Deathbed words from a dying person—we bend close to hear them. A person’s final words often leave a lasting impression. The atmosphere of one being so near the end of life can give special meaning and impact to their words. Once, as an old man died, he gave his watch to his son and said, “Where I’m going, time is not a factor.”
We have the last words of Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David and Solomon and we can learn from them. But Luke 23 records the last phrases of God’s only Son. From that horrible instrument of pain, the cross, Jesus spoke seven times. Utterances from crucified victims were usually short and crazed with pain: they would often scream them. It was common for them to curse, spit and plead with their executioners. But while the thieves who were on crosses to the right and left of Jesus screamed, Jesus prayed.
What was Jesus thinking as He surveyed the scene from the cross? We have a few hints from Psalm 22, but from the Gospel record, we are privileged to be there beneath the cross. His words are like a DVD into the mind of Christ. Let us listen to the words He spoke from this tree of hellish torture. The dying words of Jesus are like diamonds compared to the golden words He shared throughout His three-year teaching ministry.
The First Utterance:
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)
The fact that He prayed before He said anything else, validated His unlimited faith in His Heavenly Father. How did Jesus really feel about His betrayal, arrest, slander and beatings? No one knows for sure. But this verse proves His unshaken loyalty to His Father. Luke almost records it as one short sentence: “When they were come…to Calvary there they crucified Him…then said Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them’”(Luke 23:33-34).
Jesus’ first word bespoke His relationship with His Father, something that His sacrifice on the cross did not break—even for a microsecond. Jesus first and final utterances both address His Father. From the beginning to the end of His crucifixion, His Father was on His mind. Continuing His relationship with God was the most important thing, not His pain.
Although we may suffer for Jesus’ sake, our daily communication must be paramount. His first utterance is a prayer (Luke 23:33-34). The first word from His lips is, “Father.” It is an invocation; and how naturally it is spoken by One who communed with Him often. Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer that, conscious of our kinship with Him, we should pray, “Our Father.” How you address God in your dying moments will depend on your daily relationship with Him throughout your life.
When Jesus was 12, He told Mary that He was “about His Father’s business.” At age 33, on the cross, He was still in that business. The business that day was to die for your sins. Jesus is still performing the will of His heavenly Father two thousand years later. To address God as “Father” is the glorious privilege of the children of God. Let us not neglect it as we study Jesus’ last words.
The petition of Jesus to His Father is to “forgive them.” Jesus then states the reason: humans are ignorant. “They know not what they do.” Jesus prayed that the Father would forgive sinners, but this is not the first time He has mentioned it. Let us go back to Jesus’ inaugural address, the Sermon on the Mount. There He taught us to ask forgiveness, “As we forgive others” and He repeated this teaching in short form in Luke 6:34: “Forgive and ye shall be forgiven.” Jesus had no need to ask the Father to forgive Him, but you and I must ask God to forgive us. He taught us to “love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us…and to pray for our persecutors.” Jesus validated that we can forgive others even in the worst of circumstances—from a cross.
The historical record of crucifixions reveals that the victim often screamed, spit and swore at his tormentors and executioners. It seems almost natural for such men to cry for vengeance. Instead, Jesus does just the opposite. No sooner is Jesus nailed to the cross, than He overflows with compassion, not vindictiveness. Never once in His teachings did Jesus ever use the word “revenge.” Though Jesus was reviled, “He reviled not again” (I Peter 2:23). Instead, He “made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). It was only through the cross that the Father’s forgiveness was made possible. Jesus had stated earlier that, “This is the blood of the New Testament shed for the forgiveness (remission) of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
Note that Jesus did not pray for His own sins to be forgiven, for He couldn’t be a sinner and bear our sins. Never were such words heard from a cross before or since. “Father, forgive them.” It was a petition of love. But Jesus was not just praying for His local murderers and tormentors. This was a global petition. “Forgive them” is an all-inclusive petition including Jews, Gentiles, soldiers, centurions, Pilate, Herod, the mob, the high priest, the Sanhedrin, the Hellenists, the Sadducees, the Pharisees—and you and I .
