While Jesus hung upon the cross of Calvary, He spoke seven times. Each time He spoke, He revealed an aspect of His divine/human character.
Words of Mercy (Luke 23:34) – The first words Jesus spoke from the cross were to His Father. He prayed for the forgiveness of His murderers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” At the height of His agony, Jesus still thought first of others. He had mercy toward sinners. J.C. Ryle writes of how these words were probably spoken while our Lord was being nailed to the cross. He writes, “His own racking agony of body did not make Him forget others. The first of His seven sayings on the cross was a prayer for the souls of his murderers. His prophetical office He had just exhibited by a remarkable prediction. His kingly office He was about to exhibit soon by opening the door of paradise to the penitent thief. His priestly office He now exhibited by interceding for those who crucified Him.” Jesus did not threaten His enemies. He did not condemn them. He did not pronounce doom. But He prayed for them. He lived out His own teaching: “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44).
Words of Grace (Luke 23:43) – “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” These words of grace were spoken to a hardened criminal. According to the Gospel of Matthew this man also joined the others in taunting the Savior (27:44). This repentant thief did not deserve God’s grace, but neither do you and I. Romans 5:6-8 makes this clear, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Words of Compassion (John 19:26-27) – Even in His time of greatest need, Jesus looked to the needs of others. In this case, it was the needs of His earthly mother. “Dear woman,” He said, as He commissioned the beloved disciple, John, to be her caregiver. Mary had a hard life as the mother of the Messiah. She endured the insults that He received, such as the time when the Pharisees called Him an illegitimate son (John 8:41). If they had called Jesus an illegitimate child, what had they called her? What was it like for her to watch her own son be murdered? Jesus knew her agony and, therefore, spoke words of compassion.
Words of Anguish (Matthew 27:45-46) – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” On the cross, Jesus sacrificed His intimate fellowship with the Father, the fellowship He had previously enjoyed for all eternity. Martin Luther asked, “God forsaken by God. Who can comprehend it?” The abandonment Jesus experienced for those three hours of darkness reveal that the essence of hell is separation from God…for all eternity. Jesus experienced this separation so that those who come to Him by faith do not have to remain in a state of enmity, but can be reconciled to the Father (2 Cor. 5:17-21).
Words of Need (John 19:28-29) – The full humanity of Christ is demonstrated in His admission, “I am thirsty.” This had been prophesied in Psalm 22:14-15, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and Thou dost lay me in the dust of death.” These words remind us that Jesus is the God-man, fully God and fully man. That is the mystery of the incarnation. Jesus could have fled from His suffering, but He did not. He faced it and He endured it. Because Jesus is fully man and has endured the ultimate suffering, Hebrews 4:15 says that we may now come to the throne of grace with boldness in our time of need.
Words of Victory (John 19:30) – “It is finished” was a shout of triumph! “Paid in full” is the literal translation of the word used here. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was the ransom payment for sinners, the full payment of our sin debt. This finished work of Christ concerning our sin is what the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Colossians: “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (2:13-14).
Words of Trust (Luke 23:44-46) – “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit” were our Savior’s final words. Only hours before this, Jesus had pleaded with the Father for an alternate way to fulfill the plan of redemption, but there was none. “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). The lamb was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). The Son of God surrendered to the Father’s will. Why? Because of His great love for sinners like you and like me. When we are united with Christ by faith, His trust in the Father becomes our trust. And we commit ourselves into the Father’s hands.
Have you done this? Have you looked away from yourself to the Savior? Have you come to God with empty-handed faith, bringing only a sinner’s need for redemption? If not, today is the day to come to God through the gift of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who shed His blood for you.