April 12, 2017

The Seven Last Words of Christ From the Cross

Dominican crucifix


We often speak of the “Seven Last Words” of Jesus on the cross. All four gospels mention them. Three are unique to Luke; three more are unique to John; there is only the one in Matthew and Mark, “last words” in the usual sense of the term. It is the most troubling of all, an expression of despair: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Below, we examine each of our Lord’s final statements.

1. Jesus addresses the Father.

Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." [Luke 23:34]

This first saying of Christ on the cross is traditionally called "The Word of Forgiveness". It is theologically understood as Christ’s prayer for forgiveness for those who were crucifying him: the Roman soldiers and all others involved in his torture and death. By virtue of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, forgiveness is possible, the gates of Heaven are opened, and sin is forever conquered.

2. Jesus speaks to Dismas. 

And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise." [Luke 23:43]

This saying is called "The Word of Salvation."  In Luke's Gospel, Christ was crucified between two thieves (Dismas, the good criminal, and Gestas), Dismas supports Jesus' innocence and asks him to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. Jesus replies, "Truly, I say to you..."

The punctuation of Christ’s reply has been the subject of doctrinal differences among Christians. Protestant Christians typically read this as, "today you will be with me in Paradise". This understanding presumes direct passage to Heaven. Catholics, however, interpret it as, "I say to you today," leaving open the possibility that the statement was made presently, but eternal beatitude would be experienced later.

3. Jesus entrusts his mother to the beloved disciple. 

Jesus saw his own mother, and the disciple standing near whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother." And from that hour, he took his mother into his family. [John 19:26-27]

This statement is called "The Word of Relationship." Jesus entrusts his mother to the care of "the disciple whom Jesus loved," the Apostle John. Even in the depths of his misery, Christ cared not for himself but for the well-being of Mary.

4. Jesus cries out to the Father.

Around the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, saying"Eli Eli lama sabachthani?" which is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" [Matthew 27:46]

And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" [Mark 15:34]

Of the last seven sayings of Christ, it is the only one that appears in two Gospels. It is a quote from King David in Psalm 22. Some see it as an abandonment of the Son by the Father. Others understand Christ’s cry as that of one who was truly human and felt forsaken. Tortured to death by his foes, deserted by his friends, Jesus may have felt deserted by God.

5. Jesus is thirsty.

He said, "I thirst." [John 19:28]

This is called "The Word of Distress" and is contrasted with Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan Woman at the Well in John.

The Gospel of John says Jesus was offered a drink of sour wine. A sponge dipped in wine on a hyssop branch was held it to Jesus' lips. Hyssop branches figured significantly in the Old Testament and in the Book of Hebrews.

This statement of Jesus fulfills the prophecy given in Psalm 9:21(cf. Psalm 22:15), thus the quotation from John's Gospel "to fulfill the scriptures."

6. "It is finished." 

Jesus said, "Tetelestai", meaning "It is finished." [John 19:30]

This statement is called "The Word of Triumph," and is interpreted by some as the announcement of the end of Jesus’ earthly life in anticipation of his Resurrection.

Under this interpretation, these words are a cry of victory, not resignation. Jesus had completed his divine mission. Salvation was now possible. Christ had assumed our brokenness and taken our place. He had offered himself fully to God as a sacrifice on behalf of humanity.

Jesus refused the initial drink of vinegar, gall and myrrh (Matthew 27:34 and Mark 15:23) offered to alleviate his suffering. But here, several hours later, we see Jesus fulfilling the messianic prophecy found in Psalm 69:21.

Catholic theologian Dr. Scott Hahn offers this interpretation:

"They put a sponge full of the sour wine on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine he said the words that are spoken of in the fourth cup consummation, "It is finished." What is the ‘it’ referring to? That grammatical question began really bothering me at some point. I asked several people and their response was usually, "Well, it means the work of redemption that Christ was working on." All right, that's true, I agree it does refer to that, but in context. An exegete, a trained interpreter of the word is supposed to find the contextual meaning, not just import a meaning from a theology textbook. What is Jesus speaking of when he says, "It is finished?" I mean, our redemption is not completed once he - he's not yet raised. Paul says, "He was raised for our justification."

