The Cross: It’s Words
Thesis: Every person can take a more balanced view of their life by understanding the last phrases of Jesus.
In his book, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, Max Lucado tells the story of his dad discovering he had Lou Gehrig’s disease. Dad always wanted to be buried under an oak tree. One of the first things he did was to special order an oak tree from the local nursery. Oak trees are not common in the oil fields of Texas, so it was something special. That just the first of many things to get prepared.
He made sure that his will and his insurance were all up to date and accurate. He also made sure that everything in his house was ready for his spouse after he was gone. He purchased stock to be given to his grandchildren after he was gone.
Each of these actions gives us a glimpse into this man’s life. They let us see the things that are important to him. They give us a view of the kind of person he was. As we look at Jesus in these days approaching Easter I want to look at the words and actions of Jesus, and I know we will go away with a better understanding of that man.
Today I want to take a look at some of the last phrases uttered by Jesus as he hung on the cross. There are more than I had time to cover today, so I will just pick out a few. As we examine these phrases and the meaning behind them, we will be able to better understand who Jesus was and why he would want to have a relationship with you or me.
Phrases I. Father forgive. Luke 23:34
A. The scene here is an ugly one. The people are throwing insults at Jesus, which are intended to hurt. In v. 35 they yell, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One." These were things which were intended to hurt, and for me it hurts to see these people throwing insults at the man who is giving up his life to save others. It makes me want to yell back at them, don’t you see what this man is doing. You need to shut your mouths. I can’t be there so I just hear the insults. The people, the rulers, and the soldiers, all hurled insults at Jesus. These were words that were intended to hurt.
B. When I look at what happened there, I have to compare it with people who kill people for no reason. One of the most difficult things about the World Trade Center attacks was that it was a military attack on non-military targets. There were innocent people going to work in those buildings. They were not people who were plotting to overthrow a country. Innocent people were killed for no apparent reason.
C. The same thing is happening to Jesus, but his response is not of this world, because Jesus says, "Father, forgive them.” While everything points to Jesus being justified at a shot at revenge, he instead demonstrates love. It really makes my wounds seem pretty insignificant.
Phrase II. They don’t know. Luke 23:34
A. When Bernard Hugo Goetz gunned down three muggers in a New York sub-way he became an instant hero. Confusing to many was the trial of this man. There were thousands of dollars raised for his defense at the trial. He was a hero, because he had done what everyone else was afraid to do. He kicked the bully in the shins and lived to tell about it.
B. It seems to me that revenge is build to a large extent on our anger. Mr. Goetz probably had a lot of things, which had come together in his life which lead to him being able to react in this way and become a hero. Look at your life. You get up in the morning late because your alarm did not go off. You toast burns and the coffee is not ready when you leave. You get behind some slow drivers on the way to work. When you finally get to work your boss chews you out for being late. This is just in the first two hours of your day. You are in a prime position to get revenge.
C. Now lets look at it from Jesus’ perspective. Jesus says, “they do not know what they are doing." Jesus did not look at these people as the bad guys, but he saw them more as the victims. He saw in them confusion, not hatred. Even at a time when we see a savior who has every right in the world to take revenge, instead that is overcome by love.
Phrase III. Paradise. Luke 23:43
A. In the last segment of what we read today, Jesus is still hanging on the cross when he is asked by one of the criminals who is hanging with him, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Most would probably say he did not deserve what he was asking for. Really I don’t see that he was looking for much. He just wanted Jesus to remember him. He was not asking for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. This man was a criminal. He did not deserve to be remembered.
B. Jesus gives this man so much more than he even asked for. Jesus tells the man, “"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." This really seems extraordinary. Every other person had a chance to give Jesus some free advertising. But this man was not going to be able to give Jesus anything. The key here is that it is not about what we can give.
C. When anyone comes to Jesus it is not about what they can give to Jesus. Sure, those people may have been able to give Jesus a little free advertising, but is that the reason Jesus took the time to bring healing, or forgiveness, or food. He was giving them a free gift. It was free for the man of the cross next to him, it was free for the leper who wanted healing, and it was free for each one of us.
Phrase IV. Why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46
A. This verse has always been one of the most troubling verses in Scripture for me. Maybe now that I am a parent it has become even more difficult to swallow. This for me is like my son looking at me and saying daddy help me when he is falling through the ice and rather than running to his rescue I turn my head. I realize it is much bigger than that, but this is how I feel when I see this. God was not just looking at a suffering son, he also saw a whole host of lost people in the world.
B. Here we have a glimpse of the humanness of Jesus Christ. He hurt when God turned his head from Jesus Christ. It appears that it was at this moment that the sin of the world was placed upon the shoulders of Jesus Christ. It is the image of the scapegoat. I can see in my mind the priest placing his hand upon the goat and proclaiming that the sin of the Jewish people be placed upon this goat, who is then sent into the wilderness, never to return. He has been banished. The emotion shown by Jesus was the same as that of a person who had been banished.
C. The Jesus whom we see as savior and Son of God, is also a man who hurts when loneliness hits. He is living a life of one who has been despised. It is a painful realization. It is not a statement or an emotion born out of ignorance. He knows what has to happen. We see here a man who not only saves us, but also a man who knows the pain of being rejected.
Phrase V. I thirst. John 19:28
A. This is one of those times when we see Jesus as very much a human being. He is not completely free from struggles, and issues in his life. I think there is a tendency for us to forget that Jesus was a man. We would rather think of him as a super human, who did not struggle with human frailties. But there are times when it is good for us to know that Jesus did struggle.
B. When we find Jesus at the well talking with the Samaritan woman he is there because he was tired. He wanted a break from the crowds, and the hustle. He was human. When the storm came up on the boat, Jesus was sleeping. But, he was not just sleeping, but he was sleeping sound. This was a storm that everyone thought was going to do them in. But Jesus was sound asleep. We also see a picture of the human Jesus when he drives the moneychangers out of the Temple. This was a Jesus who got mad. He was human.
C. Now on the cross we see a Jesus who is physically thirsty. He may have been the perfect man, but he still got thirsty. There are times in our life when it does us good to know that Jesus needed a drink. He was thirsty.
Phrase VI. It is finished. John 19:30
A. It is easy for us to look at this last phrase of Jesus as a cry of defeat. He is hanging on a cross. He has reached the end of his earthly life. It appears that he has come to a point of defeat. Maybe not all of you are a pessimist. Maybe some are here are able to see another side of the picture. Max Lucado in his book No Wonder They Call Him Savior helped me to see this phrase as a shout of accomplishment. It is like he is saying, there were times when I wanted to quit, but I pressed on, and I completed what I cam e to do. Now, I can celebrate what has happened. So, I hope you can see it was not a cry of defeat, but it was a shout of triumph.
B. So many times over the last few weeks I have seen athlete at the Olympics look up from their events and punch their fist into the air. It is not a sign of defeat, but rather it is an indication of their accomplishment. They are celebrating, and maybe while no one was looking Jesus punched his fist into the air in celebration of his accomplishment.
C. This final phrase of Jesus is a shout of pleasure and accomplishment. No doubt those who were present interpreted it as defeat, but as we look back and know what happened over the next few days, we can say it had to be a cry of victory, no matter how weak it might have sounded.
From this study of the last phrases of Jesus Christ I see a man. I think we tend to elevate Jesus to the position of being God in the flesh and we fail to see him as a man as well. In these last phrases I see both God in the flesh, and a human being. He is one who identifies with us no matter what.