Soon, we will gather to keep the Passover. God instituted that Festival as He was preparing to deliver Israel from the land of Egypt (Exodus 12:5-11). Israel was to eat that meal in haste, but before the meal of lamb they were to put the blood from the lamb on their doorposts. God had Israel do this to know who was obedient to Him, and seeing that blood, the “destroyer” would “pass over” that house and save the life of the firstborn.
The meal, lamb and blood of the first Passover in Exodus were all symbols that pointed to Christ. He fulfilled those symbols—that is what we rehearse in the Passover. His broken body and His blood is our Passover—He is the Passover lamb. He then gave new symbols to His church—symbols with deeper meaning. But Christ is not just a lamb—He is our Messiah! Through His sacrifice, our sins were covered by His shed blood. He also came to offer the gift of the Holy Spirit to those the Father would call.
This brings us to Christ’s last words before He died. Luke’s Gospel account has three of these sayings, John’s Gospel has another three, and Matthew and Mark record one each—all for a total of seven sayings or expressions.
The words Christ spoke do have meaning for us to consider. He knew He was dying, and knew that He came to die for us. As He was being crucified, He could feel His life ebbing. It was during these periods that He uttered these seven short sentences. Each thought has meaning for us to consider as we approach Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.
1. “Father, forgive them”
The first is found in Luke 23:34—“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.”
Roman crucifixions were so commonplace, that they often became a source of entertainment. Christ had been scourged, was covered in blood and was on the edge of physical shock. In spite of His imminent death, the Roman soldiers were gambling for His tunic—they were so used to crucifixions that they made a little side money by selling the victims clothing.
The apostle John’s account tells us that the soldiers had cut up and divided Christ’s other clothes amongst themselves, but decided to cast lots for His tunic. In doing so, they fulfilled the prophecy in Psalm 22:18.
We must be careful that we are no different than those Roman soldiers—and the others in the multitude there who had conspired in and were supporting the death of Christ. In considering these words of Christ as He hung dying, when was the last time we asked God to forgive us because we didn’t think about what we were doing? Are we thankful that Christ died for our sins—even the ones done in ignorance?
2. “You shall be with me in Paradise”
The second statement made by Christ as He was dying was to the penitent thief: “I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:39-43). Some use this verse as proof that a person goes to heaven upon death, but John 3:13 tells us that is not the case. Other verses speak to this truth as well (Acts 2:29 and Ecclesiastes 9:5 for example).
The simpler and biblically consistent answer lies in understanding that the Greek language in which the Gospels were written didn’t have punctuation as the English language does today. A better translation of this verse would be: “I say to you today (comma), you shalt be with me in Paradise.” We know this is accurate, because Christ Himself did not return to Heaven until more than three days after making this statement.
But as he was dying, Christ was giving hope to a sinner. The man would have opportunity to be in God’s Kingdom. In many ways, this statement made by Christ was for anyone who is repentant before God. The word, “Paradise” can also be translated “Eden.” What mankind threw away in rejecting God in the Garden of Eden, God still seeks to restore to mankind. God wants a relationship with His Creation. He wants us to be in His family and He has not walked away from us!
3. “Behold, your son”
Christ had to be committed to His task of becoming our sin sacrifice. From John’s Gospel account, only Christ’s mother, Mary, her sister Mary (Salome—the mother of James and John), Mary Magdalene and John were not ashamed to be with Christ at His crucifixion (John 19:25-26).
The end was nearing for Jesus. As He looked out at the remaining witnesses of His death, He saw His mother and John, and said to Mary, “behold your son” (John 19:25-26). His stepfather, Joseph, had died long ago, His stepbrothers and sisters were nowhere to be found at that moment, so Christ honored her by making sure she was taken care of. Then looking at the grief-stricken John, the beloved apostle, Christ said: “Behold your mother.” Even in His dying moments, Jesus was concerned about others and saw to it that His mother would be cared for during the remainder of her lifetime.
4. “Why have you forsaken Me?”
Christ next said, “My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). He is quoting from Psalm 22:1 using the same words there. This is the only saying recorded in more than one Gospel.
Christ suffered hours of intense pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, and searing pain as tissue was torn from His lacerated back from His movement up and down against the rough wood. Psalm 22:14 gives us insight as to what Christ was thinking at that time—“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.”
Even in dying, Christ was giving hope to a sinner.
The Father and the Son had existed together in eternity, and yet because of the profound love that They are and that They have, They established the plan of salvation for mankind. Christ became a man in order to live a sinless life, and as our Creator He was able to pay for the sins of all mankind through His shed blood. As Christ hung dying, He took upon Himself the penalty that we deserved for our sin.
Christ knew this had to be. Our sin brings death (not eternal life, Romans 6:23) and while in that sin we are separated from God (Isaiah 59:2). Not one of us is exempt from this (Romans 3:23). Upon death, Christ became our sin payment. He bore our sin so that we could take on the righteousness of God (1 Peter 2:24).
5. “I thirst”
Christ simply says “I thirst” (John 19:28). Again, Psalm 22:15 gives us His thoughts in prophecy: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.”
A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine that was the staple drink of the Roman legionnaires, was lifted to Jesus’ lips. It was prophesied that He would be given this sour wine to drink (Psalm 69:21), but tasting it, He refused to drink it (Mark 15:23) because He had to finish this task with a clear head and without the minor pain-killing effect of alcohol.
Could this acknowledgment of thirst have been more than physical thirst? Certainly, He would have been very thirsty from the loss of blood, but what if Christ was also expressing a spiritual thirst? “…if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink,” (John 7:37). We are to desire to drink in that spiritual drink, God’s instruction. Do we?
6. “It is finished”
Jesus’ body was now in extremis (very close to death), and He would certainly feel death creeping through His body. This realization brought forth His sixth expression: “It is finished” (John 19:30).
This statement was not resignation—it was a statement of success! The Greek translated “finished” is tetelestai and means “accomplished”—“It is accomplished.” His mission of atonement for us had been completed. He had known from prehistory that He would accomplish this for mankind. He came with the joy of knowing that mankind could be in the God family because of His blood payment for our sins. He knew the Father would restore His glory and that God’s Holy Spirit would be given in the next step to come in God’s plan of salvation for us. Finally, He could die because that step in the plan was now accomplished. We are able to be called, have God’s Spirit in us and be a part of the Body of Christ because He accomplished the Father’s will in being our Passover.
7. “I commit My Spirit”
Christ once again pressed His torn feet against the nail, straightened His legs, took a deeper breath, and uttered His seventh and last cry: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46, quoting Psalm 31:5).
This is an announcement and not a request. Think of the complete love and trust He had in the Father. Think of the oneness that He and the Father would have once again (John 17:21-22)—soon Christ would once again be one with the Father in glory. Christ knew that all that He had gone through, the sacrifice for our sin that He became, all that He and the Father had planned for was now set.
We are now able to be a part of the Body of Christ because He was our Passover.
Through His death, we can have the love and unity that the Father and the Son have for each other and for us. He declared it so (John 17:20-27) to us.
Jesus Christ is not a crucified, dead Messiah. He lives forever as the Son of God sitting at the Father’s right hand now. These last words of Christ have deep spiritual meaning as we approach Passover and as we consider all that He did in shaping the future of mankind. He is our Mediator, our Advocate and our Intercessor. He is now our perfect High Priest, our Elder Brother and our Passover.