So what is the ‘it’ talking about? He said, 'It is finished', and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit, his breath. The ‘it,’ of course you realize by now, is the Passover sacrifice. Because who is Jesus Christ? He is the sacrifice of Egypt, the firstborn son. Remember, the Egyptians involuntarily had to offer up their firstborn sons as atonement for their own sins and wickedness. Christ dies for Egypt and the world. Plus, he is the Passover lamb, the unblemished lamb, without broken bones who offers himself up for the life of the world. This fits with John's gospel, because as soon as Jesus was introduced in chapter 1 of the fourth gospel by John the Baptist, what did John say? He said, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." And here is the lamb, headed for the altar of the cross, dying as a righteous firstborn and as an unblemished lamb. I believe that it's best to say in light of scripture that the sacrifice of Christ did not begin with the first spike. It didn't begin when the cross was sunk into the ground. It began in the upper room.

7. "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

And speaking in a loud voice, Jesus said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." [Luke 23:46]

From Psalm 31:5, this saying is an announcement, not a request. It’s traditionally called "The Word of Reunion" and is understood as the proclamation of Jesus returning to the Father in Heaven.

In this final utterance, we see Christ’s complete trust in the Father. Jesus encountered death in the same way he lived his life, offering up his earthly existence as a perfect sacrifice and placing himself completely in God's hands.

6 comments :

TJL said...

Number 4 is constantly misunderstood, and dangerously so.

Keep in mind that Jesus is and always was God, and always will be God.

He cannot despair, that would be a sin, and He would not be God if He did.

Number 4 is very easy to understand if some basic knowledge of Christ and Judaism is known.

I'll try to make this as simple as possible.

Jesus was still a fully functioning Rabbi while He was on the Cross.

Judaism has specific Scripture readings for certain days of the year, just as Catholicism does.

The assigned Psalm for that day was what modernists today call Psalm 22 (actually it's Psalm 21 in the correct translations like the Douay-Rheims, the modernists goof up on Psalm 10 and later correct before 150).

In Judaism and Catholicism, the Rabbi or Priest begins the recitation of a Psalm by singing, or calling out, the first significant verse, then the group joins in by singing or chanting the remaining verses of the Psalm.

For a better understanding of this, and how it is done, attend a 1962 missal High Mass. Over and over again, the priest chants or sings the first part, the choir does the rest, just as Jesus did on the cross, in accordance with the Law.

Jesus did what every Rabbi in Jerusalem did that day before the Sabbath began at sunset on Good Friday.

Every Rabbi lead the chant of that Psalm, not just Jesus.

This was common knowledge until recently, so it was unnecessary for the Scriptures to add that the faithful among them continued the Psalm, those at the foot of the Cross and those at a distance.

Today, people have no idea what Catholicism is to say the least of what Judaism was.

Just because Jesus was in a miserable physical condition, that does not mean that He was not in a state of Grace and filled with Joy.

He even went on to say, "It is finished". What is finished? His Victorious Sacrifice was! He beat Satan for us! He was NOT despairing!

That's why Psalm 21 (22) is actually a victory song that describes what He went through but it doesn't end in despair, which is a sin.

The Psalm is a fulfilled prophecy that had to be read that day, as preordained by God.

Jesus was not capable of sin.

This modernist and humanist perspective of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is causing people to loose Faith and think that maybe Jesus isn't God.

This heresy has got to stop.

Please correct this error in this article so that no one else may be mislead.

TJL said...

Number 4 is constantly misunderstood, and dangerously so.

Keep in mind that Jesus is and always was God, and always will be God.

He cannot despair, that would be a sin, and He would not be God if He did.

Number 4 is very easy to understand if some basic knowledge of Christ and Judaism is known.

I'll try to make this as simple as possible.

Jesus was still a fully functioning Rabbi while He was on the Cross.

Judaism has specific Scripture readings for certain days of the year, just as Catholicism does.

The assigned Psalm for that day was what modernists today call Psalm 22 (actually it's Psalm 21 in the correct translations like the Douay-Rheims, the modernists goof up on Psalm 10 and later correct before 150).

In Judaism and Catholicism, the Rabbi or Priest begins the recitation of a Psalm by singing, or calling out, the first significant verse, then the group joins in by singing or chanting the remaining verses of the Psalm.

For a better understanding of this, and how it is done, attend a 1962 missal High Mass. Over and over again, the priest chants or sings the first part, the choir does the rest, just as Jesus did on the cross, in accordance with the Law.

Jesus did what every Rabbi in Jerusalem did that day before the Sabbath began at sunset on Good Friday.

Every Rabbi lead the chant of that Psalm, not just Jesus.

This was common knowledge until recently, so it was unnecessary for the Scriptures to add that the faithful among them continued the Psalm, those at the foot of the Cross and those at a distance.

Today, people have no idea what Catholicism is to say the least of what Judaism was.

Just because Jesus was in a miserable physical condition, that does not mean that He was not in a state of Grace and filled with Joy.

