Millions of Christians around the world will attend a special church service today in which a group of pastors will recite and reflect on Christ’s seven final statements from the cross. These were powerful words that many Christians believe were revelations of His heart and ministry to us. While each statement carries with it the weight of the Gospel, taken as a whole these words help to provide a portrait of God’s plan of salvation through the blood of Jesus. Good Friday service has been a mainstay of many Christian denominations for generations, and while no one can be absolutely certain of the meaning of Jesus’ final words, the Christian faithful take this yearly opportunity to reflect on Christ’s suffering and give praise for the ultimate sacrifice He made for humanity.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34).
Christian theologians would agree that Jesus did not ask forgiveness for Himself because he didn’t need to. He was sinless. Jesus did not ask for a quick, painless death. He knew His purpose for dying on the cross. Jesus did not ask God for vengeance on the people who sentenced Him to death. Instead, He prayed on their behalf. In His suffering, Jesus was able to forgive His tormentors and care about their souls.
“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43).
In one of his final interactions, Jesus extended eternal life. As He openly forgave others, Jesus sparked an internal transformation in the criminal hanging next Him. Jesus did not allow His own suffering and torment to distract Him from the cries of faith from a repentant sinner.
“Dear woman, here is your son.” “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27).
Jesus’ first two statements clearly revealed His divinity—His power to forgive sin and to grant eternal salvation. His third statement reflects His humanity. As fully God and fully man, Jesus’ concern for Mary was not just as the Savior, but as a son. His compassion for His earthly mother can serve as a reminder that Jesus remained concerned about a person’s well-being and direction in life. Jesus was asking Mary to show courage, and was asking John, his disciple, to care for Mary.
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-50)
Christian theologians would say that this statement is the very heart and necessity of the crucifixion. It is the fulfillment of prophesy from Psalm 22, and for the first time in eternity, the Son knew the wrath and judgment of God. The sins of man were poured out on Jesus and God could look upon Him carrying our sins. This brief separation from God has been looked upon as even more agonizing for Jesus than the physical torture he endured.
“I thirst.” (John 19:28-29).
After enduring unthinkable stress, three days of imprisonment, trials, floggings and crucifixion, Jesus experienced extreme dehydration and thirst while being executed. In this statement, Jesus fulfilled another prophesy but many believe there was a deeper meeting to His thirst. In Psalm 42, King David writes: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Some believe Jesus cried with the psalmist as He, too, was thirsting for the presence and fellowship with God during their separation on the cross.