Last words can be a pivotal way to remember someone. Lying on their death beds, people have given life-changing words of blessing or shocking confessions.
In the four Gospels, we gather seven audible phrases that Jesus said while he was on the cross. Right before he died for crimes he did not commit, he was intentional to say certain things. I think they tell us so much about who he is.
#1. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Jesus’ heart was on forgiveness. Spoken over people who had betrayed, denied, criticized, beaten, flogged, humiliated, and crucified him, he defended these transgressors before his father. He was willing to bear the weight of sin so that forgiveness could be offered to them. He even defended Mankind’s action by ignorance – they simply aren’t aware of what is transpiring before them. Yet, sin is rampant in every human heart and that is why Jesus would absorb the wrath of God so forgiveness could be granted.
#2. “This day you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Spoken to one of the thieves on the cross next to him, this statement reveals so much of the heart of Jesus. One criminal asked Jesus to show his power by getting off the cross and also helping him escape. He wanted rescue, but the other wanted the Rescuer. The other criminal had saving faith in Jesus and it was displayed by what he said. He acknowledge Jesus’ perfection, he admitted his own sinfulness, and trusted that only Jesus could get him to heaven. Jesus guaranteed him a place there by the faith he had in the grace of Jesus.
#3. “Woman, behold your son.” (John 19:26-27)
I love the fact that, out of the 7 recorded statements of Jesus on the cross, one of them is his concern that his mother is provided for in light of his absence. While Jesus was hanging on the cross, he still wanted to care for his mom. Talk about an example of honoring your mother. With eternal redemption being worked out upon his body, he still had enough selflessness in him to make sure that his best friend, John, would care for his mother once he died. Jesus is the complete man.
#4. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46)
Jesus was quoting Psalm 22:1 in this moment. While it reveals the agony that he was enduring as he suffered for our sin, it also alerted the listeners to the fact that Jesus was fulfilling Psalm 22. In the Psalm, it speaks of one who will be despised and mocked (Ps. 22:6-7), how others will tell him to let God deliver him (Ps. 22:8), speaks of a significant mother’s womb (Ps. 22:10), poured out like water (Ps. 22:14), tongue thirsty (Ps. 22:15), someone who will have hands and feet pierced (Ps. 22:16), no bones broken (Ps. 22:17), dividing garments by lots (Ps. 22:18), and many others just to name a few. That’s what you call quite the foreshadowing, folks.
#5. “I thirst.” (John 19:28)
Jesus revealed he was thirsty which shows that while he was fully God he was also fully man at the same time. He had flesh. He was weak. He was tired. His body was giving out on him. What’s interesting is that Jesus had earlier refused wine with myrrh which would have eased his pain (he didn’t want to soften the sting of God’s wrath), yet later he asked for sour wine which would be awful to the taste, especially in that moment, but his physical throat sought out moisture to run down his throat in order that he could loudly proclaim the next two phrases.
#6. “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
Salvation’s work was done. It is finished. These are three greatest words I have ever heard. Jesus’ atoning work on the cross was complete. If you receive the gospel, the price has been paid forever. You no longer have to worry about covering for sin, because when Jesus starts something, he finishes it.
#7. “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
In this moment, Jesus revealed that even at his weakest point as a man, he was still in control. He came at the right time, died in the way and the time he saw fit, and would accomplish what he set out to do. His entire life displayed a commitment to the sovereign plan and he trusted in it till the very end. No matter the amount of suffering, he would remain faithful.
I encourage you to read through the gospel accounts. Just read the last 2-3 chapters of each Gospel. Study these phrases by yourself, with a group, or with your family.
Marvel at this Savior and how every word he spoke changed the world.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.