, especially on this holy day. But because Jesus said “It is finished,” for you and me it is not over until it’s over – until he decides our life is complete – until he welcomes us to the place where he now is.. on high – and all because all of us can say exactly what Jesus said not just when we bow our heads the last time but every day along the way, “Father, into your hands we commit our spirits.” We who die shall also rise. Good Friday is so good, and it is so wonderful, but Good Friday is not the end. Jesus gave us seven last words to tell us there is much, much more to come. Amen.