Summary: So what do we learn about Jesus? First, prayer was at the heart of Jesus’ life. The second thing we learn is that no person is beyond hope. Third, don’t stop praying. Fourth, don’t forget the mission
“Father, forgive them”
The last words of a person’s life are a mysterious thing. Some last words reveal a lot about the personality of the person. They can speak volumes about their heart and who they are.
P. T. Barnum, d. 1891 “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”
Writer Oscar Wilde’s last words were: “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.”
Actor Humphrey Bogart said, “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”
John Bacon said on his deathbed, "What I was as an artist seemed to be of some importance while I lived, but what I really am as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only thing of importance to me now."
And John Wesley proclaimed on his deathbed, “The best of all is, God is with us. Farewell! Farewell!”
But there is one man in history whose last words not only tell us a great deal about him, but also about how we should live our lives. We have seven phrases spoken by Jesus and recorded for us on that day. Of the seven, three of them were prayers. It is one thing to have last words spoken from a person’s deathbed but quite another to have them spoken from the cross.
What was Jesus experiencing on the cross? David Smith writes about crucifixion. They would take the upright beam and place it in a hole in the ground and fix it steadfast. And then they would take the victim and lay his hands on the cross beam, driving spikes into his quivering flesh and with a rope would hook it onto the cross beam and then tow it up. When the cross beam was in place, they would nail it to the upright. And then placing the victim’s feet together, they would nail his feet into the upright and there he would die. He writes, “Only a depraved human mind could ever have imagined such a mode of death. It is the most painful death a man could die for he died by suffocating as his body hung. His weight would pull him down. There his feet would rest against the nails. He would rise up to catch his breath. He could only rise so long because the pain of the nails would make his body drop. Up and down, up and down he would rise trying to catch breaths and then back down submitting to his pain of the crucifixion. Keep in mind, Jesus had already been whipped with 195 lashes. There he is, his back already broken as he rises up and down, up and down as the beam tore at his flesh” as he slowly suffocated to death.”
Perhaps more than at any other time in his life and ministry, it is on the cross that we see Jesus’ humanity and his heart most clearly. So what do we learn about Jesus? First, prayer was at the heart of Jesus’ life. Jesus began his ministry by praying and he ended his life and ministry in prayer. Jesus prayed at his baptism. He prayed in the morning to start the day. He prayed for guidance in choosing the disciples. He prayed when talking with the Jewish leaders. He prayed before his miracles and healings and he prayed after. He prayed before teaching and he prayed before raising Lazarus from the dead. He prayed at the Last Supper. He prayed in Gethseman before he went to the cross. He prayed on the cross, even with the mob at the foot of the cross taunting him. This was common for criminals being crucified but they would curse vainly back. They would call their accusers every imaginable word they could think of because the pain was so severe. The natural tendency of a man would be to unleash his fury back at those who had done such a thing to him.
In this setting, instead of a vengeful spirit, Jesus looks at those who were crucifying him and prays, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And even in the midst of his suffering, he prayed for his accusers and for those crucifying him. When Jesus’ hands could no longer reach out and touch their withered flesh because they were tethered to the cross, Jesus prayed. When his feet could no longer run to those in need, he prayed. When he could no longer gather the disciples to instruct and teach them because they had fled, he prayed. When Jesus was most limited on the cross, he did the only thing he could do and that was pray. And who does he pray for? The mob. The ones ranting and cursing him. In an atmosphere of pain, hatred and murder, Jesus prays to the Father. And the first thing he prays is for God to forgive these people who have no idea what they are doing.