The Seven Last Sayings of Christ on the Cross

The last things a person speaks before he dies are usually very important things that they want to convey. There are seven last sayings of Christ while He was on the cross. We will examine these sayings in order:

1) “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Who was Jesus forgiving because of their ignorance? This first saying is directed to the soldiers guarding Him as they divided His clothing among themselves. John writes that the four soldiers guarding Him cast lots for his clothing in fulfillment of another prophecy (John 19:23-24; Psalm 22:8). Most pictures of Christ on the cross usually show an undergarment over his loins, but in reality crucified criminals were usually hung naked for reason of humiliation and to dissuade others from criminal paths. It seems that as soon as the cross had settled into its socket, the chief priest and elders mocked Him. He did not retaliate or curse or wail. In the midst of His pain, He did the opposite. Amazingly, He forgave the soldiers, even as they were casting lots for His clothing. It was not their business to question their leaders. They were given a job to do, and they were doing it in ignorance of Christ’s identity. They did not see the enormity of what they had just done, i.e. that God was the One being crucified. There was also His critics and enemies that were gathered around His cross, breathing out their curses and scorn against Him.

39Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Matthew 27:39-43).

Again, this was something that God had foretold through the prophet, king David. The Lord had shown David that one of his descendants, the One who would one day become king and heir of all things, would be despised and scorned by men. This is evidence to us of the genuineness of the Holy Scriptures, that these things were foretold hundreds of years before they happened so that, when it did happen, we might realize the truth of the Scriptures and place our faith in God and in His Messiah, Jesus. Here’s David’s prophecy as it relates to those who scorned Christ while He suffered:

7All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8“He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” 12Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. 16Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet (Psalm 22:7-8; 12-13; 16).

Just because Jesus prayed for His Father to forgive the soldiers and those who were in ignorance, does not mean that they would be forgiven without repentance and faith in God. Forgiveness was the very reason Christ was dying. What this passage shows is that God is willing to forgive those who have sinned against Him, but this forgiveness is only received when one repents (changes their mind and direction towards God), and believes in the good news of the substitutionary blood covenant that was made for us and as us by Christ.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 63 at this link, The Crucifixion of Christ (Luke 23:26-49). Keith Thomas

The Crucifixion of Christ

We are continuing our meditation on the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation). When they reached Calvary, Simon from Cyrene, the one forced to help, threw down the crossbeam. Matthew tells us that they offered Jesus wine mixed with gall. Mark wrote that the bitter substance also had myrrh, but when He tasted it, He refused it and spat it out (Mark 15:23). This substance mixed into the wine was both nauseous and narcotic, i.e. a sedative to enable the soldiers to hold His arms down for Him to be nailed more easily. He wanted nothing that would dull His senses at that crucial time. When He refused the mild narcotic, they pierced His hands and feet. He would “taste death” for every man (Hebrews 2:9). He would not fight those trying to nail His hands and feet, He willingly laid His hands down. This was prophesied by King David nearly 1000 years previously in the Jewish Scriptures:

19You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies are before you. 20Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none. 21They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst (Psalm 69:19-21).

King David foresaw this drama prophetically approximately 1000 years previously when he wrote Psalm 22. Some believe that Christ spoke the whole psalm while on the cross. We know that Jesus recited part of it. Psalm 22 speaks so clearly of the Son of David, starting with words that Jesus spoke on the cross:

1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?…  6But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. 7All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 8“He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”… 12Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. 14I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. 15My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. 16Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. 17I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. 18They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing (Psalm 22:1, 6-8, 12-18).

When I have spoken to Jewish people about this prophecy in the Scriptures, they find it hard to believe that it is written in the Jewish Tenakh, what we call the Old Testament.

The Apostle John wrote that Thomas would not believe unless he saw the nail prints in Christ’s hands (John 20:25). This tells us that Christ was not lashed there as some had been. The spikes were driven through His wrists into the cross beam. The whole weight of His body was painfully hanging from his wrists. If the palms had received spikes, the flesh would have torn with the weight of his body. The cross was then lifted and dropped into a socket in the ground causing many of His bones to go out of joint, just as Psalm 22:14 had prophesied. More than likely, a single nail was driven through both feet, through the Achilles’ tendons. From that point, every breath was difficult. A titulus, or small sign, stating the victim’s crime was nailed to the cross above the head. It was a costly thing for God to buy your redemption. Thank God for Jesus!

