What do you think of when you see a beautifully sculpted cross shaped piece of wood or an elegantly shaped cross of gold hanging around the neck? Is the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ what comes to mind? The Cross is the cornerstone of our Christian faith, our chosen symbol to remember the death of Jesus. “It’s Jesus stretched out between heaven and earth, suffering for you and for me. The Cross is Jesus as our Savior. The Cross is the place ‘where heaven’s love and heaven’s justice meet’”.
Thank God, we see it now as an empty cross! “The seeming tragedy for good and apparent victory for evil was overturned by the POWER and PURPOSES of God into the triumph of the resurrection of Jesus. The cross of Christ is God’s final word as to the character and consequence of human sin, and the wonder and sacrifice of divine love.”
As Jesus hung upon that Cross almost two thousand years ago, he made seven great statements that cover the basic needs of mankind.
THE FIRST SAYING
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus’ prayer for His enemies is in keeping with the character and teaching of Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels (Luke 6:28) and has a close relationship with the prayer of Stephen (Acts 7:59-60). “The wonder of this Word from the Cross is that there is forgiveness. Forgiveness for the disciples who forsook Jesus and fled in the night. Forgiveness for the evil ones who drove Him to the Cross. Forgiveness for the soldiers who nailed him to the tree. Forgiveness for the bitter hearts of his religious enemies, the priests and teachers. Forgiveness for every person who has ever sinned or made a mistake. Forgiveness for you and for me.” “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
THE SECOND SAYING
“Today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
On the darkest day in the history of the world, there were two thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus. This fact fulfills the prophecy that is “recorded in Isaiah 53 where, among many other predictions, the prophet declared that the coming Suffering Servant of the Lord was he who ‘was numbered with the transgressors’ (53:12).”
One of the condemned men yelled insults at Jesus saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39). This echoed the statements of the religious leaders and soldiers moments before. “A redemptive life is not sufficient proof to the leaders that Jesus is the Messiah. If He is the Christ, He must prove it by using His power on His own behalf. They cannot conceive of power or position not being used for self. Nor do they understand that saving one’s self is incompatible with saving others.”
The other condemned man perceived who Jesus was and rebuked his fellow criminal. “Then the penitent robber turns to Jesus with a plea to be remembered when He comes in His kingly power… The dying man asks to be remembered at the Parousia, an expression of faith in Jesus as Messiah… In his reply, Jesus assures the man that he will not have to wait until a future date in order to be remembered.”
Anyone who turns to Jesus, even in the last moment, is granted fellowship with Him. No man is beyond hope of redemption. The measure of his sin didn’t alter his chance of being saved one bit. Jesus’ saying from the Cross illustrates that the way of salvation is simple.
THE THIRD SAYING
“Jesus said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple ‘Here is your mother’” (John 19:26, 27).
“The gospels provide only the briefest glimpses of the relationship between Jesus and Mary. I wonder what tortured thoughts were passing through Mary’s mind as she saw her son in such extremity. Very likely she would recall the words uttered in a prophecy when the infant Jesus was presented in the Temple, ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too’ (Luke 2:34-35). This was that moment – the sword was being cruelly thrust into her.”
Jesus refused to let personal agony distract Him from the practical duties of a son. Seeing His mother and the beloved disciple, John, standing near, He provided for his widowed mother a son to meet all of her earthly needs. “And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (v.27).
“One of the gifts Jesus gave to us from the cross was the church: a loving, caring, sustaining, encouraging family beyond family. And it is a great encouragement to our faith that He illustrates the meaning of the church the way He did in the relationship between John and Mary.” “This Word tells us that there’s love for you in the cross, and it’s a love which having been received, is to be shared with others.”
THE FOURTH SAYING
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).
Many people ask why Jesus would call out to the Father, “Why have you forsaken me?” when Jesus knew the answer. It was for this very reason that Jesus came, to be the propitiation (atonement) for our sin and bear the weight of our sin debt – paid in full by the shedding of His blood.
Those compelling words occur in two gospels, Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 as He hangs near death on the Cross. These words are the exact first words of Psalm 22. It is important to note that at least three other parts of this psalm are quoted in the story of his death (v. 7, 16 and 18). “So the words, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ are part of this psalm that contains, as it were, a script for Jesus’s last hours.”
The simple answer is that He was bearing our sin, our judgment – the wrath of a holy God judging all sin of all mankind in this moment. “Darkness had draped itself over the terrible spectacle, surely symbolic of the awful legacy of the fall of mankind laid upon Jesus.” “He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus was feeling the punishment of the sinner, being separated from God. Abraham Kuyper has said that “Christ’s self-emptying was not a single act or bereavement, but a growing poorer and poorer, until at last nothing was left to Him but a piece of ground where He could weep and a Cross where He could die.”
This Word from the Cross points us to the cost of the atonement made. Thank God, there’s atonement for sin at the Cross by the Lord Jesus.”
THE FIFTH WORD
“I thirst” (John 19:28).
At this point, Jesus had hung on the Cross for six hours. It was excruciating to get a breath. Hung from His arms, He must stand on His nail pierced feet and pull Himself up with His nail pierced hands to take a quick breath. His body would have soon been dehydrated under the Eastern sun and the trauma He had suffered by the flogging and hanging on the cross. Psalm 22 speaks graphically of Jesus’ present condition, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth” (14,15). Although Jesus was completely God and completely human, the sufferings of our Savior were real. He felt all the emotions and pain as we feel them. “The sour wine offered by a soldier on his sponge that day was an act of mercy to the One who was bringing God’s mercy to all humankind.”
His mission now almost complete, His cry of thirst fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of Psalm 69:21. To do His Father’s will required Jesus to fulfill all that had been prophesied of the Messiah down the ages. This Fifth Word from the Cross serves to tell us that there is suffering in the Cross.
THE SIXTH WORD
“It is finished” (John 19:30).
Beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, when God told the serpent that He would “put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head and you will strike His heel” (Genesis 3:15), the struggle between good and evil was now finished. Jesus’ cry was proclaiming His victory over the evil one. It was a shout of victory over sin, death and hell.
He has born our full curse. There is no debt left to pay and He has nothing left to give. There is nothing left for man to do but to enter into the results of Christ’s finished work. That’s what Jesus was proclaiming from the Cross – “it is paid, man’s account with God has been settled, the debt is wiped out.” That is the very essence of the Gospel. The Redeemer has paid the price for our redemption. Salvation has been obtained for all who accept and rely upon the finished work of Calvary. There is victory over sin in the Cross.
THE SEVENTH WORD
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
“And God the Son dies. It is the worst and best of all human deaths.”
Jesus had to die physically to be our sin offering and return to His Father in heaven. He willingly laid down His life “of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 10:18). “God, the Father, had accepted the sin offering made by Jesus, as would soon be demonstrated by his resurrection from the dead.”
Jesus’ last words from the Cross is a quote from Psalm 31:5. Jesus is proclaiming His confidence in God, His Father pointing the way to all who die believing. There is eternal security in the Cross.
How beautiful are Peter’s words in I Peter 2:22-24, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed”.
The Seven Sayings of Jesus from the Cross are a wonderful commentary in His own words of Forgiveness, Salvation, Love, Atonement, Suffering, Victory and Security.
Broadman Bible Commentary Volume 9 – Luke and John
Broadman Bible Commentary Volume 8 – Matthew and Mark
“Beneath the Cross of Jesus” Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1868