He was despised and rejected—
A man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
It was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
A punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
Crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
The Seven Last Words of Jesus
|Luke 23:32-34 |
There were also two criminals led out with Jesus to be killed. They were led to a place called “The Skull.” There the soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross. They also nailed the criminals to crosses beside Jesus – one on the right and the other on the left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”
They do not know? They …who killed Jesus?
Who is “they”?
It is so easy to name others
to blame others
Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas
they all played their part
and conspired against Jesus
or simply followed orders to maintain the peace
to keep Jesus’s kingdom from infringing on theirs.
And yet where are we when Jesus’s kingdom infringes on ours?
on our peace and our order?
on our prosperity and our security?
Where are we when the victims of our peace cry for justice?
when those disenfranchised by our order call for compassion?
when the hungry and the lonely beg us to share our prosperity
Where are we when Christ is crucified among us?
Surely he should have raged
at the sinners who nailed him to the tree.
Surely he should have raged at us for the evil we do,
the evil we do both knowing and unknowing,
Yet compassion is there in the first words that he utters
He intercedes for us before the Father.
Compassion that called him into being in his mother’s womb
Compassion that compelled him to the cross
Compassion that brings incredible, unbelievable grace
Compassion that echoes through the centuries
to all who participate in the killing of Christ:
Compassion that cries out from the cross:
“Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”
|Luke 23:39-43 |
One of the criminals hanging there began to shout insults at Jesus: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Then save yourself, and save us too!” But the other criminal stopped him. He said, “You should fear God. All of us will die soon. You and I are guilty. We deserve to die because we did wrong. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you begin ruling as king!” Then Jesus said to him, “I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
How much are we like the first thief?
Full of anger – because we are not rescued from our sin?
Full of hate – because we suffer because of the sins of others?
How much do we want God to snap his fingers
And make right what we have made wrong?
What we have allowed others to make wrong?
How easy it is to cry “save us”
and to rail against God
when there is no magic cure
no miraculous recovery
no legions of angels
to take away pain and bring wholeness.
How easy it is to scorn the Messiah,
to mock the goodness of the world
and condemn the light of the world
because we are unwilling to face what we we have done?
Yet there is goodness
There is a cure for sin
a cure that does not promise magical solutions
but promises that the pain of sin is not the end,
that when all this is over
when the suffering is finished
that the final word is not torture and defeat
but life – life springing out of the ashes
life transformed and fulfilled in Paradise.
To the compassionate thief
To the one who could still recognize the good in the world
To the one who tried to comfort and protect that good
To the one who sought good — Comfort was given
“I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
|John 19:25-27 |
Jesus’s mother stood near his cross. Her sister was also standing there with Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus saw his mother. He also saw the follower he loved very much standing there. He said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the follower, “Here is your mother.” So after that, this follower took Jesus’s mother to live in his home.
Who can grasp the grief?
the grief of Mary watching her son suffer?
the grief of Mary watching him die?
And who can grasp the grief of the son?
The son who must see his mother mourn?
What gift can a man give his mother?
What can he offer when he is gone?
How can he help her?
“Woman, here is your son”
Here is one I love, to love you, and for you to love.
One who knows me
One who is my brother and who can speak of me.
One Who can hold you,
and honour you;
One who shares your grief
“Here is your mother”
Here is one I love, for you to love, and to love you.
The one who taught me,
the one who fed me,
the one who wiped away my tears
the one who hugged me,
the one who grieves with you.
“Dear woman, here is your son.” “Here is your mother.”
|Mark 15:33-34 |
At noon the whole country became dark. This darkness continued until three o’clock. At three o’clock Jesus cried out loudly, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.” This means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Of all the agony of that tortuous day
the lacerations of the scourging
the chafing of the thorns around his head
the convulsions of his tormented, dehydrated body
as it hung in the heat all the day
Nothing reaches the depth of this anguished cry of desolation
“My God, my god, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Jesus, who found his purpose and strength in the presence of God
who was sustained by the immediacy of his relationship with God
and who endured all by the tangible power of God always at work
always a centre of vitality and peace,
found himself totally alone on the cross.