He even went on to say, "It is finished". What is finished? His Victorious Sacrifice was! He beat Satan for us! He was NOT despairing!

That's why Psalm 21 (22) is actually a victory song that describes what He went through but it doesn't end in despair, which is a sin.

The Psalm is a fulfilled prophecy that had to be read that day, as preordained by God.

Jesus was not capable of sin.

This modernist and humanist perspective of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is causing people to loose Faith and think that maybe Jesus isn't God.

This heresy has got to stop.

Please correct this error in this article so that no one else may be mislead.

HumanTester said...

Read all of Psalm 22- it is AWESOME, and not despairing in any way- it is the ultimate hope!

1
For the leader; according to “The deer of the dawn.”* A psalm of David.

I
2
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why so far from my call for help,
from my cries of anguish?a
3
My God, I call by day, but you do not answer;
by night, but I have no relief.b
4
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the glory of Israel.c
5
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted and you rescued them.
6
To you they cried out and they escaped;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.d
7
*But I am a worm, not a man,
scorned by men, despised by the people.e
8
All who see me mock me;
they curl their lips and jeer;
they shake their heads at me:f
9
“He relied on the LORD—let him deliver him;
if he loves him, let him rescue him.”g
10
For you drew me forth from the womb,
made me safe at my mother’s breasts.
11
Upon you I was thrust from the womb;
since my mother bore me you are my God.h
12
Do not stay far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is no one to help.i
II
13
Many bulls* surround me;
fierce bulls of Bashan* encircle me.
14
They open their mouths against me,
lions that rend and roar.j
15
Like water my life drains away;
all my bones are disjointed.
My heart has become like wax,
it melts away within me.
16
As dry as a potsherd is my throat;
my tongue cleaves to my palate;
you lay me in the dust of death.*
17
Dogs surround me;
a pack of evildoers closes in on me.
They have pierced my hands and my feet
18
I can count all my bones.k
They stare at me and gloat;
19
they divide my garments among them;
for my clothing they cast lots.l
20
But you, LORD, do not stay far off;
my strength, come quickly to help me.
21
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the grip of the dog.
22
Save me from the lion’s mouth,
my poor life from the horns of wild bulls.m
III
23
Then I will proclaim your name to my brethren;
in the assembly I will praise you:*n
24
“You who fear the LORD, give praise!
All descendants of Jacob, give honor;
show reverence, all descendants of Israel!
25
For he has not spurned or disdained
the misery of this poor wretch,
Did not turn away* from me,
but heard me when I cried out.
26
I will offer praise in the great assembly;
my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.
27
The poor* will eat their fill;
those who seek the LORD will offer praise.
May your hearts enjoy life forever!”o
IV
28
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD;
All the families of nations
will bow low before him.p
29
For kingship belongs to the LORD,
the ruler over the nations.q
30
*All who sleep in the earth
will bow low before God;
All who have gone down into the dust
will kneel in homage.
31
And I will live for the LORD;
my descendants will serve you.
32
The generation to come will be told of the Lord,
that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn
the deliverance you have brought

Indrajit Dutta said...

Please help me to understand. We celebrate Easter Sunday because Christ was resurrected in the early dawn of Sunday by defeating death eternally. This means he was in the grave for three days as prophesied by Jonah. Jesus is the first fruit of resurrection and the new Adam.Now I would like to know if the robber Destas entered paradise on Friday and if it is so how could our Lord be the first fruit of resurrection since he is reunited with our Father on Sunday. Please correct my interpretation.

Indrajit Dutta said...

Please help me to understand. We celebrate Easter Sunday because Christ was resurrected in the early dawn of Sunday by defeating death eternally. This means he was in the grave for three days as prophesied by Jonah. Jesus is the first fruit of resurrection and the new Adam.Now I would like to know if the robber Destas entered paradise on Friday and if it is so how could our Lord be the first fruit of resurrection since he is reunited with our Father on Sunday. Please correct my interpretation.

Br. Bartholomew Joseph said...

Indrajit Dutta,

Let me attempt to clarify. Both the Nicene and Apostles Creeds state that, "On the third day he [Christ] rose again.” The Apostles Creed adds, “He descended into hell." Christ descended into hell to bring His salvation to the righteous. Thus, when Jesus said to Dismas, "This day you will be with Me in Paradise," He may have meant that Dismas would first go with Him to hell to preach to those there, before taking the righteous to heaven. It is the risen Christ who conquers sin and opens the doors of heaven to humanity, making the Beatific Vision our ultimate end if we persevere in love.