Every year on holy week, one of the most awaited part for the devotees is the 7 last word of Christ or the Siete Palabras. It is so anticipated that even if the faithfuls cannot go to church (especially now due to the lockdown), the 7 last word is aired on radio and broadcasted on TV.
Have you ever asked yourself what the significance of the 7 last words is? According to Fr. Christopher Jeffrey Aytona, head of Dominican Media Board, “Siete Palabras reminds us of what we should appreciate and continue, like how we express our beliefs.”
For better understanding and appreciation, read the following text as preacher Don Stewart explains Christ’s 7 last words.
The Gospels record that during the six hours Jesus was hanging on the cross He made seven different statements. These statements are of tremendous significance because they are the last words of Jesus before His death. They demonstrate that Jesus was consistent in His life and in His message until the end.
1. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
This first of seven sayings of Jesus shows that He was thinking of others until the end of His life. Even while experiencing the horrible pain of crucifixion, He was praying for the very people who caused His suffering. He came to earth for the purpose of forgiving sinners and He loved them and forgave them up until the end. It was because of man’s sin that He was on the cross-suffering on behalf of that sin.
2. “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Not only did Jesus forgive those who crucified Him, He also forgave one of the thieves crucified next to Him. When the thieves were put on the cross both of them cursed Jesus but, as time elapsed, one of the thieves had a change of heart.
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed him, saying, ‘If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.’ But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23:39-42).
It was at this juncture that Jesus made His second statement from the cross promising to forgive the repentant thief. Again we see Jesus’ concern for others. His example later led the Apostle Paul to exhort the Philippian church,
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself (Philippians 2:3).
3. “Woman, behold your Son” (John 19:26).
As Jesus continued to suffer on the cross His mind was still upon others. He saw His mother standing near the Apostle John and said, “Woman, behold your son.” He then looked at John and said, “Behold your mother!” By doing this He was entrusting the care of His mother to John. The law required the firstborn son to take care of his parents, and Jesus was obeying the law of God up until the end. Early in His ministry Jesus emphasized His respect for the law:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).
He honored and obeyed the law throughout His life and He also honored the law while suffering His death.
4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
The fourth saying of Jesus from the cross is probably the most difficult for us to understand. The sinless Son of God who had been, from all eternity, in an intimate relationship with His Father, is now spiritually separated from Him. When the sins of the world were put upon Jesus there was, for the first time, a separation between the Father and the Son. The Bible records something happened between them that we can only understand through the eye of faith.
That is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).
The Father was placing the sins of the world upon the Son in order that everything in the universe that had been affected by sin could again be made right with God. Jesus was suffering the pain and separation that we deserve:
For he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
In order for this to occur, the Father had to forsake the Son and punish Him on our behalf.
5. “I thirst” (John 19:28).
The fifth statement that Jesus made from the cross reminds us again that He suffered as a human being. The Bible says,
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst’ (John 19:28).
He lived as a man and suffered as a man in order that He could identify with suffering humanity. From this statement we observe that Jesus suffered the full physical effect of crucifixion. There was no easing up, for the weight of our sins was placed upon Him.
6. “It is finished” (John 19:30).
The sixth statement from Jesus while on the cross was a cry of victory. The Greek text reads tetelestai, “It is finished.” What was finished? As we consider the life and ministry of Jesus we can think of several things that His death made complete.
Jesus Finished The Job That The Father Gave Him To Do
First, Jesus had to finish the task the Father had sent Him to earth to accomplish, namely to provide salvation for humankind. By living His entire life without sin, Jesus was able to become the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. The way of salvation had now been made complete. No more animal sacrifices were necessary for they had only pointed to the ultimate sacrifice Jesus had now offered. His was the supreme sacrifice which satisfied the righteous demands of a holy God.
Jesus Fulfilled Prophecy
The second thing that was accomplished by Jesus on the cross was a fulfillment of prophecy. The predicted Messiah had come as God promised He would. Prophecies of the Word of God, which are always accurate, had again come to pass. The Savior was promised; now Christ the Savior had come and accomplished the promised salvation.
Jesus Achieved Victory Over The Devil
A third matter that was accomplished by Jesus’ death on the cross was the victory over the devil. The Scripture says that one of the purposes for Jesus’ coming was to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). The death of Christ finished that task. The dominion over the earth that man, through his sin, had handed over to the devil was now won back. The authority of Satan had been vanquished – the victory had been won. When Christ comes back again He will take hold of the victory that He won over the devil on Calvary’s cross.
Jesus Suffering Was Finished
A fourth and final reason that Jesus said, “It is finished” is with regard to His own suffering. Jesus spent over thirty years upon the earth living among sinful man, suffering from the self-imposed limitations of that existence. He had now endured the final six hours of that suffering on a cross. This was now finished. He would no longer have to suffer the limits of space and time. It was finished!
7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
This is the final statement that we have from Jesus before His death. Everything had been completed and now it was time to dismiss His spirit. Jesus had previously made the statement that He would willingly lay down His life for His sheep.
Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from my Father (John 10:17,18).
From this we realize that Jesus had to purposely dismiss His spirit; it could not be taken from Him. Unless He desired to die, He would not have had to. Because He was a willing victim, however, He chose to die. Upon making His final statement, Jesus died.
The seven statements Jesus made from the cross have far-reaching significance for us today. They once again remind us that His death, besides being a fact of history, was much more than that. It was the supreme sacrifice that secured our salvation. His final words show us that we can have the utmost confidence in Him as our Savior.