Summary: Last words are important. The first in a seven part series that looks at the last words of Jesus on the cross.
John "Button" Salmon, was the student body president, as well as the starting quarterback for the University of Arizona football team and the catcher for the Wildcat baseball team.
The day after the first game of the 1926 football season, Salmon and three friends were involved in an automobile accident and their vehicle flipped over a ravine. Although Salmon’s friends were not injured, Salmon suffered a severe spinal cord injury.
In the aftermath of the accident, football coach Pop McKale visited him in the hospital every day. During McKale’s last visit, shortly before he died, Salmon’s last message to his teammates was, "Tell them...tell the team to bear down." The following year, the words “bear down” became the official slogan of the Wildcat Athletic teams. Then, in 1952, as Jack Lee flew over Bear Down gym and saw the words “Bear Down” painted on the roof, he was inspired to write “Bear Down, Arizona”, which later that year became the official fight song of the school.
Today, we’re still influenced by the last words of John “Button” Salmon. But he is not the only example of how important a person’s last words often are. Here are the last words of several well-known people:
• Leonardo da Vinci, artist, inventor:
"I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have."
• George Appel, a gangster, about to be executed by electrocution:
"Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel."
• James French, sentenced to death in the electric chair:
"How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? ’French Fries’."
• John Sedgwick, Union Army General, was observing the lines at Spotsylvania when his men warned him to be wary of Confederate sharpshooters:
"They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist..."
• Karl Marx, on his deathbed, to his housekeeper who had just asked if he had any last words:
"Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!"
This morning, we’re going to begin a journey that examines the last words of Jesus – His words as he hung on the cross. And unlike the opinion of Karl Marx, these are certainly not the words of a fool who hasn’t said enough. In fact, these last words are some of the most important words ever spoken. They reveal to us the very heart of our Lord. We see His humanity as he suffers in agony on the cross. But we also see his incomparably great love for those he came to save.
As we make this journey together for the next seven weeks, I pray that you will understand better than ever just how much God loves you and that His love will transform your life.
As is true for any pastor, there is really no sermon that is 100% original. In preparing our messages, we are always indebted to those writers and other pastors who inspire us and give us food for thought. Many of the ideas that Denny and I will be sharing with you over the next seven weeks and even the titles of our messages come from a book by Erwin Lutzer titled Cries from the Cross. We’ve also been influenced by a booklet from Warren Wiersbe titled Jesus’ Seven Last Words.
We’ll begin our journey this morning in the Book of Luke:
Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Luke 23:34 (NIV)
As we look at this passage together this morning, I’d like to share with you some observations about what this passage reveals about the heart of Jesus and then I’d like us to think about what kind of implications that has for the way we live our lives.
Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness:
1. Reveals His disposition
From the very beginning of the Bible, we find that it is God’s nature to forgive His people. Adam and Eve sin and God promises in Genesis 3:15 to one day send a redeemer who will provide a way for their sin to be forgiven. Throughout the Old Testament, God is described as gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. And then, over 700 years before Jesus is even born, the prophet Isaiah reveals that one day, because it is His very nature, Jesus will pray for forgiveness for those who would put Him to death:
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53:12 (NIV)
While he was here on this earth, Jesus ministered to people by forgiving their sins, because that was the disposition of His heart. And He commanded His followers to forgive others, even when they had been wronged. So forgiveness was at the very heart of who Jesus was. It was His very nature.