Nor was Jesus asking for just the sins committed on that day, in that terrible hour. Jesus prayed this prayer when your sins and mine were not yet committed. Jesus died for your sins two millennia before you were conceived. But the blood of Jesus has proven effective to forgive the sins of all who call upon Him from that Friday through today. No wonder Peter refers to Jesus’ blood as “precious” (I Peter 1:19). That word precious means “especially dear”. Jesus paid dearly for our sins with His precious blood.
“For they know not what they do.”
Does this mean that Judas, Pilate, Herod, the High Priest, the Sanhedrin were innocent due to ignorance? No – it was an appeal to the Father to consider the frailty of humankind. We were all responsible and we were all accountable. His tormentors taunted Him saying, “If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross.” A crucified thief said, “If you are God’s Son, save yourself and us.” The Jews accused Him of being God’s Son. It was for this very reason they were killing Him.
Here He speaks just a like a son to his father. He continues to communicate with His Father, even in His darkest hour. But note that Jesus does not say, “If you are My Father.” Many will challenge God in their dying moments, but Jesus’ communication with His Father on the cross is the supreme lesson in forgiveness. Jesus knew that His Father orchestrated the plan of salvation, so He speaks to Him, not His executioners.
“They don’t know what they are doing.”
What does this mean for you and me? Is ignorance of the law an excuse? If I ignore the stop sign, can the cop still give me a ticket? Peter said he sinned in ignorance (Acts 3:17). Paul mentions that if the Jews had known He was really God’s Son, they never would have crucified Him (I Corinthians 2:8). Is Jesus praying for mankind’s acquittal on the basis of ignorance?
The root word means to “ignore.” Ignorance does not imply that one cannot know, but that he or she has ignored the facts and chosen not to know what can be known. Paul wrote in First Timothy, “I received grace due to my ignorance” (1:13), but never wrote that he received grace simply because of his ignorance. God does have compassion on ignorance if a person could not know, but Romans chapter one holds everyone accountable for their sins.
If anyone should have known the laws of God, it was the very people that killed Jesus. They alone, of all nations on earth, had been entrusted with Scriptures that described the Messiah perfectly…but when He came, they butchered Him. The irony is that they did it for “religious” reasons. We may get indignant when we read what they did to Jesus, but Jesus prays for their forgiveness. How do you and I react when deeply wronged? Revenge may seem sweet in the natural world but not in the supernatural world. The Old Testament said, “an eye for an eye,” but Jesus said to “love your enemies.” His sacrifice on the cross was the summit of Jesus’ faith. In His final moments, He does not pray for His own deliverance, but for yours and mine. One may survey the scene at the cross and ask, “What good can come out of this?” But God, as always, knows how to turn evil into good, for your salvation was the direct result of Calvary.The Son would never have asked the Father for the impossible. It was a prayer of love. Jesus asks, knowing that the Father was working out His plan of salvation at that very instant. Two parties must be involved in an act of forgiveness: one to bestow it and one to accept it. Forgiveness is a gift, but it must be accepted for the transaction to be completed.
His plea here is for the Father to give men time to repent—to not be judged instantly. The entire human race judged God’s Son on that day. Jesus knew that the Father could not forgive arbitrarily, but that each individual person must do their own repenting in order to receive forgiveness of sins. Steven prays a similar prayer in Acts chapter seven when he asks the Lord to forgive his killers. But whereas Steven, as a human, asks forgiveness for his murderers, Jesus’ prayer as God’s Son is for the entire human race.
God never downsizes our sin to the level of individual ignorance. He will never lower His standards of righteousness because we choose to ignore them. Ignorance of the law, even if warning signs are ignored, is no excuse. The problem is that people are irresponsible, that they choose not to be knowledgeable.
Jesus is stating the reason for their actions not begging for an acquittal. His prayer for their pardon is more a description of their condition than anything else. The blind hatred of the Jews did not excuse them, for Jesus did not pray, “Father excuse them” but “Father forgive them.”
They were not ignorant of their actions but they were ignorant of the enormity of their actions. They killed their own Messiah. In a global sense, it was the irony of created beings killing the Creator. Part of mankind’s problem is deliberate ignorance of spiritual truth. I am so ignorant; I must look at the Cross to see what my sins actually cost.
One man was heard to say, “If I don’t read my Bible, I won’t be held accountable for not obeying it.” But never assume that ignorance alone deserves forgiveness. All spiritual ignorance is sin, because we can know what God requires. We sin because we choose to ignore the consequences of our sins. “Fornicators shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9-10). Would people fornicate if they actually realized it would cost them heaven? If people knew what was really at stake, would they do what they do? Ignorance of God’s law is not a license to sin.
