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Friday, April 10, 2009

The Seven Words From the Cross

Widely known as "The Seven Words," the seven short phrases uttered by Jesus Christ as he was crucified on Calvary have often been used as meditation points. They were gathered from the four gospels and presented here in their traditional order. Strikingly bare and brief, the phrases were uttered in the face of exhaustion asphyxia that accompanies crucifixion when obtaining air to say any words must have been terribly challenging and painful. The first word of Jesus from the cross is for forgiveness of mankind so that we might be reconciled to God for eternity. People could not fathom then that Christ's death would not be the end, but only the beginning of His influence while His earthly death would bring life to the world. The second word is in response to a plea from one of the criminals being crucified with Christ. The criminal cried out, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."He had realized that Jesus had been treated unfairly. People are welcome in Paradise not because they have the right theology, and not because they are living rightly, but because God is merciful and they have put their trust in Jesus. Even as did the criminal in his last moments. The third word is spoken to Mary and to a loved disciple (John?). Jesus wanted to be sure that Mary would be in good hands after his death. Even as he was dying on the cross as the Savior of the world, Jesus was also a son, a role he didn't neglect in his last moments. The scene is both compassionate and spiritual by any standards. The fourth word is in the form of a question. Jesus is asking God, much like the psalmist of old (Psalm 22), why God has abandoned him. Was it truly a question or just an expression of great agony? It is clear that Jesus knows what it is like to be abandoned by the Father. The Father abandoned the Son for our sake, for the salvation of the world. The fifth word on an obvious level was a request for something to drink. In response, the soldiers gave Christ sour wine. This request also fulfills the scriptures. This request certainly shows Jesus taking on traits of our humanity so that sin may be taken away. The sixth word expresses relief that Jesus' suffering was over. "It is finished" meant, in part, "This is finally done!" But it is also a victory cry. Jesus, having accomplished His mission, announces and inaugurates the kingdom of God. He has opened the way for all to live under the reign of God. And, finally, the seventh word represents Jesus putting his post mortem future into the hands of His heavenly Father as He asks for deliverance. This is not a deliverance from crucifixion, but rather a deliverance of Christ's spirit unto God. The grand work of redemption is at hand.
THE FIRST WORD
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
Gospel of Luke 23:34
THE SECOND WORD
"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Gospel of Luke 23:43
THE THIRD WORD
"Jesus said to his mother: "Woman, this is your son". Then he said to the disciple: "This is your mother."
Gospel of John 19:26-27
THE FOURTH WORD
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
THE FIFTH WORD
"I thirst."
Gospel of John 19:28
THE SIXTH WORD
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished"; and he bowed his head and handed over the spirit.
Gospel of John 19:30
THE SEVENTH WORD
Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."
Gospel of Luke 23:46
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