I had the blessing of being able to speak at an seven last words (sayings) of Jesus Christ service on two occasions in recent years.  My uncle invited me to speak at another one that a fellow pastor was having at her church this year, but I am unable to attend the event. So, I figured, why not share the 7 last words with all of you during this week.  Over the next three days, we’re going to break down the 7 last words (sayings) of Christ.  For both day 1 and day 2, we’re going to tackle 2 sayings a day and wrap up on the third day (Good Friday) with 3 sayings.  I am going to do my best to focus solely on what Jesus says, what it meant, and how it can apply to us on our Christian journey.

Today, we’re going to look at the first two of Jesus’ last sayings on the cross.  The first thing that Jesus said on the cross can be found in Luke 23:34.  It reads:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.

Luke 23:34 NKJV

One final lesson in praying the forgiveness of others

Every time I read this scripture I think of all that Jesus had just gone through just the evening prior.  Jesus had sat down with the 12 (11 after Iscariot left) and took part in the feast of Passover.  Prior to serving Passover, Jesus washed the disciple’s feet and taught them one last lesson on being servants to one another (John 13:1-17).  They then walked to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus would be arrested; He was “tried” overnight and it was pronounced He would be crucified that morning.  Jesus then had to carry His cross to the hill called Golgotha (Calvery) where we now see Him hanging on the cross.

I also think about what Jesus taught when He told Peter, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” when Peter was asking about forgiving someone.  Jesus taught loving one another as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39; John 15:17).  God is love – that’s what the disciple John says (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16).  To love someone you have to be able to endure (suffer) their failings, and enduring (suffering) their failings requires forgiveness.  Not to get off subject, but I don’t want there to be any confusion over what I just said – love does not harm others.

Jesus taught love and forgiveness, and what I see in the first of Jesus’ last sayings is Him living what He preached.  He was completely innocent in that He had done no wrong, but also in that Jesus knew no sin.  Jesus was innocent, lowly, and humble and there we see Him hanging on a cross to die as a criminal would.  Any other person would have been still pleading their case, shouting all kinds of profanities, and we would have been full of rage.  Yet, there’s Jesus, hanging there dying and still praying forgiveness for those that were cheering His death.

I also like to think that He was praying for forgiveness for all of mankind because all of mankind had a part in His death on the cross.  At the cross, there were both Jews and Gentiles (Romans) present.  The Jews certainly shouted for Jesus to be crucified (Luke 23:13-25), but the Romans chastised Him, placed a crown of thorns on His head, and made it so He hung on the cross.  All of mankind, not one nation is missing representation at the cross.

We have to live the life that we claim!  Do you get what I mean by that?  There are so many people who will say one thing but do another – they are called hypocrites.  We cannot say that we’re Christ-like yet not have a forgiving bone in our body!  We cannot say that we’re Christ-like yet not understand what love is.  Love has been mischaracterized over the years and I find that many don’t want to hear about true love when it comes to the love of Christ.  Frankly, that is hard for me to understand because I cannot say one thing and do something different – I wasn’t raised to be that kind of person.

In moments leading up to His death, Jesus lived exactly what He preached.  We preach Christianity, but are we willing to forgive someone, that sins against us, seventy times seven in one day?

In His second saying, we see Jesus say:

And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:43 NKJV

The forgiveness of Christ

I want you to notice that the theme of forgiveness continues in this second saying.  We recognize this saying as Jesus’ response to one of the criminals He hangs between.  One of the criminals blasphemed Jesus by saying that Jesus should save Himself if He is the Christ (Luke 23:39).  There are many people who still think that same manner today.  They say things like: “If God is real, then why aren’t you rich?”  Since we believe in God, according to them, we should be filthy rich and never have any struggles.

The other criminal could clearly hear this and so he rebuked the other’s foolishness.  Notice that it was not Christ that rebuked the man but the other criminal!  I don’t want to focus too much on what the other criminal said because we’re focusing on the final sayings of Jesus but I do want to shine a light on what he says.  This criminal says, “we indeed justly [are condemned], for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong. Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  This criminal is asking to be remembered when Christ enters into His kingdom – He wants to be where Jesus is going!  Do you want to go where Jesus went (John 14:1-6)?

For us to get to where Jesus is going we have to acknowledge who and what we are – sinners.  We must then ask for the Lord to forgive us for who we are – the criminal does this.  I also want to point out that our prayer of forgiveness, our repentance, must be genuine in our heart – only then will we truly be forgiven.  Jesus tells this criminal while hanging on the cross, “You will be with Me in Paradise”.

When you look back fully at what Jesus says here, you will see two words I want to call your attention: “assuredly” and “will”.  Jesus does not say to this man, “you might” or “maybe I will”; He gives this man an answer assured in certainty.  Jesus forgave this man’s sins without hesitating!  Have you ever noticed that?  Jesus doesn’t think it over, He simply tells this man you’re going to be with me in My kingdom.  Have you noticed that I have stopped referring to him as a criminal?  The worldly things no longer applied to this man; he is now with Christ.

I tell you that heaven is where ever Christ is, and this man is now with Christ.  You see I believe this is exactly how Christ forgives all of those that come to Him in genuine repentance.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had to jump through any hoops for my forgiveness.  Christ forgives us and in that moment, He saves us through our faith in Him!  Jesus is willing to forgive ALL who come to Him and genuinely repent.

Alright, we’re going to stop with these two sayings today.  I hope you’ll come back tomorrow as we pick up on the next two sayings in the seven last words (sayings) of Christ.