Seven is the number of perfection and holiness, and Christ uttered seven cries from the tree that held His body in suspension between heaven and earth.
Let's look at the seven sayings in order of their utterance and then analyze the tender compassionate heart of Christ.
We will immediately notice that even the order or progress of the seven cries is Christ like, for He begins with His enemies and ends with himself. All through His life it was others first—self last. Thus Jesus died even as He had lived.
The order is:
1. Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).
2. Today shalt thou be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).
3. Woman, behold thy son!...Behold thy mother! (John 19:26,27).
4. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46).
5. I thirst (John 19:28).
6. It is finished (John 19:30).
7. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit (Luke 23:46).
Oh, what love, what compassion, what heartache, and what suffering. It was all for us. Everyone at this point should repeat the latter part of Galatians 2:20, [Christ] loved me, and gave himself for me.
Now, let's analyze each of these statements.
The first thing: Jesus did when He got to His cross was to seek forgiveness for those who had viciously nailed Him to it. He was beginning His ministry of intercession for His enemies by virtue of His blood—already freely flowing from His veins.
This cry was not being made for His admirers and devotees, but for the rabble-rousers who had mercilessly mangled and mutilated His flesh. It was for the brutes who had used the Roman cat-o-nine-tails and shredded the skin of His chest, arms, and back. It was for the villains who had barbarously battered His face with sticks and fists and yanked His beard out by the roots (see Isaiah 50:6).
The sinners who had spit in His face ridiculing, vilifying, and disqualifying Him as the Saviour of the world were also part of His intercessory cry. Even the soldiers who had nailed His hands and feet to the tree and who dropped the cross into a hole with such vehemence and hatred that it dislocated His bones (see Psalm 22:14) were recipients of His tender supplications to His Father.
Oh, dear friend, God is love and He longs to save you, regardless of the way you have treated Him. Christ died as He had lived. Do you remember His teachings contained in the Sermon on the Mount?
Matthew 5:44-48: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Is it possible to manifest love toward those who hate us? After all, Christ was God in human flesh and thereby different from the rest of us. Oh, but He also was tested in all points as we are and was without sin (see Hebrews 4:15).
In order to prove that it is possible to love others who hate us, we turn our minds to the first Christian martyr, Stephen. In Acts 7, we find this spiritual giant preaching one of the strongest messages ever recorded. The ungodly worldlings couldn't take this bombardment of truth and reacted violently. Verse 54: When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. This means that they gritted their teeth and hurled every profane, immoral oath imaginable into his face.
It didn't bother this saint in the least for he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God (verses 55,56). This raised the anger of the crowd to an unusual pitch for then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him (verses 57,58).
Now get the picture—don't miss it—because here we find the real evidence of the Holy Spirit in a human's life. Notice it is not in words but in actions. The great sign is not speaking in supernatural languages but love for one's enemies, who in Stephen's case, crushed his skull with rocks. Notice verse 55: He, being full of the Holy Ghost. The result: And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep [or he died] (verse 60). This is the evidence of the Holy Spirit's operation in a life that a sin-riddled, hateful world wants to observe.
The second expression. Today shalt thou be with me in paradise, is closely aligned with the first, in that the Saviour forgives one individual who has shown nothing but hatred toward Him. In the Gospel accounts we find both thieves heckling Christ. Mark 15:32: They [plural] that were crucified with him reviled him.
The religious leaders said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God (Matthew 27:42.43). Now look at verse 44: The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth [or face],
Since both thieves were making these identical statements and accusations against Christ's saving ability, what triggered the sudden change of attitude in the one convict? I believe it was love. This thief saw the hatred the world had heaped upon Christ as well as upon himself. His heart was so incensed with the brutes who nailed him to a tree next to Christ that he would have strangled his executioners with his bare hands had it been possible.
Then, as he looked at the center cross and saw Christ, he heard an unbelievable utterance falling from the Lord's lips: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). The thief was startled by the love shown to such villains. It was superhuman. Because of it, he suddenly changed his mind about Christ. Soon the one who hurled infamous blasphemies at Christ called upon Him for salvation. His cry was, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom (Luke 23:42).
Did Christ really forgive this one who so hatefully slandered Him? Did Jesus mean what He prayed when He said, "Father, forgive them?" The answer is tenderly given in the second expression: Today shall thou be with me in paradise (verse 43).
Dear friend, Christ will also forgive you of any sin if you will open your mind and heart to Him. Your sin may be murder, abortion, alcoholism, drug addiction, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, blasphemy, thievery, lying, or some other enslaving vice. Hear it! First John 1:7: The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. The thief was out of Christ in the morning, in Christ at noon, and with Christ in the evening. Guilt, grace, and glory are the three stages in the spiritual biography of the thief on the cross.
