All seven of Jesus’ last words on the cross are anticipated in Psalm 22. It’s quite interesting when Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was pointing us to read that Psalm. And if you go to Psalm 22, you can see that while the exact statements of these seven sayings are not in the Psalm, you find the elements behind the things that Jesus stated.
So, the first statement was a plea for forgiveness in Luke 23:34. You’ll remember Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” And it’s important to recognize that each one of these sayings is an expression of the love of God. The Bible summarizes what God is, it tells us twice in First John, “God is love.” Each one of these sayings is an expression of His love. And here we have in the statement, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do,” God’s love for lost sinners. God has a love for all us sinners. And that was expressed by Jesus in his first saying on the cross.
The second saying on the cross is in Luke 23:43 is the promise of salvation. It’s very interesting that right after He asked the Father to forgive, He promises eternal life to the thief on the cross Jesu told the thief, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.” And this expresses the love of God to those who come to Him in humble faith.
The third statement we find in John 19:25-27, and this was the provision of love when Jesus looked down and saw Mary and John standing at the foot of the cross. He said, “Woman, behold your son.” And to John, he said, “Behold your mother.” And here we see the love of God for family. The Lord Jesus Christ is fulfilling everything taught through the Scriptures, in the Psalms, in the Proverbs, in the Commandments. Honor your father and mother. And He was providing for His mother. What an amazing provision this was for the disciple, John.
The fourth saying we find in Matthew 27:46 and this is the perplexity of abandonment. And you’ll remember Jesus screamed out here the first verse of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And here we see that the love of God is costly. We say that the love of God for mankind cost everything. It cost the Father His Son. It costs Christ, the judgment on the cross. So, the Father and the Holy Spirit turned away from Him while He was bearing our sin. And that’s why He cried out twice. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
In the fifth saying, we see the plea for water in John 19:28. Jesus said, “I thirst.” I believe that this plea goes way beyond just simple need for water or human thirst. I believe it expresses thirst, number one, to be restored to fellowship with the Father. I believe that it also expresses thirst to see men and women come to a saving knowledge of Him to enter the family of God. It’s very interesting to me that twice in his life, Jesus asked for a drink. One time in John Chapter four with the woman at the well and the other on the cross. Guess what? Both times He was denied. The woman at the well, not because she was rejecting Him, but in her excitement, left a water pot and went running into town. He asked for a drink and what did they give Him? Vinegar. And you’ll remember that in that passage there in John 19:28, it says that “Jesus, knowing that all things had been fulfilled in order, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said I thirst”. So, the whole while Jesus was on the cross, He was meditating on the Scriptures, and He realized that there was one thing that had yet to be fulfilled — the statement I thirst. And of course, it also fulfilled the prophecy that said, “They gave me vinegar to drink and gall for My food.” So, all of this was a fulfillment of scripture.
That brings us last, to the proclamation of victory and the presentation of trust. The proclamation of victory in John 19:30 is probably the best known of the sayings. And of course, we would say the most important when Jesus said, “It is finished.” He used the Greek word tetelestai, from which means “to be fulfilled or completed.” But the interesting thing about tetelestai in that form, the perfect tense, means the debt was paid in the past with the result that the results go on forever. So, the debt is paid. The consequences, the result goes on forever. When you had a bill in the ancient Roman world and you paid that bill off, they would write across the bill the word tetelestai. He paid the debt for our sin and accomplished our salvation. The work is done. When Jesus said this on the cross, it was the greatest work and the greatest contentment that had ever been expressed. You know, when God finishes His work, it’s very interesting. What does He do? If we go back to Genesis 1:31-32 to it says, “Then God saw everything He had made and indeed it was good, very good. Thus, the heavens and the earth and all the hosts of them were finished. And on the seventh day, God ended His work, which He had done. And He rested on the seventh day from all His work, which He had done.” So God rests when the work is finished and the work is good. The work of God has never finished until it’s very good.
That’s very important. In Isaiah 30:15, it says, “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, and returning and rest you shall be saved. And in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Isn’t it interesting “returning in rest?” It’s almost like leaving the field of labor, leaving the place of work, returning, and resting. What are we doing? We’re turning away from all efforts to save ourselves. Returning to God as the author of our salvation. And in resting in the completed provision of Christ. That’s how we find our salvation. The work of salvation was done. And I want you to think about something very special here. The work of your salvation. And mine was finished before Jesus died physically. Think about that. What did it take for Christ to purchase eternal life for us? It was His spiritual death being separated from the Father and the Spirit. And once that had been accomplished, and Jesus had been judged for the sins of the world, it was finished. The debt had been paid. His physical death was not something forced on Him or imposed on Him. It was something that He did Himself. He laid His life down.
And that leads us to the last statements of Jesus. Luke 23:46 says, “And when Jesus cried out with a loud voice, he said, Father, into your hands. I commit My spirit.” This is a presentation of trust. Where did Jesus commit His spirit? “Into Thy hands.” You know something interesting? That’s exactly where He has committed your soul and mine as well. And what He told the disciples in John Chapter ten, after He said, “I am the good Shepherd and I lay down My life for the sheep,” He said, “My Father is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”
“God so loved the world.” That little word so is a word that refers to a qualitative idea. In other words, the quality of that love was so great “that He gave His only begotten Son.” How big? “So.” What manner of love? I hope it’s something that you and I will never, ever get over.