On Good Friday, the hatred of man had reached its highest expression: “Crucify Him!” But the love of God had reached its highest expression: “Forgive them!” The river of love that flowed from Jesus’ heart overflowed its banks in that hour. But did the Father answer Jesus’ prayer? Jesus prayed no impossible prayers and He never prayed a prayer that was not answered. If you are born-again, you know the Father answered Jesus in the affirmative, for you have experiential knowledge of His forgiveness. Because of Calvary, Christians have been enjoying the benefits of God’s forgiveness for two millennia.
Jesus taught us that if we won’t forgive others, the Father won’t forgive us. Jesus prayed knowing the Father could forgive mankind. He taught us to forgive, knowing that we could forgive others also. Somehow, my receiving His forgiveness is inseparably linked with my forgiveness of those who have wronged me. Praying this prayer, from the cruel cross, shows that Jesus practiced what He preached: “Love your enemies. Do good to those who despitefully use you.” Forgiveness is perhaps the hardest lesson for us to learn as Christians. It is for this very reason we must give it our undivided attention.
The Second Utterance:
“Today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Perhaps as an additional insult, Jesus was given the middle position between the other two victims. This central place was often reserved for the worst prisoner. Jesus came into our world to identify with sinners and He did this right up to His last moment on earth. He lived with, ate with and died right in the middle of sinful men.
Historical records call the repentant thief Dismas, and so shall we for the purposes of our devotional. He demonstrated a fragmentary theology, but he came to know Jesus as Lord, even under the worst possible circumstances. The scene on Calvary is emblematic, for saints and sinners will be divided at the judgment: saints on the right and sinners on the left. The sheep will be segregated from the goats. Wise virgins will be separated from foolish ones. Wheat will be gathered into His barn and the weeds burned up.
The other thief was in the same circumstances, but with a very different attitude. Crucified victims often react like tortured animals. At first, both thieves railed on Jesus, challenging Him to save Himself and them as well (23:39). Crazed with pain, they lash out at the Man on the middle cross. Two of the Gospel writers record that, though both thieves reviled Jesus at first, something happened in the life of Dismas. Dismas rebukes the other thief (v. 40). Perhaps he heard what Jesus said to the daughters of Jerusalem on His way up the Via Delarosa. Perhaps He saw the Lord’s demeanor as He was nailed to the cross. He must have heard Jesus pray for His murderers.
Isaiah prophesied that Jesus’ face would be more marred than any man. Jesus could not have looked worse. What did Dismas see in Him that made him respond so favorably? I’m sure the glory of God continued to manifest itself in our Lord even then. What made the change in Dismas in such short time? It doesn’t take long for the presence of Jesus to change one’s attitude.
Jesus is used to talking with sinners and He still does today. While the religious leaders were laughing, Dismas got it right. The rulers disputed Jesus claims to His Messiah-ship, but Dismas got in on the blessings of it. Never did the new birth see such a strange birthplace as on a cross at Calvary. To recognize Jesus as Messiah was incredible under the circumstances, but it proves that the worst of situations will not hinder the work of the Spirit.
Dismas confessed Jesus was innocent: “This Man has done nothing wrong!” He saw Jesus as King, Lord and Messiah. He saw Jesus as capable of handling life after death, of extending mercy and remembering individuals. Dismas was certain that Jesus had a Kingdom, for He said “when you come into your kingdom” not “if.” Even though his theology was imperfect, Jesus gave this thief the Kingdom. He assures Dismas—and you and me—of continued consciousness and a peaceful life after death.
Often, crucified victims would linger for days on the cross until the buzzards ate them alive. By using the word “today,” Jesus assured Dismas that he wouldn’t have to suffer that long. The Gospels record that Jesus died before the thieves, thus He was waiting for Dismas when he arrived. Jesus brought to Dismas’ tortured mind a scene of Eden, peace and paradise. He assured Dismas that he would live again, as a new person, straight from this hellish torture into His Kingdom. Jesus did not say, “Today, you will go to purgatory,” but He spoke of immediate access to heaven with no waiting period.