Jesus, whose very being was God,
found himself utterly,
cut off from all that gives life and breath
cut off from all that gives purpose and hope
cut off from the source of his being
cut off, even from himself
plumbing the depths of the human condition
to walk in the place of the utter absence of God,
in the place of sinners
in the place of those who reject God.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
| John 19:28 |
Later, Jesus knew that everything had been done. To make the Scriptures come true he said, “I am thirsty.”
There is a kind of timelessness about hanging on a cross.
It is not a quiet death,
over in an instant in one glorious moment of martyrdom
like being torn apart by lions.
A cross is as much an instrument of torture
as it is a gallows from which to hang,
And as the day wears on
seconds stretch into minutes which stretch into hours
until there comes a point when time can no longer be measured
except in the gradual weakening of the body
and its ever more insistent demands
for that substance which is so vital to life
so foundational to all living things
so basic to existence as we know it: – water.
Water to moisten a parched mouth
Water to free a swollen tongue
Water to open a rasping throat that cannot gasp enough air.
Water to keep hope alive
to keep life alive just a few moments longer.
Water, to a crucified man, is life.
“O God, thou art my God, I seek thee,
my soul thirsts for thee;
my flesh faints for thee
as in a dry and weary land where no water is.”
Who can tell if these words from Psalm 63 went through Jesus mind
but a thirst for water is a thirst for life
and a thirst for life is a thirst for God
who promises streams in the desert
mighty rivers in the dry land
and living water to wash away every tear.
Here, at the end of it all those promises seem far away, –
And yet Jesus – forsaken by God
still clings to the memory and the hope of life.
“I am thirsty.”
|John 19:29-30 |
There was a jar full of sour wine there, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it. They put the sponge on a branch of a hyssop plant and lifted it to Jesus’s mouth. When he tasted the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and died.
What a sigh of relief!
What a cry of deliverance,
after seemingly endless pain
and gasping torment,
it is over at last.
The suffering is ended.
The ordeal is finished
and nothing remains
but the blessed peace of the absence of all sensation.
When all there is, is pain
its ceasing is the greatest blessing of all
even when its ceasing comes only with death.
But Jesus’s cry is more than just welcoming the ending of pain
it is more than joy at the deliverance death brings.
He does not merely say, “it is over”
he says, “it is accomplished,
Jesus’s cry isn’t a cry of defeat and despair
It is a cry of success and triumph
– even at the moment of death –
that the race has been run
that he has endured to the end
that the strife is over
and the battle is won.
Jesus’s cry is a cry of relief to be sure
but it is also a cry of victory:
“The work I came to do is complete”
there is nothing more to add
“It is finished.”
|Luke 23:49 |
And Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I will commit My spirit.”
It is the end, the very end
the end of the ordeal
the end of the suffering
alone on the cross
abandoned by his friends
forsaken by God
gasps for a last breath
and gathers the strength for one final cry.
Why would he choose to speak
so close to the end?
Why would he muster the last energy he had
to cry out with a loud voice?
Couldn’t God have heard his thoughts?
Unless God wasn’t the only one intended to hear.
Unless his voice was pitched loud
so that we too might hear this final dedication of his soul.
A dedication made despite the pain,
despite the mocking,
despite the agony,
despite the sense of horrible aloneness he felt.
A dedication made to God
before the resurrection,
before the victory of the kingdom,
before any assurance other than that
which faith could bring.
Jesus entrusts his spirit — his life —
and all that has given it meaning —
to God in faith,
even at the point of his own abandonment
when the good seems so very far away
he proclaims his faith in God,
the darkness cannot overcome it.
“Father, into Your hands I will commit My spirit.”
The above “The Seven Last Words of Jesus” is adapted from a sermon which is copyright – Rev. Richard J. Fairchild – Spirit Networks, 1999-2006