Jesus’ Seven Last Words from the cross aren’t really words at all. They are phrases, parts of verses, extracted from the gospels of Mark, Luke, and John. First done in the 18th century by a Jesuit priest in Peru, these seven brief sentences tell the story of Jesus time on the cross. So often, we talk about the journey to the cross, we speak of carrying a cross. The Seven Last Words are an attempt to isolate (through scripture) Jesus’ experience on the cross. By sharing in these words, there are moments we will share in Jesus’ isolation, fear, and pain. We witness the reality of his execution and torture.
It is hard to sentimentalize these words. In the fourth word, Jesus asks a hard question of God. (Mark 15:34 My God, why have you forsaken me?) He says something which would make many of his own followers angry, even today. Of course, we would say, Jesus knows God hasn’t forsaken him. Jesus, you shouldn’t talk like that. Believers are supposed to be confident. After all, “we can do all things through Him who strengthens us”, right? Jesus, if you talk like this, especially on this most important “test” day of your faith, you’ll give people the wrong impression of the faith and believers. People will perceive you to be weak. T-shirt sales and concert tickets for our next testosterone themed Christian male leadership event will certainly suffer. Our corporate motto is: God answers all prayers; except Jesus’ prayers the night before he is executed by capital punishment. God doesn’t answer Jesus’ prayers from the cross. Those are also excluded. He answered the prayers of a stranded fisherman 200 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras. See! God worked a miracle on my own doorstep. This man was rescued.
God, however, didn’t answer the prayers of the his own son, the 149 people on the germanwings Airbus, or the Haitians who died when their church bus crashed in a Florida swamp last week. At this moment, on Good Friday, God is silent. At this instant, God has forsaken him. God is not coming to his rescue. In his thirst, sorrow, and suffering, the son of God is going to die. He has been forsaken. On Good Friday, God is about to die. God will die.
As you have to go through step 9 (make amends) if you want to get sober, you have to go through Good Friday if you want to get to Easter. I wish it were all sunshine, rainbows, power chords, and over priced T-shirts with screen printed verses from Paul. Luckily, Jesus figures into Christianity. And while we’re off trying to explain resuscitation to a disbelieving world; Jesus is planning something far better-resurrection. Here’s what I know about that: I can’t explain it but it’s far better than simply being not dead.