The blood Jesus was shedding that day was for Dismas and all other human beings. Although Dismas suffered the same crucifixion as Jesus did, that did not save him. Dismas could not be baptized in water or do any good deeds to “earn” his salvation. He had to look directly to Jesus for salvation, as we all must.
The Third Utterance:
“Woman, behold thy Son! Behold thy mother” (John 19:26)
When Mary carried her baby to the Temple, Simeon foretold of the sword that would one day pierce her heart (Luke 2:35). Good Friday was that day. As a young mother, she would caress those little hands and feet, wondering where those feet would take Him and what those hands would do. Now spikes were driven into them. We only get a few glimpses of Mary during Jesus’ ministry. She hears of His miracles: the lame walk, the dumb talk, lepers are cleansed. Then she hears news of the growing opposition and hostility toward Him. She wonders where all this is heading…until she stands here at the foot of the cross.
Had the angel Gabriel lied about her baby one day having a great, unending kingdom? How could this kingdom come, with her son dying, hanging on that cruel cross? But Jesus is about to usher in the Kingdom of God and Calvary was the plan to make that happen.
It’s always hard for a mom to see her son die. Mothers are the eternal optimists, always anticipating the best for their children. Many a mom has mourned the execution of even a wicked son, but Mary knew Jesus had always been perfect—and that God was His Father. She was not ashamed of Him and she was there for Him, exactly where you would expect to find such a woman. She never abandoned Him and He never abandoned her. As an aging Jewess, she knew her eldest son was responsible to take care of her and finally lay her to rest. Joseph must have died already or he would have been there beside her. The New Testament tells us that Mary had other children after Jesus was born, but they were unbelievers (John 7:5). Who would take care of His mother? She was helpless to help Him or herself, so Jesus took care of her through the beloved disciple John.
From the pulpit of His cross, Jesus preached a short sermon on the fifth commandment: “Honor your father and mother.” The cross of Jesus stood amid a swarm of emotion. There were rulers, mockers, soldiers, the mob and a group of weeping women. Though the other disciples all forsook Him and fled, John remained the only one of the twelve to be with Him to the end. And Jesus rewarded him with the high honor of entrusting him with the care of His mother.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, we get glimpses of His humanity: as a baby in a manger, as a boy teaching in the Temple, asleep in a boat, weeping at Lazarus’ grave. But here we see the normal human desire to care for an aging parent. We expect Jesus to pray for His enemies, to save Dismas, to refuse the drugs offered by the soldiers…but to attend to such a domestic detail as parental care? Though Jesus never allowed nepotism to interfere with His Father’s business during His ministry, here at the end of His earthly life He makes provision for Mary.
In the 21st century, respect for the aging is waning. Let us re-examine our attitude toward the elderly in general and for our parents in particular. We are to “behold” them, as Jesus said to Mary, to look into their self-sacrificial faces, love them, respect them and provide for them. Although He was dying for the sins of all humanity, Jesus did not forget His responsibilities as an individual.
Some have imagined that Jesus addressed Mary as “Woman” instead of “Mother” in order to protect her; that others may have mocked her had they known she was His mother. But this is not the case. The Greek term “woman” here is the most endearing and respectful term for a female parent that one could utter. It is a title of love and honor which recognizes her esteemed position as a wife and mother. Jesus also uses this very special term of endearment in John 2:4.
She had followed Him up the 650-yard journey from the judgment seat to Golgotha. She saw His face so horribly bruised and the thorns on His head. She heard the mocking of the mob. She saw the nails driven in. Perhaps she thought, “If only He would look my way.” And He does. He had no estate to leave her, for His kingdom was not of this world. Soldiers below were gambling for His last bits of clothing. The only thing Jesus left on this earth was His precious blood. Uttered in great pain, His words were brief. Every time Jesus spoke, He had to push Himself up on the nail in His feet to draw breath.
What he said to Mary and John amounted to a verbal contract. Jesus did not entrust the care of His mother to any of His half-brothers (children born to Mary and Joseph) for they were unbelievers (John 7:5). At this point in their lives, no other disciple was a candidate for this honor. But we expect John to be there. He was the one who had leaned on Jesus’ chest at supper. Now Mary would lean on John for the rest of her life. When John wrote His gospel, he tell us that “from that hour, he took her into his own home” (John 19:27).
