Mar 25, 2005

The Seven Last Words of Christ

Father forgive them

"Father forgive them for they know not what they do," (Luke 23:34). This is Jesus re-stating the message of forgiveness as He was nailed to the cross. The Old Testament "eye for eye and tooth for tooth" (which was a huge step forward for its time based on an even retribution) was surpassed with the concept of Christian forgiveness. It was practiced to the end by Christ. Forgiveness is what distinguishes Christianity from any other ‘religion.’ It is said that religion is man’s search for God, Christianity is God’s search for man.

Paradise today

"Today you will be with me in Paradise," (Luke 23:43). These are Jesus’ words to the good thief, who, even as a condemned man, recognises the kingship of Jesus. He is saved by his faith and present for the re-opening of Paradise, which was ‘closed’ at the expulsion of Adam and Eve. Paradise regained. The passage is used by Luke to denote the Kingship of Jesus, whose kingdom is not of this world. Those who espouse salvation by faith alone like this passage. The good thief had no chance to do ‘good works’. He was saved by faith alone.

Motherhood and the home

"Woman, this is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "This is your mother," (John 19:26-27). Some traditions link Mary at the foot of the Cross to the new Eve, mother of all believers in a new creation. She is present when creation was ‘restored’ at the crucifixion. Without spouse and family Mary would be alone after the death of Jesus and considered ‘cursed’ in Judaism. Jesus entrusted her to John and also entrusted John to Mary. The Christian Community Bible states: "Through this last deed of Jesus, the church discovered something about the mystery of the Christian life. The believer is a member of the spiritual family…" Many Catholics are criticised for allowing Mary too central a role in their belief system. The reality is that a true understanding of Mariology does not, in any way, attempt to make the creature equal with the Creator. Mary always points us towards Jesus.


"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt 27:46). These are words of abandonment but not of despair. They are the opening words of Psalm 22:1, a lament which turns into a prayer of praise. Jesus, like all devout Jews would have known the Psalms (150 of them) by heart. Reciting the Psalms was an everyday occurrence for Jews. Here at the point of complete and utter human desolation a prayer is uttered amidst the brokenness. It is a plaintive cry but it is a prayer. It is, perhaps, the greatest declaration of faith. The darkest hour is right before the dawn. Death is not the end.

Thirtsting for what is right

"I thirst," (John 19:28). Crucifixion is gruelling. Thirst is obvious. But Christ also thirsts for the will of the Father, not just for Himself, but also that it will be done in the world. The words also echo Psalm 22:15 and Psalm 69:21. For some believers the offering of vinegar on a hyssop stick is seen as a hostile act. Others see it as a ‘fulfilment’ of Exodus 12:22 when hyssop was used in the Passover feast. The blood of the Passover lambs ‘saved’ the chosen people, the blood of Christ saves all mankind. Jesus is the new Passover Lamb of God.

Beginning of the end

"It is accomplished," (John 19:30). No one has ‘taken’ the life of Jesus, He has handed it over Himself. Jesus has fulfilled all that He set out to do – the will of His Father. He dictated the time of His death. Traditionally when people were crucified their legs would be broken to hasten death. To breathe on the cross one had to drag his body up using pressure on his hands and legs which were nailed to the wood. The pain is unimaginable. With their legs broken they would be unable to raise themselves up to breathe. Not one of Jesus’ bones was broken, thus fulfilling Scripture, "Not one of his bones will be broken," Psalm 34:20 and Exodus 12:46.

The new beginning

"Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit," (Luke 23:46). This is an echo of Psalm 31:5 and is a prayer of serene confidence. Redemption is rampant, salvation is secured. History enters a new phase. What seemed lost is won. The depths of abandonment mask the core of love.

Death gives way to the resurrection. That is why we declare in the present tense "The Lord IS risen." It is only through the resurrection that the death can be understood. Death has lost its power. It will come knocking for each of us, when is unimportant. The only time that matters is now – the eternal present.

- written by Liamy MacNally

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