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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Betrayal, Trial, and Death of Jesus

Don Stewart :: What Was the Chronology of the Events Surrounding the Death of Christ?

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What Is the Significance of the Words Jesus Spoke While on the Cross?

The Betrayal, Trial, and Death of Jesus – Question 8

The Gospels record that during the six hours Jesus Christ was hanging on the cross He made seven different statements. These statements are of tremendous significance because they are the last words of Jesus before His death. They demonstrate that Jesus was consistent in His life, and in His message, until the very end. His words were as follows:

1. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 24:34).

This first of seven sayings of Jesus shows that He was thinking of others until the end of His life. Even while experiencing the horrible pain of crucifixion, He was praying for the very people who caused His suffering. He came to earth for the purpose of forgiving sinners and He loved them, and forgave them up until the end. It was because of humanity’s sin that He was on the cross—suffering on behalf of that sin.

2. “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Not only did Jesus forgive those who crucified Him, He also forgave one of the criminals crucified next to Him. When the criminals were put on the cross both of them cursed Jesus but, as time elapsed, one of the thieves had a change of heart. Luke records the following:

One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you are dying? We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” (Luke 23:39-42 NLT)

It was at this juncture that Jesus made His second statement from the cross promising to forgive the repentant criminal. Again we see Jesus’ concern for others. His example later led the Apostle Paul to exhort the Philippian church in the following manner:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3 NRSV)

Jesus was always concerned with the needs of others.

3. “Woman, behold your Son” (John 19:26).

As Jesus continued to suffer on the cross, His mind was still upon others. He saw His mother standing near the Apostle John and said, “Woman, behold your son.” He then looked at John and said, “Behold your mother!” By doing this, He was entrusting the care of His mother to John. The law required the firstborn son to take care of his parents, and Jesus was obeying the law of God up until the end. Early in His ministry, Jesus emphasized His respect for the law when He made the following statement recorded in the Sermon on the Mount:

Don’t suppose that I came to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to do away with them, but to give them their full meaning. (Matthew 5:17 CEV)

He honored and obeyed the law of God throughout His life and He also honored the law while suffering His death.

4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

The fourth saying of Jesus from the cross is probably the most difficult for us to understand. The sinless Son of God who had been, from all eternity, in an intimate relationship with His Father, is now spiritually separated from Him. The penalty of the sins of the world was put upon Jesus. Consequently, there was, for the first time, a separation between the Father and the Son. The Bible records something happened between them that we can only understand through the eye of faith. Paul wrote,

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. (2 Corinthians 5:19 NLT)

The Father was placing the penalty of the sins of the world upon the Son in order that everything in the universe that had been affected by sin could again be made right with God. Jesus was suffering the pain and separation that we deserve. Paul also wrote,

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NRSV)

In order for this to occur, the Father had to forsake the Son and punish Him on our behalf.

5. “I thirst” (John 19:28).

The fifth statement that Jesus made from the cross reminds us again that He suffered as a human being. The Bible says,

After this, when Jesus knew that everything had now been finished, he said, “I’m thirsty.” He said this so that Scripture could finally be concluded. (John 19:28 God’s Word)

Jesus lived as a human, and suffered as a human in order that He could identify with suffering humanity. From this statement, we observe that Jesus suffered the full physical effect of crucifixion. There was no easing up, for the weight of our sins was placed upon Him.

6. “It is finished” (John 19:30).

The sixth statement from Jesus while on the cross was a cry of victory. The Greek text reads tetelestai (“It is finished”). What was finished? As we consider the life and ministry of Jesus we can think of several things that His death made complete.

The Way of Salvation from Sin Was Now Complete

First, Jesus had to finish the task the Father had sent Him to earth to accomplish, namely to provide salvation for humankind. By living His entire life without sin, Jesus was able to become the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.

The way of salvation had now been made complete. No more animal sacrifices were necessary. They had only pointed to the ultimate sacrifice Jesus had now offered. His was the supreme sacrifice that satisfied the righteous demands of a holy God.

Jesus Fulfilled the Predictions regarding the Promised Messiah

The second thing that was accomplished by Jesus on the cross was a fulfillment of prophecy. The predicted Messiah had come as God promised He would. Prophecies of the Word of God, which are always accurate, had again come to pass. The Savior was promised. Now Christ the Savior had come. He accomplished the promised salvation.

Jesus Accomplished Victory over the Devil

A third matter that was accomplished by Jesus’ death on the cross was the victory over the devil. The Scripture says that one of the purposes for Jesus’ coming was to destroy the works of the devil. John wrote,

He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8 RSV)

The death of Christ finished that task. The dominion over the earth that humanity, through his sin, had handed over to the devil was now won back. The authority of Satan had been vanquished—the victory had been won. When Christ comes back again He will take hold of the victory that He won over the devil on Calvary’s cross.

Jesus’ Own Suffering Was Finished

A fourth and final reason that Jesus said, “It is finished” is with regard to His own suffering. Jesus spent over thirty years upon the earth living among sinful humanity, suffering from the self-imposed limitations of that existence. He had now endured the final six hours of that suffering on a cross. This was now finished. He would no longer have to suffer the limits of space and time. It was finished!

7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke :46).

This is the final statement that we have from Jesus before His death. Everything had been completed and now it was time to dismiss His spirit. Jesus had previously made the statement that He would willingly lay down His life for His sheep:

Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father. (John 10:17, 18 NKJV)

From this, we realize that Jesus had to purposely dismiss His spirit; it could not be taken from Him. Unless He desired to die, He would not have had to. Because He was a willing victim, however, He chose to die. Upon making His final statement, Jesus died.

Summary – Question 8
What Is the Significance of the Words Jesus Spoke While on the Cross?

The seven statements Jesus Christ made from the cross of Calvary have far-reaching significance for us today. They once again remind us that His death, besides being a fact of history, was much more than that. It was the supreme sacrifice that secured our salvation. His final words show us that we can have the utmost confidence in Him as our Savior.

The first statement was consistent with Jesus’ entire life—He always thought about others. He asked the Father to forgive the sin of those who crucified Him.

The second statement also shows concern for others. He told a criminal that he would be with Him in paradise.

The third statement is another example of Jesus thinking about others. He entrusted His mother to John. In doing so, Jesus obeyed the Law of Moses until the end.

The fourth statement was recognition that He was forsaken by the Father when the penalty of the sins of the world was placed upon Him. Our sins could now be forgiven because Jesus took the penalty on Himself.

The fifth statement makes us again aware of the human Jesus—He was thirsty. The pain and torment of the cross was not lessened.

The sixth statement was one of victory—Jesus’ mission had been finished! Salvation from sin had now been accomplished, the works of the devil had now been destroyed, and Jesus’ own suffering was now over.

The last statement allowed His spirit to return to the Father. Jesus willingly gave up His life.

These seven statements are an important reminder of Jesus’ Person as well as His mission. He accomplished all that He set out to do and He did it for us.

Why Was Jesus Crucified Rather than Stoned to Death? ← Prior Section
Who Was Responsible for the Death of Jesus? Next Section →
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