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 63 at this link, The Crucifixion of Christ (Luke 23:26-49). Keith Thomas

The Humiliation and Scourging of Jesus

We are continuing our meditation of the hours that led up to the crucifixion of Christ—what He willingly endured for our sakes (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation). It was the governor’s custom at the Feast of Passover to release a criminal. Pilate assumed that, if he gave the people a choice between Jesus and Barabbas, a man found guilty of insurrection and murder, then they would choose Jesus. He was wrong. The chief priests and the elders went through the crowd and persuaded them to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus crucified (Matthew 27:20). It is normal to trust our spiritual leaders, so the people followed their dictates.

I can only imagine the horror of the disciples and His mother, Mary, in the crowd that morning as the religious leadership was going among them, telling them to shout for Barabbas rather than Jesus. They surely screamed at the top of their voices, hoping for the name of Jesus to rise above the shouts of Barabbas, but it was the name Barabbas that was heard the loudest from the mob.

It is interesting to note that Jesus was never declared guilty by Pontius Pilate. The Lord was delivered over to them with Pilate’s washing his hands of the affair, thinking that he could absolve himself before God of his responsibility. After the release of Barabbas, Pilate had Jesus scourged. Luke does not comment about the scourging, so to get a full picture of the beatings and humiliation, we draw our information from the other Gospels. In his book, The Day Christ Died, author Jim Bishop has this to say about scourging;

Roman scourging was called the “halfway death” because it was supposed to stop this side of death. It was not administered in addition to another punishment. The two “thieves” who would die on this day were not scourged. And the Jewish law—Mithah Arikhta—forbade any manner of prolonged death for condemned criminals, and exempted any who were to die from the shame of being scourged.” The Roman lictor used a circular piece of wood, to which were attached several strips of leather. At the end of each strip, he sewed a chunk of bone or a small piece of iron chain. This instrument was called a flagellum.[1]

The flagellum had anywhere from three to nine strips of leather. Shards of glass, broken pottery, bone splinters or nails, and other metal items were attached to the end of each strip. Most victims of scourging were stripped naked and beaten by one or possibly two soldiers as the victim was tied to a post with his back towards the Roman soldiers. The flagellum would have torn chunks of flesh off his back, laying it open. It was common for the wounds to cut deep into the kidneys. Some victims died from extreme shock.

Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” did not exaggerate the horror of what it was like to be scourged. When the scourging was finished, the Roman cohort of 480 to 600 soldiers that were garrisoned there had their opportunity to “make sport” of Him. Matthew tells us, “The governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him” (Matthew 27:27).

For the second time, we read about Jesus being struck again and again in the face. The first time was in the courtyard outside Caiaphas’ house (Matthew 26:67); the second time was in the Praetorium with the whole company of soldiers. They spat in His face and hit Him repeatedly on the head with a staff (Matthew 27:30), taking turns, also, to hit Him with their fists (John 19:3). Jesus was greatly weakened by the blood loss from the scourging and beating. He is further humiliated by a crown of thorns being jabbed into his head, causing further blood loss. It is such great love that is displayed by the Lord Jesus Christ, that He would endure all this knowing that this act of substitutionary death, would buy each of us back from Satan’s grip of sin.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 63 at this link, The Crucifixion of Christ (Luke 23:26-49). Keith Thomas

[1] Jim Bishop, The Day Christ Died. Published by Harper SanFrancisco, Page 232.

Barabbas Prepares for Crucifixion

None can say that it was the Jewish nation that murdered Jesus; it was all of us, i.e. our sins that took Jesus to the cross. Jesus could have stopped it at any time and called ten legions of angels to His aid (Matthew 26:53). He willingly went to the cross for all of us to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). We all need a substitute to take our place. It took more than a man, though, to pay the price for our sins. Only the sacrifice of God Himself could pay the price for us to be bought out of the slave market of sin where we were trapped. Christ is God in the flesh, and He alone paid the price to free us from sin.

20But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 21“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. 22“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” 23“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” 24When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” 25All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” 26Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified (Matthew 27:15-26).

Inside the Praetorium, the official residence of Pilate, a man was awaiting crucifixion. Perhaps, he was reflecting over the many sins that he had committed over his lifetime. It was Friday morning, the day of preparation where the Passover lambs would be killed that day. He mulled over his approaching death and the fact that the soldiers would be coming for him at any time that morning. I am sure he had seen people being crucified before and was aware of the painful death that awaited him. Perhaps, he tried to prepare himself for it by praying, but God seemed a long way off to him. He was scared. What would death be like? He had lived a sinful life and had lived in hatred of the Romans for many years. He had been tried as an insurrectionist and for an act of murder, and he was found guilty on both counts. Now, all he could do was await his fate.

