Ethics & Religion
September 3, 2020
The Seven Last Words
By Mike McManus
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
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
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
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
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."
To Jesus, the human being, life seemed to be over. "It is
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, President of Marriage Savers and
a syndicated columnist. To read past columns, go to
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