Famous last words and a word or two about them

F. Holland Day, The Seven Last, Words of Christ, 1898, Seven photographic prints in gilded frame, 3-1/4 x 13-7/8", Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”[1]

How often I am reminded of how sure I am of the things I think I know. How often my judgments, all in the name of love, are sure and true. There is no shadow of doubt who is right and who is wrong. To have someone offer me forgiveness when I am clearly in the right is aggravating.

In Romans, Paul writes, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”[2]  Jesus did not retaliate, he forgave. The words were not for us, even though they were heard by us. Jesus interceded for us, even though there was not even a hint of a need for forgiveness in our thoughts or actions that day.

This is not something that comes easily to me and I am not innocent. Instead of quoting Psalm 22, I would have quoted the 1971 movie “Willard” and shouted, “Tear him up!”

 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[3]

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.[4]

This is mind-bending. On the cross, Jesus is separated from his eternally existing relationship with his Father. How devastating is that loss? Reading Psalm 22 helps get a perspective on what Jesus is crying out, but the rescue did not happen and yet his faith remained intact.

Thankfully, this also tells me that Jesus understands our most painful questions.

He said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!”[5]

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”[6]

Even in the pain and agony of crucifixion he cares, provides, and comforts. Beautiful.

“I thirst!”[7]

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”[8]

The source of living water for the Samaritan woman[9] and all who would believe in him[10] is thirsty. Is it just me that finds that far more disturbing and challenging that simple human thirst?

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”[11]

Jesus recognizes simple faith and profound desire. I wish we were so quick to recognize it as well.

“It is finished!”[12]

Love is victorious.

“Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.”[13]

It is a good question when someone asks how Jesus could die if he was God. It is not a good answer that denies that Jesus was God because he died. The answer to this question is found in a mystery that envelops us with a sense of knowing that defies explanation, but assures us all is well.


[1] Luke 23:34

[2] Romans 12.21

[3] Matthew 27:46

[4] John 1.1-2, 4a

[5] John 19.26-27 

[6] Matthew 12.48-50

[7] John 19.28

[8] John 4.10

[9] John 4.10

[10] John 7.38

[11] Luke 23.43 

[12] John 19.30 

[13] Luke 23.46 


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