Summary: Jesus words just before and after his death have amazing significance! Seven statements from the cross and the first three after his resurrection make up this lesson.
Have you heard of the seven last words of Christ on the cross? Some of you may be very familiar with this, others of you may wonder what I’m talking about. When you look at all the gospel accounts and put them together there are seven sayings or "Words" that Jesus spoke as he was dying on the cross:
-Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34
-Truly I say to you, Today you will be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43
-Jesus said to his Mother, "Woman, behold your son." And to the disciple, "Son, behold your mother." John 19:26-27
-I thirst. John 19:28
-It is finished! John 19:30
-Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit! Luke 23:46
Three of these are from Luke, three are from John and one is from both Matthew and Mark. The selection of these from each of these gospel writers not only gives us a wider view of the crucifixion event, but they also tell us something about each gospel writer and his audience.
Reading the gospels and meditating on these words of Jesus have inspired many sermons, songs, and books dating back to the 16th century. Your life and faith can be enriched by reflecting on these. Traditionally, these seven sayings or "words" have beautiful theological themes: forgiveness, salvation, relationship, abandonment, distress, triumph and reunion.
Jesus died on the cross at about three o’clock in the afternoon on either Thursday or Friday. Scholarship is divided here. Friday has become the traditionally accepted day of Christ’s death on the cross, but personally, I am convinced it was Thursday. Either way, Jesus rose on Sunday, the first day of the week. It was this time of year almost 2000 years ago, on the first day of the week that Jesus, the Son of God rose from the grave and appeared alive again to witnesses. Their testimony about Jesus, the risen, living, reigning Christ, has changed the world. We can read that testimony in the pages of scripture: Jesus Christ prophesied in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the New Testament.
This morning I invite you to consider not just the last words of Jesus on the Cross, but also the first words of Jesus after his resurrection. Our text will be John 20:1-16. I hope you have your Bibles handy and will follow along. We will also do a little comparison with Matthew, Mark and Luke’s account as we focus on what John tells us. Certainly there is a great message for us all from the first words of the risen Christ. Read with me John’s testimony of the resurrection and what Jesus said.
John tells us in personal detail how Mary Magdalene was the first witness to the resurrected Christ. Unlike Matt. Mk. and Luke, he doesn’t mention any other women, though the apostles agree that Mary Magdalene was either first or among the first to see Jesus alive again. John tells us that this is actually Mary’s SECOND trip to the empty tomb this resurrection morning. The first time she saw the empty tomb she was distraught and ran to tell Peter and John (the apostle that Jesus loved) that Jesus’ body was gone!
John tells us that Peter and John ran to see the empty tomb. John got their first and looked in, but didn’t go in. Peter arrived and burst into the tomb to see what was going on. Then John enters with him. They see the grave cloths laying there. They see the face cloth folded up and lying by itself. (Guys, take a hint, Jesus folded his clothes). John says that they still did not understand from the scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead, verse 9. John saw and believed... but this belief may have come after he put all the pieces together. So there they are. Mary arrives with them. Peter and John go home leaving Mary to weep alone.
What’s going on with John’s gospel here??? I think John is making a point that the other gospels are not concerned with. Hang on to that and we’ll get back to it.
Mary is standing outside the empty tomb of her Lord, grief pouring from her soul in tears. What has happened to the body of her beloved Savior? Who could have done this terrible deed?
As she weeps, she stoops down to look into the tomb again. This time, it is not empty! This time, there are two angels! One is at the place of Jesus head and the other is at the place of his feet! Some scholars have observed that this seems to imagine the Ark of the Covenant where the two Seraphim on the lid of the Ark face one another and between them is the Mercy Seat where God Himself spoke with Moses and where the atoning blood was sprinkled to cleanse Israel from sin.