The Seventh Word of the Cross

At this point, it was about noon, and a darkness fell over the whole region. The darkness persisted until about three in the afternoon, and at some point during this darkness, the curtain in the temple was torn in two.

Jesus (shouting out loudly): Father, I entrust My spirit into Your hands!

And with those words, He exhaled—and breathed no more.

The Centurion—one of the soldiers who performed the execution—saw all this, and he praised God.

Centurion: No doubt, this man must have been innocent.~Luke 34:44-47-The Voice

The words from the cross reveal to us of who this man/God is. We stood at the foot of the cross and heard Jesus extend forgiveness to his oppressors, promise salvation to a condemned man, express care for his loved ones, cry in anguish over his feelings of God-forsakenness, croak out thirsty complaint, shout victory and and now loudly proclaim his trust.

After all that Jesus suffered, physically and mentally, on the cross he was confident that he was in the care of God. The man who cried out “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me!” would shortly thereafter, with confidence say, “Father, I entrust my life into your hands” and die in peace. The one who was stretched out, broken on a cross, had not broken down. He had been severly beaten, but he was not beat. His last words betray nothing but confidence that his Heavenly Father would care for him.

It was this confidence in God’s care and sovereign plan which set his face like a flint toward Jerusalem. It is this confidence that carried him through the whole ordeal. When he died, he did not die in a state of despair and despondency. He didn’t feel for a moment that he had somehow miscalculated and that all this was in vain.

He died confident that the cross, somehow in the wisdom of God, would reconcile the world to Himself.

Jesus’ total trust in the Father exceeds the trust in God that we are capable of, but there is something instructive here for us. Despite all physical evidence to the contrary, the cross was God’s victory. The cross is how they killed failed messiahs, but this symbol of failure would become a sign of God’s ultimate victory over sin and the powers that bind humanity. Any onlooker would see total failure and tragedy in this death, but this death began to make new life possible. If we were there when they crucified him we would have maybe balked, jeered, cried, despaired but Jesus suffered it and he trusted.

All of us who have walked the way of the cross, and have entered into the pain and suffering of others know, that if we trust the physical evidence around us, it does not always seem that God is winning. The addict who ‘cleans up’ and resolves to surrender her life sells all his belongings buy drugs the next week. The mother who is picking up the pieces of a broken life, lets an abusive spouse return home for another round of destruction. We look and we cry, “How Long O Lord?”

Jesus suffers and dies with the weight of human sinfulness upon him and dies with trust on his lips.

Lord give us your confidence, that despite appearances, you are the victory and we can trust your good work in even the most horrifying of circumstances. Lead us into what it means for us to trust our lives into your hands.

The Sixth Word from the Cross

When Jesus drank, He spoke:

Jesus:It is Finished!

In that moment, His head fell; and He gave up the spirit. (John 19:30, the Voice)

Not a death whine,
or pensive reflections on a life well lived,
Not words of resignation and defeat.
No, these words declare victory.
Triumphantly these words shout:
All is accomplished!

On the cross, sin was defeated,
demonic strongholds were destroyed.
Our vain attempts to be our own God,
revealed for what they are.
On the cross Jesus recapitulated humanity–
the new Adam being and
doing what the old Adam could not.
The hopes of Israel
bound to the cross,
nailed there with Him.
Israel reconstituted in Christ,
he fulfilled law and prophets.
On the cross we were bought,
redeemed, reconciled to God,
the power of sin is broken in our lives.
Because of the cross, we are free.
Free indeed!

It is finished.

It is finished.

It is finished!

Finished but not done. . .

The Fifth Word from the Cross

Jesus knew that His work had been accomplished, and the Hebrew Scriptures were being fulfilled.

Jesus:I am thirsty

A jar of sour wine [vinegar] had been left there, so they took a hyssop branch with a sponge soaked in the vinegar and put it to his mouth (John 19:28-29)

If one of the sayings of Jesus on the cross sounds out of place in my ears, this is it. The stress of his coming passion had him sweating blood in the Garden. Then Jesus was arrested, beaten, mocked, flogged and crucified. Crucifixion itself was a long, slow death by blood loss and asphyxiation. The pain was unbearable (the word ‘excruciating’ was coined to describe the pain of the cross).

But the only complaint we hear from Christ through the whole ordeal is, “I am thirsty.” This is underwhelming. I know, these words tell us about Christ’s suffering and his identification with us in our humanity, but of all the suffering that he felt, why emphasize this? Why thirst?

Jesus was thirsty; hours of blood loss will do that to you. But there is more for us to consider. These words come to us in John’s gospel, where ‘thirst’ is a major literary motif. In Jesus’ first sign he turned water to wine (John 2). When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, he said, “You do not know the gift of God or who is asking you for a drink of this water from Jacob’s well. Because if you did, you would have asked Him for something greater; and He would have given you the living water (John 4:10).” To the crowds clamoring for a sign, Jesus said, “I am the bread that gives life. If you come to my table you will never go hungry. Believe in me you will never be thirsty.” And to the people of Jerusalem he had said, “If any of you is thirsty, come to Me and drink. If you believe in Me, the Hebrew Scriptures say that rivers of living water will flow from within you”  (John 7:37b-8).

Jesus had promised to slake the thirst of all who came to him, to satisfy them and give them living water. Had living waters failed him? The Father had not let the cup pass from Jesus and he drank it in full but his thirst was not quenched.

It was when he knew the work was accomplished he said “I am thirsty.” He had suffered what needed suffering. He was moments before death and he knew that the Hebrew Scriptures, the hope of Israel were being fulfilled and so he expressed his thirst. Psalm 69:21 says, “they gave me vinegar for my thirst.” Vinegar is little help, but it is even lousier thirst quencher when you consider that Christ’s thirst was more than the physical discomfort of a dying man. He knew the work was done, and was thirsty for the fruits of his labor. He thirsted for you and for me to find our life and sustenance in God.

Stanley Hauerwas writes, “The work of the Son, the thirst of the Son through the Spirit, is nothing less than the Father’s thirst for us. God desires us to desire God. (Cross-Shattered Christ, 77). And so behold, the crucified one–our thirsty God who has accomplished the salvation of his people and desires, longs, thirsts for us to find our way home.