Here are my thoughts regarding the seven words of Christ from the cross. Tomorrow I will share thoughts of Luther and the next day thoughts of Johann Gerhard. I trust that these brief meditations will aid the reader in preparing his heart for the the observance of the death of our Lord.
THE FIRST WORD
“Father forgive them for they don’t know what they do.”
Here we see the purpose and effect of the entire work of Christ and of all God’s gracious plan in him – Father forgive them. He speaks as a son who wishes his heavenly Father to treat us as sons.
Jesus does not think about the injustice of his agony or the unfairness of his own death. His thoughts are only of you and I – Father forgive them. And what better advocate can we have than one who is at that moment carrying upon his shoulders the sin and guilt of all people.
Our savior makes no excuses for us as if ignorance allows sin. He indicts us. We are so inexcusably ignorant that we crucify the son of God. Yet still he pleads for his ignorant friends – Father forgive them. By the grace of His father and the command of Christ we are forgiven.
THE SECOND WORD
“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
The thief on the cross is your typical convert to Christ. First, he is a lost soul being punished and deservedly so for his offenses against God and humanity. Second he is completely passive. He claims no merits, no works of his own, no choices or decisions, no level of commitment or experience of sanctification. He claims nothing in himself. Third, he looks at the bloody, rejected, defeated, and soon to be dead Jesus and sees in Him salvation. He hears only the words of forgiveness of Jesus. By this word alone spoken by the crucified Lord the thief is brought to faith. Yes, he is your typical Christian covert just like you and me.
THE THIRD WORD
“Woman behold your son! Son behold your mother.”
Jesus steps away from his own pain. He is distracted from his own anguish. By what? By the simple needs of this life in His mother and His friend John. He provides for her in her old age. He commissions his friend to assume the vocation of son. If Jesus can forget his own inexpressible needs in order to provide for the earthly needs of his loved ones then certainly he is able to know our needs of this life understand them and provide for them. He who carries the burdens of all is never so burdened that he does not see a sparrow fall. And he loves you more. “These are my mother, these are my brothers,” says Jesus of you.
THE FOURTH WORD
“My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Certainly no one could deny that Jesus had been forsaken by friend and foe. The disciples had all run away in cowardice and fear. The crowds which adorned his path with branches have finished their satanic service with shouts for his blood. The Pharisees have done their worst and brought guilt upon themselves. Pilate has washed his hands in vain for innocent blood remains on him. We are all to blame. But has God forsaken Jesus? Has God turned his back on His son? Yes. “We esteemed him stricken smitten by God and afflicted.” Because God rejected Jesus we will enjoy has everlasting favor and acceptance.
THE FIFTH WORD
Jesus was parched from exhaustion. He had not had much to drink since the evening before. He had lost blood and sweat. He thirsted for water. And Jesus had a greater thirst. He thirsted for you. He thirsted in his gracious heart that you would be saved, that you would be forgiven by his blood and absolved by his word. He thirsted that you would trust solely in him. He thirsted for your love of Him. He thirsted for you.
Jesus in your thirst and pain
While your wounds your lifeblood drain,
Thirsting more our love to gain
Hear us, holy Jesus
THE SIXTH WORD
“It is finished.”
What is finished? He is finished with the task of fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament. He is finished with his obedience to God’s law in our place. He is finished with the task of humiliation where he sacrificed the use of his strength and authority in order to live and die for us. He is finished with the act of atonement as he has now born the fullness of God’s wrath and satisfied the demands of Justice. He is finished with redemption whereby he has paid the price of bringing us back to God by the shedding of his blood. He is finished destroying the enmity between fallen humanity and God which has existed since the sin of our first parents. He is finished with the dreadful courtroom scene in which he has established for all the wonderful verdict of God’s grace – “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” He is finished crushing the head of Satan by his victory over sin and guilt. And, O yes, He is finished dying.
THE SEVENTH WORD
“Father, into Thy hands I commend my Spirit.”
Jesus said, “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own free will.” The act of death on the part of Jesus was not something outside of his control as it is with other men. It was something which he had planned with meticulous attention to the details of your salvation. It was a death which he then carried out forgetting not a single prophecy that needed fulfilling and overlooking no bit of pain that needed to be experienced. When he was done then there was no need to continue. Jesus is in total control. He has put death, sin and devil exactly where he wants them – at his mercy. And then he destroys these ancient and unworthy foes with simple words which teach that he has done His Father’s will for us. “I lay it down that I might take it up again.” So Easter looms ahead.