Friday, March 29, 2013

Meditation on the Seven Last Words of Christ

On Good Friday, the Christian Church remembers the suffering and death of Christ. One common way to do that is to meditate on the last seven words of Christ, as recorded in the four gospels. Several years ago, the church I was attending did a sermon series on these words, which is the inspiration for this post.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Jesus asks for forgiveness for those crucifying him while simultaneously making that forgiveness available by his death. And if the Father could forgive the crucifixion of his own son, the greatest crime possible, He can certainly forgive our other daily sins.

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Jesus said this to the thief who asked for salvation, as the crowd shouted “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” What they do not realize, but the thief did, is that He is saving others by not saving Himself. When all others had abandoned Him, the thief, by God’s grace, is the only one to see who Jesus really is, and the only one to get a response – the immediate promise of paradise.

“Woman, behold, your son!” (John 19:26)

Even in the midst of His suffering, Christ is still attentive to earthly needs. Yet there may also be a greater spiritual statement here, which foreshadows the spiritual adoption that Christ accomplishes. “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

The penalty for sin is separation from God. Yet Christ bore this on behalf, even as it ripped apart the Trinity. The one who said “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) was separated from the Father. As a result, we will never face this separation. Because He was forsaken, he could turn to us and say “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) and “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

“I thirst.” (John 19:28)

As with separation from God, this is a condition He faced on our behalf. It is a sign of being cursed:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
 and makes flesh his strength,
 whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
 and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
 In an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
 whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
 that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
 for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
 for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
(Jeremiah 17: 5-8)

Yet /he was cursed with thirst so we would never be: “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

“It is finished” (John 19:30)

Scripture is finished, all prophecies about Christ’s life were now fulfilled: “knowing that all was now finished...” (John 19:38).

Sin is finished and the debt is paid: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. . . . For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:6, 14)

Satan is finished and defeated: “now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31)

Death is finished: “so also in Christ shall all be made alive. . . . The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, 26)

Salvation is finished: But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God . . . For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. . . . Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:12,14,18)

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46)

Christ’s life was not taken from Him, he gave it up: “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)

“And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” (Mark 15:38) The cherubim blocking access to the Father, embroidered on the curtain, were removed. (Genesis 3:24, Exodus 26:31) Access to God is restored and we are no longer kept back. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

* * *

Good Friday, at first glance, is a poor name for the day we remember God’s death. Yet when we consider the purpose and effect of that death, and the truth that it was done willingly out of love, it truly becomes good.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15: 54-56)

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