John and Mary would never tire of talking about their Jesus. Tradition holds that they lived in Jerusalem for twelve more years until she died at about age sixty. John did not leave Jerusalem until Mary had died in his arms. John didn’t evangelize during that time, for he would not leave her. He took this special duty—this holy commission given directly from Christ—very seriously. Only after her death did he go do his missionary work, spending time at Ephesus and finally at Patmos.
There is a secondary lesson here also. Jesus foresaw the day when some people would worship Mary. In Luke 11, when women tried to bless Mary, Jesus corrected them. He further affirmed this in Luke 8:21 and Matthew 12 when He said that His true mother and siblings were those who keep the Word of God. Jesus never calls Mary, “Mother”, for He refrained from using a word which might deify her. Nor did He tell anyone to worship Mary as the “Mother of God”. She never referred to herself as “God’s Mother” nor solicited her own worship. Nowhere in the Bible is it stated that Mary was sinless, for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). She did no miracles. She could not turn water into wine.
Nothing is said about Mary answering my prayers. She was never promised a throne in heaven on God’s right hand. If she is the “Queen of Heaven,” what is she doing praying to receive the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 1:14? Mary cannot save, for she herself needed a Savior. At the annunciation, she tells how her “spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). If Mary had such power as the papists suppose, why would she need anyone to take care of her?
Sin came into the world by a woman named Eve. The One who would remove sins came into our world by a woman named Mary. Eve’s disobedience to God stands in sharp contrast to Mary’s obedience as the mother of the Messiah. God used Mary to bring the Messiah into our world. But though Jesus was her baby, the Son of God belongs to all who accept Him as their personal Savior.
The Fourth Utterance:
“Why Have You Forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Jesus hung on His cross for six hours. How do we know? Mark 15:25 tells us that He was crucified “the third hour.” Since the first hour of the Jewish work day was 6 a.m., we know He was nailed to the cross about 9 a.m. Jesus hung on the cross from the time of the morning Jewish sacrifices until the time of the evening sacrifices. The sacrifice of the Son of God covered all the attempts of mankind to cover their own sins.
Matthew 27:45 tells us that there was a period of darkness that continued from the sixth hour (noon) to the ninth hour (3 p.m.). Some liberal theologians claim this was an eclipse but that is not possible. Passover is celebrated at the time of the full moon—when the moon is opposite the sun. The miracle of darkness took place, perhaps, to shroud the intense sufferings of the Son of God. It was almost as if the very sun itself was ashamed to shine on this shameful deed as earth’s creatures killed their own Creator.
He had prayed for the Father to forgive His murderers, including you and me. He had invited a penitent thief into heaven. He had provided for His mother. Jesus’ first three utterances from the cross were concerns about other people, but this phrase centers on His mission. During these hours of darkness, Jesus was silent. He spoke His last phrases very near the end of His life on our planet. Finally, this shrill cry fills the air, a cry of deep despair. Perhaps the most bone-chilling question humankind has ever heard: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me”?
It was an intellectual question, a logical question, a rhetorical question. Matthew 27:26 records that this sentence was spoken in Aramaic: “‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.” It was a question that Greek or Hebrew could not adequately express. Jesus did not ask the Father “Why?” because He did not understand, but in His horrible anguish, He left a question for humans to ponder throughout eternity. The question was “Why?” Why in the salvation plan of God, did the Son of God have to die for sin?
Although He had been forsaken, even by His own disciples, the Father never forsook Him. Though He felt forsaken, He never was. Though He was disappointed by the shallow commitments of human love, the Father’s love was constant. Though men had betrayed Him, the Father never did. I have often thought it interesting that there is no record of a woman ever forsaking or betraying Jesus—only men. At the last supper, He had predicted His sheep would “scatter” but adds, “Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (John 16:32).
At this point the three hours of darkness was dissipating. Jesus was very near the end of His life on earth. Dare we draw close to study His face? Every minute His suffering increased, yet there was no miracle rescue by the Father nor His angels. Though DVD’s may attempt to portray His sufferings, no one can know what the Master endured in those hours as He suffered for our sins. The One Being that never sinned suffered for all sins. His question was one of both despair and faith, for He knew why He was there. He hung on the cross for you and me to free all who call upon Him for forgiveness of sins.
