The last words of a dying person are important. They can communicate good or ill to those left behind. Why? Because the last words are so final...and so revealing of what was uppermost in the person's mind as he was leaving this earth to face his Maker. I've never been at the bedside of a dying person. But I have been with a few people just days before their death.
My "Babci" (Polish for grandmother) was hospitalized after a heart attack. She wasn't expected to die then, but she did die just before being released. I had visited her from out-of-town shortly before she died, and I remember her looking at a picture of Jesus knocking on the heart's door saying, "O how much He suffered for us!" To me, these were her last words that reflected a lifetime of devotion to her Lord.
Another person I visited shortly before his death was the father of a young friend. As I took his hand to pray for him that night in hospice, this dad struggled to say something. I waited to hear what he was trying to say. Finally his words came..."I'm concerned about Mary's [not her real name] relationship with Jesus."
I told Mary the next day about her dad's concern. That day she had time alone with him and said, "Daddy, I love Jesus." And right then her daddy went home to his Lord. His last words were those of loving concern for his daughter.
Sadly though, that's not always the case. I had a close relative who spoke angry words to his sons just hours before he suddenly died of a heart-attack -- no time to make things right...no time to express the love he really felt. Needless to say, the sons struggle, but live with, the memory of these final harsh words from their father.
So last words can have an incredible impact...
This is especially true of the last statements of our Savior from the Cross. And this will be the subject of the next few weeks as we prepare to celebrate the greatest day for us believers, the Resurrection of our Lord.
When we realize the agonizing death caused by crucifixion, it's incredible to think that our Lord would say what He said hanging from a cruel cross. Angry, blaspheming words, like those spoken by the criminals crucified with Him, would more readily come to mind for most people.
Bible scholar, Bernard Guy, says of crucifixion:
Crucifixion was a form of torture that literally knocked the wind out of a person. The weight of the body suspended by the arms caused immediate pain in the chest, paralyzing the pectoral muscles and making breathing extremely difficult. The person being crucified could inhale but had great difficulty exhaling. To exhale he had to push on his feet and straighten his legs to release the pressure exerted on his arms and chest. But the pain that this caused to his feet was so excruciating, because of the nails, that he would immediately cease any such effort. Death usually occurred within two or three days. But when the Romans wanted to shorten his agony, they would break his legs. So, unable to straighten himself with the help of his legs, the man would suffocate rapidly. The soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves crucified with Jesus to hasten their deaths, but Jesus’ legs were not broken because he was already dead (John 19:3133). Thus was accomplished a prophecy from Scripture saying that none of his bones would be broken (John 19:36). It is in this context, while he was fighting for his every breath, that Jesus uttered his last words. ("The Last Seven Words of Jesus," bible.org)
Here are the seven last statements of Christ from the Cross. Let us be amazed as we reflect on these one by one in the weeks ahead.
Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34
I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43
Dear woman, here is your son...Here is your mother. John 19:26-27
My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me? Matthew 27:46
I am thirsty. John 19:28
It is finished! John 19:30
Father, into your hands I commit My spirit. Luke 23:46
Next time: Father, forgive them... A Word of forgiveness
On the night before He died, our Lord had an intimate time with His disciples. He poured out His heart to His beloved followers. In Jesus' own words, we hear His longing for His own:
I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God. Luke 22:14-16
Put yourself in that group of disciples and join the conversation.
Read, meditate, and journal on the final thoughts and words of your Lord to YOU.
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:20-21
Here are the passages in chronological order according to the Harmony of the Gospels:
Chapters 14-17 [of the gospel of John] are called the Heart of Christ. Nowhere does the Master lay bare His very soul more than here in chapters 15 and 16, with the allegory of the Vine and the teaching concerning the Holy Spirit. AT Robertson, Harmony of the Gospels
Luke 22:14-16, 24-30 -- a New Covenant in His blood, kingdom conversation
Luke 22:17-20 -- Communion
John 14 -- a place and a Comforter promised
John 16 -- the world's hatred and trials, work of the Holy Spirit
John17 -- Jesus' High Priestly prayer (listen in to prayer within the Godhead...wow! For you and me!!!)