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By Rev Colin Wong

Preached at / Published Life BPC Weekly, 2004-04-04

Text: Matthew 22-27; Luke 23; John 19

This week Christians around the world will be commemorating the death of Jesus Christ. Our church will be having a Good Friday service at 8.00 pm. Every year I see hundreds of worshippers flock into Life Church to remember God's sacrificial love for them through Jesus Christ at Calvary's cross. Some of them I have not seen for months and I see them on that special evening. There are also many visitors worshipping with us. As I watch them entering into the sanctuary, I cannot but wonder what's in their mind. 

If I were to ask some of them what Good Friday is, I won't be surprised that many of them will give me a standard answer "Good Friday is a commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ." That's right! However, I also suspect that many of them will not even bother to enquire any further, for example, the seven last words of Jesus on the cross. These words uttered by our Lord on the cross were packed with practical truths. Take a few minutes to ponder over them. You see, when you think of Jesus' death, you cannot but have to think of the cross. The cross is perhaps the world's most famous symbol. Though the cross was one of the cruelest forms of death devised by human beings in Jesus' day, it is a symbol of hope and salvation to the world. So, my dear reader, may I encourage you to read the Gospel narratives on Jesus' entry to Jerusalem, trial and crucifixion during the Passion Week which begins today (i.e. Palm Sunday) and reflect on the seven last words of Jesus on the cross (Matthew 22-27; Luke 23; John 19). 

I wonder how many of us know the seven last words of Jesus uttered on the cross. The seven last words of Jesus have made a tremendous impact on my life. As you read and ponder on these words spoken by the Son of God and Son of Man, may God by his Holy Spirit enlighten you and grant you a deeper understanding of the meaning and purpose of life.

The seven last words of Jesus spoken on the cross at Calvary are as follows:

1. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." These words are recorded in the Gospel of Luke 23:34. Forgive them what? What did they do that they did not know? Unlike the other Gospels, Luke's purpose was to show that Jesus was the forgiving Messiah even as He died. He showed how Jesus asked His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him and He even forgave one of the condemned criminals sentenced to die with Him (43). And yet the rulers sneered at Him (35), the soldiers mocked Him (36, 37) and the unrepentant criminal crucified with Him insulted Him (39). 

The first saying of Jesus teaches us forgiveness. Peter asked Jesus, "How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (Matthew 18:21) The Lord�s answer was striking. He said, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:22). Here Jesus is not teaching us to forgive those who offended us 490 times only but to forgive them endlessly. If we fail to do so, then He said elsewhere, "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:15). Dearly beloved, let us ask the Lord to teach us to forgive those who have offended us and to make us like Jesus, meek, humble and forgiving. 

2. "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." These words are recorded in the Gospel of Luke 23:43. These were comforting and assuring words to a dying criminal. In death, Jesus even had power to make sinners right with God. 

The second saying of Jesus teaches us that words spoken at the right time will bring healing to a hurting soul. Proverbs says, "� and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!" (15:23). How comforting it is to read God's unchanging, inerrant, infallible Word to a dying soul! Some ten years ago, while ministering to a dying brother in hospital, I noticed that his unbelieving wife kept reading the Word of Life to him. Shortly after the death of her husband, she also became a Christian. And I never forgot the first words she said to me in one of my visits � "Now I finally understand." Today, she is serving the Lord actively in the Chinese Service. 

Two Sundays ago, some of us went to a brother's house to conduct Holy Communion. He was a very sick man. While we were trying to encourage him, he in turn encouraged us. In his suffering, he could still encourage others in the faith. We were greatly blessed by his testimony. 

There are many suffering people in the church and in the neighbouring community. Like Jesus, we are to reach out to them (Matthew 9:35, 36). Let us speak words of comfort and encouragement to those who are going through trials of life. Let us weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that do rejoice (Romans 12:15). 

