Summary: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” The Cross is the only place we can find forgiveness. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, or how often we’ve done it, we can be forgiven - not because we deserve it, but because we don’t.
Forgiving the Unforgivable
The last words of a dying person are normally never forgotten. A person’s closing comments often reveal their pain and agony. Some enter eternity without saying anything, while others utter sentiments that disclose their values, priorities, and innermost thoughts.
Right before P.T. Barnum died, he asked, “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”
Humphrey Bogart’s last words were, “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”
President Grover Cleveland, “I have tried hard to do the right.”
Joan Crawford was filled with anger when her maid began to pray out loud and said, “Don’t you dare ask God to help me!”
Louis Mayer, the film producer, gave his philosophy of life (and death) when he said, “Nothing matters. Nothing matters.”
Leonardo da Vinci, when surveying his life’s work, said, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”
General John Sedgwick, who fought in the Civil War, had his final words cut off in mid-sentence as his soldiers were seeking cover from some sharpshooters. This is what he said, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…”
Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary, sighed, “Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something.”
Karl Marx turned to his housekeeper, who had urged him to tell her his last words so she could write them down, and shouted, “Go on, and get out. Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”
This morning we’re beginning a series to help us focus on the final cries from the Cross. These seven shouts of the Savior are filled with meaning and purpose. They’re definitely not the words of someone who didn’t say enough when He was alive. We have His terrific teaching in the four Gospels and we have His final seven sayings as well. These shouts are riveting and piercing, beautiful yet shocking.
These weighty words dropped from his lips while his sacrificial blood splashed on the ground. Most of the time on the cross was spent in silence and yet seven sentences are recorded for us. While his body was wracked with pain, his throat parched with thirst, He had no energy to waste on trivial matters. Each word serves as a window to help us understand Christ and the cross better. We’re going to dwell on each one of these solemn sentences in order to prepare ourselves for the exclamation point of Easter. Like the steps of a ladder, there is a mutual dependence and interlinking of each of the cries.
The first three shouts take place between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and noon:
1. “Father, forgive them.” (Luke 23:34)
2. “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
3. “Dear woman, here is your son.” (John 19:26)
From noon to 3:00 p.m., there was darkness over the land. Then beginning about 3:00, Jesus uttered his final words:
4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
5. “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
6. “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
7. “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
These words teach the rich doctrines of Christianity: forgiveness, faith, family, the humanity of Christ and His substitutionary death, the fulfillment of Scripture, the justification of the believer, and the absolute certainty of eternity.
The Final Hours
Let’s set the scene by recounting the events. I was helped this week in my understanding by an article written by a physician as he studied the details of the last 12-18 hours of Jesus’ life (www.worldramp.net/~dnaquin/Jesus-death.htm). Following the last supper, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He poured out his distress to the Father as He went through a deep spiritual struggle. Luke 22:44: “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” The loss of this blood and sweat would create the beginning stages of dehydration. An angel appeared at this point and gave Jesus strength (verse 43).
Jesus was then arrested and faced a trial sometime after midnight. He was led away with His hands bound, the same hands that had healed the sick. Luke 22:63 tells us that Jesus was blindfolded and beaten while the soldiers mocked Him. He then faced a second trial with more illegal proceedings. Jesus is now exhausted by lack of sleep, abuse, loss of fluids, and ridicule.
In an attempt to appease the people, Pilate has Jesus scourged. This was not something that was ordinarily done as part of the crucifixion. Roman law allowed the prisoner to be beaten to the point of death as measured by a rapidly increasing pulse and an irregular respiratory rate. These whips had a small piece of metal attached to the end and would chip and gouge out pieces of bone and tissue. His skin would be stripped into long, ribbon-like segments, causing profound arterial bleeding.