Summary: Jesus uttered seven short phrases on the cross before he died. This sermon briefly examines the fifth word that Jesus uttered, which was a word of suffering, found in John 19:28.
It is often profitable to study the last words of dying men.
Many sermons have been preached on the last words of Jesus. As he hung on the cross on that first Good Friday he uttered seven short sentences or phrases. We usually call these “the seven last words of Christ.”
For the past few Good Fridays we have been examining these so-called “last words” of Christ.
The first word that Jesus uttered was a word of forgiveness addressed to the Father on behalf of those who were crucifying him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
The second word that Jesus uttered was a word of salvation spoken to the thief on the cross: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
The third word that Jesus uttered was a word of affection addressed primarily to his mother who he entrusted into the care of the apostle John: “Dear woman, here is your son” (John 19:25-27).
The fourth word that Jesus uttered was a word of anguish addressed to the Father: “‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’—which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:45-46).
Tonight I want to examine briefly the fifth word that Jesus uttered, which was a word of suffering. It is found in John 19:28:
"Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ’I am thirsty’" (John 19:28).
In his book, Reaching the Invisible God, author Philip Yancey tells the story about his wife, Janet, who leads a weekly “Christian Circle” at a local nursing home. An Alzheimer’s patient named Betsy faithfully attends, led there by a staff worker, and sits through the hour. Every week Janet introduces herself, and every week Betsy responds as if she’s never seen her before.
After a few weeks, Janet learned that Betsy has retained the ability to read. She has no comprehension of what she is reading and will repeat the same line over and over, like a stuck record, until someone prompts her to move on. But on a good day she can read a passage straight through in a clear, strong voice. Janet began calling on her each week to read a hymn.
One Friday the senior citizens, who prefer to sing the older hymns they remember from childhood, selected “The Old Rugged Cross” for Betsy to read.
“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suff’ring and shame,” she began, and stopped.
She suddenly got agitated. “I can’t go on! It’s too sad! Too sad!” she said.
Some of the seniors gasped. Others stared at her, dumbfounded. In years of living at the nursing home, not once had Betsy shown the ability to put words together meaningfully. Now, obviously, she did understand.
Janet calmed her: “That’s fine, Betsy. You don’t have to keep reading if you don’t want to.”
After a pause, though, she started reading again, and stopped at the same place. A tear made a trail down each cheek.
“I can’t go on! It’s so sad!” she said, unaware she had said the same thing two minutes ago.
She tried again, and again reacted with a sudden shock of recognition, grief, and the exact same words.