THE CLIMB TO CALVARY
Meditations on The Seven Last Words of Christ
The Seventh Words
“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’” (Luke 23:46).
At the time of the crucifixion, it was typical for Jewish parents to teach and recite with their child a single prayer (Psalm 31:5) at bedtime. (This is much like many parents do with their children today, as in “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray my soul to keep…”) This final statement on the cross from Jesus was that very same Psalm and prayer parents were saying with their children – with only the word “Father” added to it. This fact prompted the theologian William Barclay to observe, “Jesus died with a prayer on His lips.”
We know from the Scriptures that at the moment of Jesus’ death, many supernatural things occurred: the veil in the temple tore in two (Luke 23:45), the earth quaked, rocks shattered and split and some “holy” people even rose from the dead and appeared to many people in the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 27:51-53).
Incredible! What a moment! It sounds like the elements of an implausible scene from a high cost Hollywood production. But unlike the fabricated and fictional theater, it actually happened just as it is written.
So, what can we learn from this last and final statement of Jesus from the cross?
Biblical scholars tell us these words were uttered as a ram’s horn, a shofar, was being blown. This was done to signal the beginning of Passover and also mark the time to commence slaughtering lambs for the feast. It also fulfilled the Scripture, reflecting the very moment that John the Baptist had prophesied when he referred to Jesus as the lamb being led to slaughter: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Although Jesus’ words were directed to His father, the public and loud nature of the communication tells us they were meant for those witnessing the event, as well as you and me. In fact, Jesus didn’t need to speak audibly in order to be heard by His father. But He is clearly sending a message to those within earshot. Here was Jesus, hanging and dying before His executioners. And in the final act of His life, He is telling the power brokers that despite their best efforts, He has won the final victory. They haven’t defeated Him. They may have killed His body, but not His soul. His relationship with His father has now been restored.
The boldness of this final act should embolden us. Are we willing to speak openly about our faith? Are we willing to lean on the promise and power of the Scriptures and live boldly for Him? In whom do we find our rest? In whom do we place our trust? In this climb to the cross at Calvary, we have been reminded that His sacrifice was personal and painful – and offered willingly for you and for me.
This is the end of the greatest story ever told, about the greatest man who ever lived. Or is it? Of course not! What happened on Good Friday was a tragedy, but a tragedy with a twist. It was, in fact, a joyful catastrophe. That’s because in those famous words from the pulpit:
“It’s Friday – but Sunday’s coming!”
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