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Jesus’ Last Words
On Good Friday each year we take some time to meditate on the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice for us in suffering a humiliating, bloody death by crucifixion. It’s a time to dwell on what Jesus suffered for us, in all its pain and intensity, without rushing straight ahead to the good news of Easter, resurrection, and new life.
One of the ways Christians have traditionally meditated on Good Friday is by reading and reflecting on the seven last sayings of Jesus from the cross. Our Good Friday service at Mars Hill Church this year is based on this idea. I developed the following sermon material to help our lead pastors teach on the final saying of Jesus from the cross. We decided to offer it here in case it is helpful for other pastors preparing to preach on Good Friday. From Luke 23:44–46:
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
This passage is a moving account of Jesus’ dying words. When everything was said and done, Jesus’ work on the cross was all but complete, and his proclamation “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” finished the work. The significance of Jesus’ statement lies in a conversation he had with religious leaders about his role in God’s great plan.
John 10:14–18 records this conversation:
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I make take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.
No one truly took Jesus’ life from him. God had given him a specific task. That task was to lay down his life on behalf of the world (v. 18).
Just as it was Jesus’ God-given task, it was also Jesus’ choice to lay down his life.
The Gravity of the Task
When we read of Jesus before his crucifixion, the gravity of this choice becomes even more apparent. In Luke 22:39–44 Jesus spends an intense evening in prayer, wrestling with the reality of the task ahead of him. Going so far as to ask God to remove the task, to make another way, Jesus ultimately concludes that God’s will would be done.
Thus, when Jesus finally declares in Luke 23:46, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Jesus is voluntarily laying down his life. No one took it from him—in fact, when the soldiers came by to make sure the men on the crosses would die quickly, it was obvious to them that Jesus was dead already.
Jesus faced the incredible task to lay down his life as a ransom for the world.
This task was traumatic and overwhelming, yet Jesus went to it willingly. After hanging on the cross for three hours, Jesus finally gave up his own life. He was not helpless at the hands of those who crucified him—he alone had the authority to die. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says, “The Son of Man came . . . to give his life as a ransom for many.” The crucifixion was Jesus’ plan and it was the plan from before creation—he’s the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.
Acknowledge the Sacrifice
But Jesus’ death is still death. It is still an abomination. Jesus submitted, but this doesn’t mean everything was OK. The author of life was murdered by evil men. But Jesus yielded to the evil and injustice because he knew who was really in charge.
The story doesn't end here; there is the hope we celebrate at Easter. But for now, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the suffering sacrifice of our Savior. You can give thanks to Jesus for his steadfast love and faithfulness that led him to lay down his life for you as a ransom.