3. "Woman, behold thy son!" These words are recorded in the Gospel of John 19:26. Four women stood by the cross of Jesus watching with love and grief. The anguish of Jesus' mother fulfilled a prophecy of Simeon: "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also" (Luke 2:35). Seeing her sorrow, the Lord honoured his mother by consigning her to the care of John. And he said to him, "Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home" (John 19:27).

The third saying of Jesus teaches us care and concern. What is true religion? True religion is to look after orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). There are many widows and widowers in the church. They need comfort and encouragement. Who will reach out to them? 

4. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" These words are recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 27:46. Matthew did not say when the crucifixion began. However, Mark indicated that it began at the "third hour" (15:25), that is about 9 in the morning. Matthew noted specifically that from the "sixth hour" (27:45), that is noon, until the "ninth hour" (27:46), that is 3 pm, darkness came over all the land. In this period of darkness, Jesus became the Sin-offering for the world (John 1:29; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18) and as such was forsaken by the Father. When Jesus could not bear any longer the separation between him and the Father, he cried in a loud voice in Aramaic, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is being interpreted, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

The fourth saying of Jesus teaches us self-denial. He left heaven's glory and came down to earth to die for sinners (Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus' separation from the Father was painful and unbearable, and yet he was willing to go all the way to Calvary to secure salvation for us. What have we to give him in return? As one hymn writer put it: "Savior, Thy dying love Thou gavest me, Nor should I aught withhold, Dear Lord, from Thee: In love my soul would bow, My heart fulfill its vow, Some off�ring bring Thee now, Something for Thee."

5. "I thirst." These words are recorded in the Gospel of John 19:28. These words fully demonstrated Jesus' humanity. Yes, He is God and He is also Man. He is the God-Man. Being God, He knows everything about us and being man, he understands and sympathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). 

The fifth saying of Jesus teaches us His humaneness. Our Lord is compassionate, merciful and kind. So dearly beloved, let us go to him whenever we have a need. Share with Him our burdens for He alone can sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:16).

6. "It is finished." These words are recorded in the Gospel of John 19:30. The word comes from a single Greek word tetelestai which means "Paid in full." Jesus did not say "I am finished" but "It is finished." He meant His work of redemption on the cross was completed. He had laid down His life for His sheep, had been made sin for His sheep and had suffered the penalty of God's justice which sin deserved in order to secure salvation for His sheep (Matthew 1:21).

The sixth saying of Jesus teaches us His mission accomplishment. Jesus had finished the work which the Father had given Him to do (John 17:4). He did not come to do his own will, but His Father's will (John 4:34; Hebrews 10:7, 9). In the Garden of Gethsemane, he pleaded with His Father three times to remove the cup of suffering. He said, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44). Here we see the human side of Him. However, when His time came to go to the cross, He willingly submitted to the Father's will (Luke 9:53). Yes, Jesus came to do the will of God, not his own and He accomplished it in God's appointed time (John 17:4; 19:30). 

Christians are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14). Our perfect example is Jesus. While He was on earth, He went about doing good works (Acts 10:38). We are to follow His example (Philippians 2:5). A good Old Testament example was King David. He was a man after God's own heart despite his weaknesses and failures (Acts 13:22) and he sought to do God's will in his own generation (Acts 13:36). A good New Testament example was Paul. After becoming a Christian (Acts 9), his life's ambition was to do God's will (Acts 20:24) and he actually accomplished it (2 Tim 4:7).

What is our life's ambition? May we also seek to do God's will in our own generation till we see Jesus face to face.

7. "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." These words are recorded in the Gospel of Luke 23:46. Luke noted that Jesus gave up his life voluntarily (John 10:15, 17, 18). Jesus� death occurred because He willed it. The seventh saying of Jesus teaches us that God's clock keeps perfect time. There is a saying, "Don't put the cart before the horse." Yes, God�s time is always perfect. Don't run ahead of Him (Isaiah 55:8, 9). Learn to wait upon Him, for it is not lost time to wait on God.

Good Friday is a good time for soul-searching. During this Passion Week, may I encourage you to spend time with Jesus and ponder on His love for you. May you also rededicate your life to Him for Christian service. Amen.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25