Summary: This sermon expounds the first three of the last sayings of Jesus on the cross. The method is exegetical and expository, drawing out the authorial intent and context of the words of Luke, Matthew, and John.
Every year, most Christian churches in the Philippines hold the “Siete Palabras,” or “Seven Sayings” services, stressing the last seven words of Jesus on the cross. I remember every Good Friday back in the 70s, Fellowship Baptist Church of Bacolod would hold a special Seven Sayings service at 2-4 PM, with a battery of seven speakers. It was the longest preaching service I can remember. With no aircon, the sanctuary was usually hot and humid. But 300 people would pack the pews every year.
The last words of a dying man are supposed to be the most moving. But we study Jesus’ last words, because they are uttered on the cross. The death of Christ is the heart of the gospel. It is the climax of the gospel story. The last words of Jesus on the cross are thus highly significant.
Most sermons on the seven sayings are detached from authorial intent. However, we will study the authorial intent of Luke, Matthew, and John, and the context of their words, to grasp what they are telling their readers.
A Word of Forgiveness
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34)1
In the last minutes of Jesus’ life, Jesus prayed to the Father. In fact, in His last seven sayings, Jesus prayed three times. It is interesting that Jesus did not pray, “Forgive me,” for He knew no sin. Instead, He prayed, “Forgive them,” for they all needed the forgiveness of God.
We note three things about Jesus’ act of forgiveness on the cross. First, we see the position of forgiveness. It is a position of weakness, not strength. Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness reflects His teaching. He said, “Love your enemies; pray for those who abuse you” (Lk. 6:27-28). But to pray for those who abuse you is to pray from a position of weakness. They abuse you. You are the victim of their abuse. But you are to pray for those who abuse you.
Just as Jesus loved His enemies and prayed for them, He also forgave them. His forgiveness then was forgiveness out of a position of weakness. He forgave on the cross—a position of powerlessness, a place for victims. Thus, Jesus’ prayer is a call for us to forgive likewise—to forgive from a position of powerlessness. We are to forgive as victims of the sins of other people. That is the context of Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness. It is a context of weakness and powerlessness. It is in a position of weakness that we should ask God to forgive those who sinned against us.
Second, we see the recipients of forgiveness. Jesus prayed for those who harmed and hurt Him. Luke draws a contrast between the people who mourned for Jesus and the leaders who mocked Him. Luke wrote,
27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him.
35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Lk. 23:27, 35-37)