“And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Luke 23:38). Thus Jesus was crucified as the King of the Jews between two thieves at Calvary.
The description brought humiliation upon the Jews while at the same time warning them that insurrection against Rome was futile. It was written in the three languages of Jerusalem at the time, Greek, Latin and Hebrew, that none may plead ignorance of the wording; Hebrew for the Jews; Latin for the Romans and Greek for the Gentiles.
As He hung naked and bleeding on the cross, Jesus spoke seven Words to us, for in Jesus, the Word was made flesh. These were eternal Words of Love and Absolution, which still resonate with power today, two thousand years after he uttered them in pain and agony.
“Father, Forgive Them.”
“Then Jesus said, ’Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do’ “ (Luke 23:34). This was Grace from the Cross. It was undeserved love which was totally unexpected.
For six hours Jesus was to hang in agony on the cross, yet His Christhood shone through in His words to those standing and sitting around Him as he died, taking our sin against His Father on His own shoulders, such that we might stand forgiven before God. The relationship between Son and Father was just as strong in dying, as it was in living, in death, as in life.
Jesus forgave them all; the Roman soldiers for crucifying Him as they followed orders; the Roman authorities who sought political expediency above truth; the Jewish authorities who saw Him as a threat; Pontius Pilate who washed his hands of honest decision making, though knowing Him of be innocent of the charges brought against Him. He forgave all who, for their own selfish reasons, had brought Him to be nailed to a tree. Jesus forgave the Jews and the Gentiles, the religious and the secular, all who had any part in His crucifixion. As the crowd of onlookers mocked Him, Jesus simply gave Grace and forgave them all. “For God has made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (Second Corinthians 5:21.)
“Today you shall be with me in Paradise.”
“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, Today you shall be with Me in Paradise’” (Luke 23:43). To be with Christ in Paradise means only one thing: the offer of eternal life. Jesus’ Word of Love offers eternal life.
The men crucified either side of Christ by their own admission, were guilty of their crimes and were paying the price. Yet, even in his pain and agony, one of the two recognised something about Jesus, about this broken and bloodied body next to him hanging on the middle cross as called out to Him “and he said to Jesus, Lord, ‘Remember me when You come into Your kingdom’” (Luke 23:42). However you see it, this was a powerful display of supernatural faith. This sinner saw beyond the natural, beyond the picture of the reality hanging next to him. This sinner was what God saw, and was the heart of the man on the central cross. Faith, as Hebrews 11:1 tells us “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This un-named criminal hanging next to Jesus, had the temerity, the mordacity, no, the Faith, to call out to Him saying effectively “I believe!” Whether in the flesh or in the spirit, the reality of Jesus the Christ was revealed to that sinner and he grasped at the straw before him, and obtained eternal life. This criminal saw the door to salvation and chose to immediately walk through it into Paradise with Jesus and into eternal life. Jesus is the door. He is the only way, as John 10:9 says “I am the door . If anyone enters in by Me, he shall be saved and shall go in and out and find pasture.” A criminal in agony on a cross at Calvary saw the Door and entered heaven, wouldst that all of mankind could do likewise.
“Woman, behold you son.”
“And His mother stood by the cross of Jesus, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
Then when Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’
Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her into his own home.” (John 19:25-27)
In the Word of Love from Jesus here we can see his concern for the wellbeing of His friends and family. His words bring comfort and healing to both as He entrusts His mother to the disciple, and the disciple to His mother. As His life ebbed away, Jesus took care of the one who had cared for Him on earth, and ensured that his disciple would also be cared for. Despite His grief and pain, Jesus was still concerned about those around Him whom he deeply loved, and who deeply cared for Him.
As the first Adam was put to sleep by God, Eve his helpmate came from his side. As Jesus, as the last Adam was put to sleep, out of His side came His Church – a Bride adorned for her Husband. What we in the Church often forget is that His Church was birthed as Jesus died the cross, expressing Love. In the Church we often forget that we too need to express love, just as Jesus did, to all people in all situations. For Jesus spoke to us in Matthew 5:44 “I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you.” That is love made flesh.
“Why have You forsaken Me?”
“And from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” That is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:45-46)
As Jesus hung on the cross of Calvary approaching death, His Father has abandoned Him. Jesus is not only feeling He is alone, He is alone. Perhaps for the first time in His life He cannot feel the close, intimate and immediate presence of His father. Jesus is feeling what all mankind feels at various times – total solitude – total loneliness – total abandonment; when there is simply no one to turn to; when there is simply nowhere to turn to. Jesus here answers the cry of every aching human heart, with love.