The Fifth Utterance:
“I Thirst.” (John 19:28)
Before He began His ministry, He fasted for 40 days and was hungry. Here, at the end of His ministry, He was thirsty. Jesus was arrested at midnight and the illegal trials took most of the night. Jesus stood before Pilate and Herod somewhere between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. He was crucified between 9 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon.
Jesus had been without water for many hours and was very thirsty. He quotes Psalm 69:51: “In my thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink.” John says in this verse, “Jesus knowing all things were now accomplished, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, said ‘I thirst.’” His mind focused on this one prophetic passage in Psalms.
All the essential things were now accomplished, but one small detail remained yet unfulfilled—the passage in Psalms that told how vinegar would be given to Him instead of water. John 19:29 fulfilled that verse. His statement of thirst seems to prompt the men to hurry and give Him the vinegar.
Gall mixed with sour wine was a drug sometimes offered to crucified victims (Matthew 27:34). But upon tasting it, knowing this was a drug, Jesus refused to drink it. He did not want the last things He said on earth to be interpreted later as the ramblings of a drugged man. If Jesus never took drugs, why do some Christians feel it is OK to abuse prescription drugs?
The former question Jesus asked, “Why have you forsaken Me?” was the statement of a tortured spirit. The statement of “I thirst” was the result of a tortured physical body. The statement of His thirst proves that Jesus was always in full control of His faculties. But His remark was not a complaint; it was more a statement of fact. At no time did Jesus ever complain about His physical needs. At all times throughout His life, Jesus exhibits perfect self-control. But what petty things have you and I complained to God about lately?
This shortest statement from the cross was the only cry concerning physical suffering and it fulfilled a prophecy. All other utterances from the cross were either prompted by concern for others or were prayers to His Father.
Concerning the Messiah’s sufferings on the cross, Psalm 22:15 tells us that His tongue would stick to His jaws. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16), in hell the rich man begs for just one drop of water. Jesus never begs, but those who do not accept Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins on Calvary will one day beg for water.
We don’t have to ask why He was thirsty. He had been beaten so badly, every movement on the cross caused additional suffering. But Jesus does not demand water. He simply said He was thirsty. Indeed, it is hard to find a passage where Jesus ever asked for anything that would bring Himself personal comfort except for the time He asked for water from the Samaritan woman. Jesus sought to provide her with His living water. She said, “Lord, give me this water that I thirst no more.”
The friends of Jesus desire such water, but His enemies gave Him only vinegar. He was thirsty as He hung on the cross and He suffered so that we would never thirst again.
The Sixth Utterance:
“It is Finished.” John 19:30
One must search all four Gospels to discover the order in which these seven last phrases of Jesus were uttered…but “It is finished” are not His final words. There must have been a tremendous sense of accomplishment in doing His Father’s will. All the Synoptic writers tell us that Jesus shouted this. It was loud, for all the world needs to know that His work on the Cross is a totally finished work. The atonement did not semi-complete the plan of salvation. This was not a yell of defeat, fatalism or resignation, but a victory shout! It was not a cry of relief, thinking of the end of His personal pain. Jesus was not saying, “Goodbye cruel world.” He left our world in victory, rose in victory and is returning in victory. It is the cry of a Victor, not a victim.
In the Geek, this phrase is one single word: Te Te Les Tai and it is the only place it is found in the Bible. It means “rounded out to perfection” and denotes “an action brought to its termination.” It indicates there is nothing left to do, the work is completely accomplished. This is why the word is used in the perfect tense.
In John 17:4, Jesus told His Father, “I have finished the work You gave me to do.” In the mind of Christ, He knew He would complete His mission. It was as good as done. He told His disciples in Luke 12:50, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” The word “straitened” means “restricted on both sides; under a pressure; pressed in; constrained.” Since the word “baptism” means to be totally immersed in something, Jesus, nearing the end of His earthly ministry, was indicating how He longed to complete His atoning work for our sins. Jesus never flinched.
Even early in His ministry He said, “My meat is to do the will of the One who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). In Luke 18:31, Jesus said, “All things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man will be accomplished.” It is over and done with. “It is finished” is like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence.