The third statement ringing from the Saviour's lips also resounds the message of love. Let's turn from the outer circle of sin-blinded religious leaders, brutal soldiers, and hardened criminals to the inner circle of believers. The lesson unfolded now is very moving.
Mary was the instrument of God used to bring His Son into the world. This pure young lady was a virgin who had never known man in an intimate way (see Luke 1:34). She became impregnated through the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit—a special act of creation (see Luke 1:35). Therefore Joseph had nothing to do with the birth of Christ and was only called his father because he adopted Christ. As Christ hung upon the cruel cross, dying for the sins of an entire world, Joseph was not present—all evidence suggests that he was already dead.
Jesus looked at the lonely little woman who bore Him and His tender heart was grieved. He wanted assurance that someone would take care of Mother after His departure. He looked at Mary and said, Woman, behold thy son! Then to His beloved disciple John He said, Behold thy mother! (John 19:26,27). Yes, Christ in His dying moments was concerned about the future welfare of Mary, who had borne Him and whose soul was now pierced with a sword (see Luke 2:35).
Jesus had no earthly possessions to leave His mother (see 2 Corinthians 8:9). He brought nothing into the world at His birth, and He had nothing to leave behind as He left this life. He died as poor as He had lived. All that He could leave His mother was His love. He wanted His followers to love as He loved. Jesus said in Matthew 19:19, Honour thy father and thy mother.
What a lesson there is for this thoughtless, cruel age in which we live. Thousands weep because they have been forgotten. Lord, forgive us for we know not what we do. Love is the proof of salvation—love for parents, in-laws, believers, neighbors, and for lowly sinners. Do you have the evidence?
First John 4:7,8 says, Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. John 13:35: By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. If this element of love pictured in the first three sayings of the cross is missing in your life, find out why. Are you saved? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Seek that love which proves salvation is real.
In closing our examination of these statements revealing God's love, let me ask you a personal question. Would you be ready to meet Christ today if you were to die? Christ said to the repentant thief, Today shall thou be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43). It is blessed to have the assurance that one will be with Christ for all eternity. He died by the shedding of blood, was buried, and rose again for your sins. Have you accepted this truth and received Him?
The fourth: cry, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46) reveals the holiness of God and the depravity of man. God is love (1 John 4:8). However, this does not mean that He sentimentally allows man's ungodliness and debased practices to go unpunished. Perish the thought! He is also a God of holiness and wants mankind to partake of this righteous attribute. First Peter 1:16 says, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
The problem is that man is inherently wicked. Every member of the human race arrives on the scene with the nature of Adam. Romans 5:12: Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Yes, every one of us is born with this sinful, wicked, Adamic nature. It is this sin principle with which we are born that makes us lie, cheat, swindle, curse, blaspheme, and become enslaved to every known vice that mankind creates. We do not become sinners because we commit these abominable practices, but rather we practice these wicked iniquities because we were born with a nature that hungers after sin.
Because the God of holiness cannot look upon sin, and because this God of holiness is also a God of love, we begin to understand the words of the Saviour, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? At the cross, God's two attributes of holiness and love were made manifest—His love, in that His Son was being offered to rid mankind of sin and His holiness, as He forsook the Son He loved. Romans 8:32 says that God spared not His own Son.
The reason the Father turned His back upon His Son at Calvary, refusing to look at Him, was that Christ was covered from head to toe with every loathsome sin mankind had ever and would ever commit. Please remember that Christ was not dying for His own sin. He was the Holy One of God who did no sin (1 Peter 2:22). He...knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners (Hebrews 7:26). The "good news" is that Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). He loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood (Revelation 1:5).
As Jesus hung there stained, saturated, and sin-laden, the Father refused to look at His Son. Why? Christ was bearing every vile, degrading vice that depraved human beings had ever com-mitted or would ever commit. His body and soul were completely immersed with man's abominations. He bore the disobedience of Adam, the murderous act of Cain, the adultery of David, and the murders of the Christians by Saul of Tarsus. He bore every sin committed since the inception of history and every sin which will be committed until the world disintegrates by fire.
Christ bore adultery, anger, blasphemy, burglary, carnality, corruption, covetousness, cursing, deceit, defilement, degeneracy, dishonour, drunkenness, drug addiction, envy, extortion, filthiness, fornication, guile, hatred, harlotry, homosexuality, heresy, hypocrisy, jealousy, lasciviousness, lying, murder, nudity, perversion, profanity, rebellion, revenge, robbery, sadism, seduction, stealing, swearing, thievery, unfaithfulness, ungodliness, vileness, violence, war, whoredom, whoremongering, wickedness, and every sin that may have escaped this lengthy listing.
