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Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Sweeping Message Of The Last Seven Sayings Of Jesus From The Cross

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Hebrews 12:2-3 "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Introduction: The Seven Sayings of Jesus

Today's post features the seven statements that Jesus uttered from the cross during His six hours of crucifixion. First, let's consider all seven sayings in their chronological order:

1. “But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.” Lk 23:34 

2. “And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Lk 23:43 

3. “When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” Jn 19:26-27

4. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mt 27:46. Compare Mk 15:34. 

5. “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” John 19:28 

6. “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” John 19:30 

7. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last.” Luke 23:46 

Considering the whole message of the seven-sayings of Jesus from the cross.

These "sayings" occupy a total message that is strung together like seven perfect pearls. Writers have noted the pattern and have found meditating upon these sayings a valuable exercise for the Christian's faith and spiritual vitality. The great 19th century Baptist preacher C.H Spurgeon has deemed the seven sayings as follows:

1. The First Word (Forgiveness)
2. The Second Word (Salvation)
3. The Third Word (Affection)
4. The Fourth Word (Anguish)
5. The Fifth Word (Suffering)
6. The Sixth Word (Victory)
7. The Seventh Word (Contentment)

As Spurgeon comments in his book on the seven sayings - "Christ's Words From The Cross": 

"There are many other ways in which these words might be read, and they would be found to be full of instruction. Like the steps of a ladder or the links of a golden chain, there is a mutual dependence and interlinking of each of the cries, so that one leads to another and that to a third. Separately or in connection, our Master's words overflow with instruction to thoughtful minds."

To give one more example of how various authors have considered these seven sayings of Jesus as a collection, Andrew W. Blackwood notes in his book - "The Voice From The Cross", the following headings for each saying:

1. The Prayer of Forgiveness
2. The Promise Of Life
3. The Word of Kindness
4. The Cry Of Derelection
5. The Call For Help
6. The Shout Of Triumph
7. The Prayer of Trust

Here again, we see the sayings portrayed as a shimmering string of pearls. 

How we can understand these seven sayings in light of considering the major themes of the four Gospels. 

In look at these sayings and considering what various authors have written about them, one must take into mind the intentions of each of the Gospel authors. Sayings #1, #2 and #7 derive from Luke's Gospel, which aimed to show Jesus as the perfect Son of Man (see Luke 19:10). Sayings #3, #5 and #6 derive from John's Gospel, whose aim is to present Jesus Christ as God in Human flesh or the Perfect Son of God (see John 1:14; 20:30-31). Then there is that middle saying, saying #4, which is found in Matthew and Mark's Gospels. 

Matthew present Jesus Christ as the royal King coming to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:23; 20:28; 28:18-20). Mark presents Jesus as the suffering servant willing to give His life a ransom for many (see Mark 10:45). 
Such considerations of the Four Gospel writers can aid us in understanding how these seven sayings incorporate a full-orbed view of Jesus Christ as the King, Suffering Servant, Perfect Son of Man and God in human flesh.

Final thoughts and reflections on the seven sayings of Jesus

When we look at the sayings together, there is undoubtedly a plot-line and symmetry. The plot-line proceeds from Jesus crying out as the propitiatory sacrifice in saying #1 (i.e satisfying or staying God's wrath on sinners) to having full confidence that His offering for sins is fully accepted in saying #7 as the atonement for sins. The others sayings touch upon pieces of human experience (loneliness in saying #3; forsakeness in saying #4 and thirst in saying #5). 

These particular sayings remind us that Jesus was truly man and was indeed fulfilling the prophetic picture of the suffering Messiah in Isaiah 53. This was no supposed suffering. Rather, this was a genuine suffering by the Person of the Son in true humanity. Sayings #2 and #6 reminds us of Christ's Divine authority. The whole Person of Christ was on the cross. It was His humanity that had the nails and lashes of the whip driven in and brutally applied. In His Deity, the inestimable value of the atonement was paid. The totality of all that Jesus did is carried forth on these seven sayings. 

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