Jesus died on the Cross to redeem mankind, to save us from our sins, because he loves us.
He was tortured, scorned, mocked, nailed to the Cross, hung between two common criminals, and suffered an indescribable end.
The last seven expressions of Jesus on the Cross are known as his Seven Words.
THE FIRST WORD“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”Gospel of Luke 23:34
Jesus says this first word only in the Gospel of Luke, just after he was crucified by the soldiers on Golgotha, with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. The timing of this suggests that Jesus asks his Father to primarily forgive his enemies, the soldiers, who have scourged him, mocked him, tortured him, and who have just nailed him to the cross. But could this not also apply to his Apostles and companions who have deserted him, to Peter who has denied him three times, to the fickle crowd, who only days before praised him on his entrance to Jerusalem, and then days later chose him over Barabbas to be crucified? Could this not also apply to us, who daily forget him in our lives?
THE SECOND WORD“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”Gospel of Luke 23:43
Now it is not just the religious leaders or the soldiers that mock Jesus, but even one of the criminals, a “downward progression of mockery.” But the criminal on the right speaks up for Jesus, explaining the two criminals are receiving their just due, and then pointing to Jesus, says, “this man has done nothing wrong.” Then, turning to Jesus, he asks, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power [Luke 23:42].” What wonderful faith this repentant sinner had in Jesus – far more than the doubting Thomas, one of his own Apostles! Ignoring his own suffering, Jesus mercifully responds with His second word.
THE THIRD WORD
“Jesus said to his mother: “Woman, this is your son”.
Then he said to the disciple: “This is your mother.”Gospel of John 19:26-27
Jesus and Mary are together again, at the beginning of his ministry in Cana and now at the end of his public ministry at the foot of the Cross. What sorrow must fill her heart, to see her Son mocked, tortured, and now just crucified. Once again, a sword pierces Mary’s soul, the sword predicted by Simeon at the Temple [Luke 2:35]. . There are four at the foot of the cross, Mary his Mother, John, the disciple whom he loved, Mary of Cleopas, his mother’s sister, and Mary Magdalene. His third word is addressed to Mary and John, the only eye-witness of the Gospel writers.
But again Jesus rises above the occasion, and his concerns are for the ones that love him. The good son that He is, Jesus is concerned about taking care of his mother. In fact, this passage offers proof that Jesus was the only child of Mary, because if he did have brothers or sisters, they would have provided for her. But Jesus looks to John to care for her. St. Joseph is noticeably absent. The historic paintings, such as Tondo-doni by Michelangelo and The Holy Family by Raphael, suggest Joseph was a considerably older man. St. Joseph had probably died by the time of the crucifixion, or else he would have been the one to take care of Mary. Early Christian traditions and the second-century apocryphal Protoevangelium of James hold that Joseph was a widower, and his children by his widow were the “brothers and sisters of Jesus.”
Another striking phrase indicating Jesus was an only child is Mark 6:3, referring to Jesus: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Jo’ses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” Now if James, Jo’ses and Judas and Simon were also natural sons of Mary, Jesus would not have been called the “son of Mary.”
THE FOURTH WORD“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
This is the only expression of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Both Gospels relate that it was in the ninth hour, after 3 hours of darkness, that Jesus cried out this fourth word. The ninth hour was three o’clock in Palestine. Just after He speaks, Mark relates with a horrible sense of finality, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last [Mark 15:37].”
One is struck by the anguished tone of this expression compared to the first three words of Jesus. This cry is from the painful heart of the human Jesus who must feel deserted by His Father and the Holy Spirit, not to mention his companions the Apostles on earth. He is now all alone, and he must face death by Himself. As if to emphasize his loneliness, Mark even has his loved ones “looking from afar,” not close to him as in the Gospel of John.
THE FIFTH WORD“I thirst”Gospel of John 19:28
The fifth word of Jesus is His only human expression of His physical suffering. Jesus is now in shock. The wounds inflicted upon him in the scourging, the crowning with thorns, and the nailing upon the cross are now taking their toll, especially after losing blood on the three-hour walk through the city of Jerusalem to Golgotha on the Way of the Cross. Systematic studies of the Shroud of Turin, as reported by Gerald O’Collins in Interpreting Jesus indicate the passion of Jesus was far worse than one could imagine. The Shroud has been exhaustively studied by every possible scientific maneuver, and the scientific burden of proof is now on those who do not accept the Shroud as the burial cloth of Jesus.
THE SIXTH WORD“It is finished.”Gospel of John 19:30
It is now a fait accomplit. The sixth word is Jesus’ recognition that his suffering is over and his task is completed. Jesus was obedient to the Father and gave his love for mankind by redeeming us with His death on the Cross. The background of the above painting is meant to capture the moment. What was the darkest day for mankind became the brightest day for mankind.
THE SEVENTH WORDJesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”:Gospel of Luke 23:46
The seventh word of Jesus is from the Gospel of Luke, and is directed to the Father in heaven, just before He dies. Luke quotes Psalm 31:5 – “Into thy hand I commend my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Luke repeatedly pleads Jesus’ innocence: with Pilate [Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22], through Dismas, the criminal [Luke 23:41], and immediately after His death with the centurion, “Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent [Luke 23:47].’”
The innocent Lamb had been slain for our sins.