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Ethics & Religion
Column #2,038
September 3, 2020
The Seven Last Words
By Mike McManus

A powerful new book, The Hope of Glory, by Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer Prize winner, underscores the importance of the final words of Jesus on the cross. In these current turbulent times they contrast sharply with so-called "fake news" and "alternative facts," where words have lost meaning. These words of Jesus have never changed and mean what they say.

These final comments Jesus uttered, are referred to as "The Seven Last Words." They "are at once history and theology. The Passion was both an historical event that unfolded in Jerusalem and a theological event that transformed the world."

The First Word: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34

Earlier, Luke recounts Jesus' teaching: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."

Meacham writes, "Without his suffering, death and resurrection, then there would be no salvation, no new heaven, no new earth."

The Second Word: One of the two criminals who were crucified with him, said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And Jesus replied, "Assuredly, I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:42-43.

The encouraging words of Jesus remind us that one day we too may be in communion with our God.

The Third Word; John's Gospel tells us that Jesus looked down, saw his mother and the disciple, John, and said to them: "Woman, behold thy son. Behold thy mother." And we read, "From that hour, that disciple took her into his own home." John 19:25.

Here Jesus is demonstrating his love for both his mother and for his beloved disciple, John. Meacham writes, quoting the Epistle of James: we must be "doers of the word and not hearers only."

The Fourth Word: "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all of the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, and Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani" that is, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Matthew 27: 43-46.

Meacham asks a logical question "Why ask whether God had forsaken him? Why cry in pain when he must have known that resurrection lay ahead? We don't know. What we can say is this: Mark and Matthew have already told us that at Gethsemane Jesus asked that the cup be passed from him, but that the Father's will, not the Son's should be done."

Meacham asserts, "To me, this more human Jesus is a compelling figure and I suspect Mark and Matthew thought so too. By portraying him as one who would cry out in pain and in anguish they make him more accessible. More understandable, more like us.

The Fifth Word: "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scriptures might be fulfilled, saith, "I thirst." Now there was a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge of vinegar and they put it in hyssop, and put it in his mouth." John 19:28-29

Jesus thirsted and was given a bit if vinegary wine. "He suffered that we might be saved. He died that we might live." Meacham declares accurately.

The Sixth Word: "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said "It is finished." And he lowered his head and gave up his spirit." John 19:30.

Meacham asks, "What exactly was finished or accomplished? Those there at the hour of his death believed one thing. Christians now believe another."

The expected mission of the Messiah was to bring about a new day. But his followers, at the foot of the cross, only saw a badly beaten man, dying. He did not promise a new day, a resurrection. Instead, he simply said "It is finished." His followers must have thought their dreams were dead, with Jesus.

The Seventh Word: "And when Jesus cried out with a loud voice, he said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." Luke 23:49.

To Jesus, the human being, life seemed to be over. "It is finished."

However, on Sunday, he came back to life. Eleven of his apostles saw him and talked to him. Thomas, who was not present at his first appearance, was doubtful. He said that unless he can "put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Jesus appeared again to the group and said to Thomas, "Reach out your hand, and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

Thomas replied, "My Lord and my God." John 20-24-28.

Last week I reported that the number of believers is declining. They need to read the "Seven Last Words."


Copyright (c) 2020 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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