Theologians have long debated just what Jesus felt on that cross; that which was so powerful an experience it forced Him to cry out louder than His agony and pain. But what Father could just sit by and watch His Son die on a tree? God knew from the beginning of time that Jesus would die on a cross, and Jesus knew from then too, the same. God could not intervene. But as a Father, He could not be there either and watch. Oh, how Satan must have gloated as Christ died alone on that cross, seeing victory over Him at last. God was not here, He has abandoned Jesus. Jesus was alone and dying. What more could Satan ask for? But as we know, Satan’s victory was short lived as Jesus overcame death and took back the authority over earth from Satan, defeating him.
Jesus died alone so that we would not have to do so. Though God the Father left Jesus to die alone, Jesus the Son does not leave us to die alone. He is with us. He is with us at death and through all our trials of life. Though we may abandon Him, He will never abandon us and I, this writer of this post, am a testimony to that fact. I say ‘fact’, for it has been proven to me, time and time again. Not only does Jesus care so much that He is with me in my fallen times. He came after me to bring me back to Him, and not just once. He cares so much that He puts in effort to corrects me and improve me all the time. He cares if I am not as aligned with His Father’s Will as I should be, as I need to be. He just loves me!
“After this, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I thirst’” (John 19:28).
The composure of Jesus on the cross is unimaginable. John 1:1-2 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” This was the Word made flesh. This proved to be true, as in love and despite His own suffering, Jesus fulfilled the Word of God. For as He spoke, Psalm 69:21 was fulfilled in their presence “They also gave Me gall for my food; and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” What did the soldier do when Jesus cried out in thirst? John 19:29-30 confirms Psalm 69:21 as “then a vessel full of vinegar was set. And they filled a sponge with sour wine and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth. Then when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up the spirit.”
This was the man who could have brought a host of heaven’s angels to provide water for Him to drink. This is the man who offered ‘living water’ to a Samaritan woman, a woman with whom the Jews would even talk. This is the man who asked His Father to take away the cup which only He could drink, but yet not at His will, but at the will of the Father. This is the man who knowingly and willing drank the cup of our sins and drank it dry, so that we may be saved and stand blameless before God, our sins all atoned for by Jesus, the Son of God Himself.
“It is finished!”
“Then when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up the spirit” (John 19:30).
In love, the ultimate sacrifice has been made and the ultimate price paid and the mission of Jesus Christ of Nazareth is accomplished. The drink did not revive Jesus, it simply allowed him to speak his last words, acknowledgement that His mission was complete. Jesus has done His duty and has drunk the cup of our sin and transgressions dry, and has paid the price. We are saved.
“Father, into Your hands.”
”And crying with a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” And when He had said this, He breathed out the spirit (he breathed His last) (Luke 23:26).”
At the end of His life, love expressed the ultimate joy of committing all to God the Father. Having completed His work for the Father, Jesus returned His spirit to the Father, as behoves the dutiful Son.
As Jesus spoke these words, we was quoting Psalm 31:5 “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Jehovah, the God of truth.” Jesus was redeemed by the Father and in His redemption, we too are redeemed. What more could any Father ask for than a dutiful Son who completed his task, even unto death on a cross, and at the end, in respect and honour for His Father, returned honour and glory to the Father in His words of love. In the end, the Son turned back to the grace of the Father, relying on that and that alone.
In his death on that cross at Calvary some two thousand years ago, Jesus resolved all for us and redeemed us all for Him and the Father. All we need to do is to accept His for who He is and ‘only believe’. When we do that, we become heirs to eternal life. Jesus demonstrated a faith, a trust and a belief in the Father, which we also require to both demonstrate and live. As He willingly hung naked on that cross, broken and bleeding and in pain and agony, yet He still honoured His father in His words and deeds. Jesus was certain of the grace of the Father and of His position in the Father. As born-again Christians, we too need to be certain of our position in the Father and in the Son and of the Holy Spirit within us. We need to know it and feel it, but most of all, act upon it. Matthew 25:21b gives us the words which each of us longs to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
The above seven expression of Love are from Jesus, from the Word made flesh (John 1:14) who lived among us. As those who stood around the cross beheld His glory, we too, can behold His glory, for truly He was and is, full of grace and of truth. He personified and exemplified the life which we are to lead and His message to us from Mark 5:26 is as alive and potent and relevant as it was when the words first left His lips: “Do not be afraid, only believe.”