But what was finished?
a. All the requirements of the Father.
b. The total sufferings of Lamb.
c. The complete sacrifice for sins.
d. The cup of His agony, completely consumed.
e. His life among the human race.
f. His work of redemption.
g. The old covenant.
h. The completion of His earthly mission.
i. The accomplishment of His task.
j. The payment of ransom for our sins.
Jesus had said that all things that were prophesied about Him will be fulfilled (Luke 24:44). But what things?
a. His Bethlehem birth (Micah 5)
b. His betrayal for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:13)
c. His death with criminals (Isaiah 53)
d. The vinegar He was offered but refused (Psalm 69)
e. The gambling for His garments (Psalm 22)
f. The cry of the forsaken (Psalm 22)
g. Like the sacrificial animals of the Old Testament, He would have no broken bones (Exodus 12:46).
After He said it was finished, He yielded up His spirit. A soldier thrust a spear into His side (v. 34). No enemy has ever touched the Son of God since…nor shall they ever! Never will He ever suffer again.
And let no one “crucify the Son of God all over again” (Hebrews 6:6) by trying to add additional fine-print stipulations to the plan of salvation. Throw away the Book of Mormon and the Catechism and all ecclesiastical, legalistic bondages, for it is finished “once and for all” (Hebrews 10:10)!
The Seventh Utterance:
“Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Draw close to the cross and see how the Son of God dies. This is no ordinary crucifixion. Jesus was not captured and killed. Three times in John 10:15, Jesus emphasized that He would lay down His life voluntarily.
The phrase means, “Father, I entrust my soul to you.” To the very last, we see a Jesus in total control of His destiny. Communion with His Father was shown to be paramount in His mind. Prayer was the first thing He did on the cross—and it was the last thing. Jesus died as a child falls asleep in his father’s arms. Matthew 27:50 is better translated, “He dismissed His Spirit.”
Immediately, as Jesus says this, the veil in the temple is torn open by the hand of God (Luke.23:45). Two gospel writers record that the veil was torn just before Jesus said this (Matthew 27:50 and Mark 16:37-38) but Luke records it as being said just after it was torn (Luke 23:45-46). The only conclusion we can draw is that this took place simultaneously. He bowed His head, gave up His spirit and the veil was torn apart. Remember, it was Passover. Everyone near could now see directly into the Holy Place. All can now access the presence of God through Christ’s sacrifice. What was hitherto forbidden is now open.
The cross is now silent. Jesus died about 3 p.m., the hour of the evening Jewish sacrifices. Prayers were being offered in the temple as Jesus offered His final prayer. Salvation had come, not through sacrificial animals, but through the sacrifice of the Son of God.
Jesus’ first recorded words on earth concerned being “about His Father’s business.” In His final words on earth, He is still about His Father’s business. This last prayer was actually a scriptural quotation from Psalm 31:5. Jesus knew the Word—all His teachings are saturated with it. But Jesus did not quote all of this verse. He left out the words “for you have redeemed me.” He did this because He has no need to be redeemed. He was sinless. Those He died for are not.
“Into Your hands I commit My spirit.” This is not the only time Jesus spoke of His Fathers hands. He assured us that no one could pluck us out of His Father’s hands (John 10:29). Jesus suffered, not by His Father’s hand, but in the hands of sinful men (Matthew 17:22-23). The chief priests and scribes sought to lay hands on Him (Luke 20:19). In Mark 14:41 Jesus said that the hour is come and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. “They laid their hands on Him and took Him” (Matthew 26:50). John 19:3 records how they “smote Him with their hands.” Peter said on the day of Pentecost that “you took Him and crucified Him by your wicked hands.”
Jesus knew He would soon be dead, so He prayed about the one thing every dying person should be praying about in that moment: his soul. Jesus placed His soul into the only Hands in which it would be safe—His Father’s.
These same final words of Jesus were among the last words of Augustine, Polycarp, and Martin Luther. When John Huss was led to his execution for interpreting Scripture, the Catholic Priests had put a paper cap on his head, scrawled with pictures of devils, because they had consigned his soul to Satan. But the last words of John Huss were these last words which Jesus spoke. He consigned his soul to God, not a denomination.
Jesus’ last words teach us how to die. Get to know Him now, if you want to talk to Him in your dying hour. Who else could you talk with about heaven that has the power to get you there? Come close to the cross of the Son of God and see how He died. Look deeply into His face and see how you should die. May His final words be our daily prayer as well: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”