His name was Barabbas. In just a few hours, he would be dead by crucifixion, and he was sure that, if there were a hell, he would go there, for he had no hope. What would God do with him? Would he spend eternity in hell because of the murder and rebellion that he had committed? He had heard a commotion in the streets outside his jail cell, but he could see nothing. He knew that something was happening, but he had no idea of just what was going on. All he knew was that he was scheduled to be crucified that morning with two others.

Jewish tradition held that it was defiling for a Jew to be in a building that was not Jewish, so the Praetorium courtyard was used for the place of judgment so that the Jews would not be ritually defiled before the Passover. Barabbas trembled when he heard quite distinctly a multitude of people shouting from the direction of the large courtyard, “Barabbas, Barabbas!” He puzzled over why they would be loudly calling his name. Straining his ears to hear something further, his heart sank when he heard the words, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Ten minutes later, he saw the Roman jailer coming down the corridor with the keys in his hands. His heart skipped a beat. It was time to die. Instead of being crucified, though, the soldier angrily set him free. He found out that another had taken his place.

The Roman jailer came into his cell and unlocked the chains that bound him and, I’m sure, angrily told Barabbas that he was free to leave. Imagine the relief that must have flooded Barabbas’ heart to hear that Jesus would die in his place. Talk about good news! However, this is the reality that Barabbas faced that morning as he watched Christ carry the cross that was made for him. This is the story of a substitute that came to die for Barabbas and for you and me, also. Isn’t it time that you received this gift of eternal life that Christ has bought for you on the cross?

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 62 at this link, Jesus Before Pilate and Herod (Luke 23:1-25). Keith Thomas

What Was the Cup That Jesus Had to Drink?

We are meditating on what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before Jesus was crucified. God gave Jesus a cup with which to drink, so the question we wish to answer is, what did the cup represent? Here’s what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane:

38Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:38-39).

There are two things that were seen as a cup that Jesus had to drink to the dregs there in the garden. The first is that the cup was a picture of the wrath of God that was deserved by you and me:

Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger (Isaiah 51:17; read also Jeremiah 25:15-17).

We deserved spiritual death because of the sins and choices that we have made in our lives. In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam that when you eat of the fruit on the tree of knowledge of good and evil you would surely die. Adam did not die physically the day he ate, but spiritually he and everyone else born into the world, was separated from God and a barrier between God and man existed (Isaiah 59:2), a condition of death in the eyes of God. The prophet Ezekiel spoke about this punishment on sin, when he said, “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). Sin had to be judged or God would be accused of injustice. The punishment of sin must be maintained, God cannot just overlook sin and justice. For God to be love and just, the God of love came to pay the punishment in order that we may be freed from the penalty of sin.  Matthew tells us of the one prayer that the Father denied Jesus, “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Matthew 26:39). Christ would have to endure the full punishment of separation from God on the cross: “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew27:46).

This God that we love and serve has made no other way of escape other than that His Beloved Son should go through this time of humiliation, pulling at His beard, spitting in His face, and flaying the skin off of His back, culminating in the torturous death of being crucified. There was no other way, no other solution. He didn’t tell man to wait until Mohammed. He didn’t change His salvation plan and tell man to go and see the Buddha. There was only ONE WAY and it involved God Himself becoming the substitute. Here we see the love of God revealed. God planned Operation Redemption. He Himself would pay the substitution ransom, the sacrificial price. Christ would drink the cup of God’s wrath. The price is free for us but it cost God His Son! He would take man’s place. The judgment was firm and just, the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4), but Jesus, God’s Son, would take our place, the just for the unjust to bring us to God.

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the love of God said “no” to Jesus. It was not possible for there to be any other way but that He should take the cup and drink God’s wrath on sin to the dregs. If there was another way, don’t you think God would have taken it rather than watch His Son tortured and murdered?

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

When we truly understand all that God has done for us, the only response is love for the One who has made our freedom and deliverance from sin possible. Self-sacrifice is the “God way”. The way of the cross is the only way to God. We will look at the second thing the cup represented tomorrow.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 60, Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53). Keith Thomas