Never in the annals of history had so much sin been carried at one time, and it was all carried by the sinless One. It was all upon the sinless, holy, God-man, Christ Jesus, and this is why the Father turned away from the voice of His Son as Christ took our place (see Psalm 22:1). God could not look upon the scene. Truly, it was our sin, our wickedness, our transgressions, our iniquities, and our abominations that turned God's face from the heartbreaking event.
Christ had suffered severe abuse at the hands of His tormentors. Many were His anguished cries. Psalm 22:1 tells us that He literal¬ly roared upon that cruel tree because of the excruciating pain. Naturally, His mouth became parched, pasty, and dry. Thus He cried, I thirst (John 19:28).
What a paradox that Christ, the Water of life, the One who satisfies the eternal thirst of the soul, cried for water. The blessing of these words becomes understandable when one realizes that the God-man was willing to suffer physical thirst in order that our spiritual thirst might be quenched for all eternity.
This truth is taught in John 4:13,14. Jesus, conversing with the woman at the well, said, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again. Why? Mankind must continually replenish the fluid in his body or death will ensue. But, Christ continued, whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
I personally drank of this Water many years ago, and the Lord has satisfied every desire and longing in my heart. Quit trying to quench the thirst of your spiritual being with liquor, drugs, sex, pleasure, or money. Drink of the Water of life freely. God's invitation to you is found in the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22:17: Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. It is yours without money, without works, without man-made rites and ceremonies, without Lenten observations. God offers it freely. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).
The sixth utterance is the greatest statement ever recorded, historically. It is finished (John 19:30). The original Greek does not carry three words, but one: finished.
Friend, do you get the significance of this statement? Does it simply mean that Christ expired or died upon a tree as far as your understanding of the subject is concerned? If so, get ready for some thrilling theological truth. The terminology It is finished had to do with the eternal plan the Trinity originated in heaven before the world was created.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sat down in the counsels of eternity past and meticulously planned redemption's program. They decided that the sacrifice of shed blood would be the only means of salvation for mankind. Blood would make atonement for the soul (see Leviticus 17:11). At first, animal blood would be a temporary offering— only covering sin until a permanent sacrifice could be made. Since mankind's blood was tainted through the fall of its father, Adam, there could only be one solution. A member of the Godhead would have to go to earth, take a body with blood, and shed that blood to take away the sin that animal blood could only cover.
First Peter 1:20 proves this teaching. Who [Christ] verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8 states that Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. When was He slain? Before and from the foundation of the world.
Christ said in Hebrews 10:4,5, For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore...a body hast thou prepared me. This prepared body had blood. It was pure, holy blood because of the virgin birth. It was not contaminated with Adam's virus of sin. John the Baptist recognized Christ's earthly mission and victoriously cried out in John 1:29, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Animal blood had covered sin to this point, but soon Christ, God's Lamb, would shed His blood and take away the sin that was hitherto covered.
When Christ shed His blood at Calvary, He cried, Finished! The programmed plan from eternity past had now come to completion. The shedding of blood was finished forever. Hebrews 9:12 says, Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Hebrews 10:12 states that he…offered one sacrifice for sins forever. This is why it is finished. He did it once for all—and forever. This is why man's works are useless. It is the work of Christ—and only the work of Christ—that is sufficient forever.
Into thy hands I commend my spirit (Luke 23:46). In essence, Christ was saying, "Father, You sent Me into the world (see Galatians 4:4). My work upon Calvary's cross is finished. I have shed My blood for the sins of the world. Now I commend My Spirit unto You."
What a beautiful example Christ sets in this last utterance from the cross. He is at perfect peace and is soon going home. The liberals and apostacized religionists of our day may laugh about heaven. They may try to insult real Christians with such phraseology as "pie in the sky when you die by and by." Yet, death must and will come for every member of Adam's race and there is nothing more satisfying than the assurance of eternal life. What joy and satisfaction there is when one believes the Word of God and the sayings of Jesus—especially when the night of death approaches.
Does it bother you to think about the inevitability of decease? It does not have to be this way. Death is not a sad ending but a glorious beginning for those who have trusted in Christ. He who said, Into thy hands I commend my spirit, also said in John 14:1-3, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. Verse 6: I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. He died, was buried, and rose again for us. That's the gospel. Where He went, you can go—if He lives in your heart. Receive Him now!
March 21, 2016