Author: Ron Graham
Seven Utterances on the Cross
—Three about others; four about himself
The Seven Utterances of Jesus, while he was dying on the cross, have been a subject of meditation for all Christians. The first three utterances that Jesus made were about others. The last four utterances were about himself.
1 “Father forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing” (Luke 23.34).
In this utterance, we see the purpose of Jesus. A terrible cruelty and injustice is being done to him, but he is more concerned for the souls of those doing it than he is for his own body.
His suffering and bloodshed were making forgiveness of sins possible for the world. It was to fulfill this compassionate purpose that he submitted himself to the cruel death. As he said on his encounter with Zacchaeus, "the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:9-10). That was his purpose.
2 “Today you shall be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
In this utterance, we see the hope of Jesus. He believed in a better place beyond this world, not only for himself but also for sinners who believed in him and his righteousness.
The place that Jesus called “Paradise” may not be heaven itself, but it is certainly a safe place along the way. The sure hope of the righteous Lord, and of those made righteous by him, is that death does not separate the righteous from God (Romans 8:37-39).
3 “Behold your son! Behold your mother!” (John 19:26,27).
In this utterance we see the love of Jesus. In his love for the whole world, he did not forget his special love for his mother and the disciple into whose care he gave her.
As John himself tells us, "Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (John 13:1). We can have confidence in his demonstrated love, and say with Paul, "He loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
4 “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
In this utterance we see the faith of Jesus. Many teach that Jesus felt abandoned by God, and some even say that he was. However, I think we quite misunderstand this utterance if we think it expresses despair.
It is a direct quote from the beginning of the 22nd Psalm. This is a Messianic psalm. The religious leaders quoted this psalm against Jesus: "Let God rescue him if he delights in him" (Psalms 22:7-8, Matthew 27:41-43).
The Psalm contradicts the idea that God turned away from Jesus: "For God has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, nor has he hidden his face from him, but when he cried to him for help, God heard" (Psalms 22:24).
Although uttering only the anguished first words of the Psalm, Jesus was drawing upon the spirit of the whole Psalm: "In you our fathers trusted; they trusted and you delivered them; to you they cried out and were delivered; in you they trusted and were not disappointed" (Psalms 22:4-5).
5 “I am thirsty” (John 19:28).
In this utterance we see the suffering of Jesus. If we think that the Son of God was perhaps exercising some power by which he could avoid enduring the pain, we know we are mistaken.
Jesus complains of feeling one of the agonies of crucifixion —a terrible thirst: "My strength is dried up like a broken clay pot, and my tongue sticks to my jaws" (Psalms 22:15).
It is part of the Christian belief that we have our "salvation through sufferings" which Jesus endured to bring many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10).
6 “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
In this utterance we see the satisfaction of Jesus. The question of what Jesus meant by "it" is a cause for much discussion. It is natural to take it that he meant the ordeal of crucifixion was finished.
It is also natural to suppose he meant his whole journey through earthly life, from birth to death, was finished. What we do know for certain, is that Jesus is both "the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2), and what he started he saw through to the very end.
7 “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
In this utterance we see the submission of Jesus. Jesus "humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8).
Now with one last cry, he yields up his spirit to his Father, bows his head, breathes his last, and dies —in total submission he has committed himself body and spirit to God. Such surrender! Is it too much for him to ask that we surrender ourselves wholly to him?