While Jesus was on the cross, it seemed as though all hope was lost. A man who had healed, driven demons, calmed waves, and raised people from the dead was dying as a criminal. He had been beaten, spat on, and nailed to a wooden cross. This was a horrible time, even though it was all part of the plan. Despite all this pain and suffering, Jesus still had the heart to speak. What would Jesus say at a time like this? Let’s find out.
On the cross, Jesus spoke 7 times according to all four gospels. Seven, being the number of completeness, is only fitting at a time like this. We are going to go through what Jesus said on the cross and what it still means for us today.
According to the gospel of Matthew, Jesus only speaks one time. Matthew records the original version of what Jesus says. In Matthew 27:46 he says with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”. Matthew then translates this for us as “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”. Some versions might say ‘forsake’ but either way this sounds like a dreadful phrase. Is Jesus saying that the Father abandoned Him? Well for Jesus to take on the sins of the world, he had to go through this horrible act. For Jesus, it feels as if the Father had to leave Jesus while he died for all humanity. This is also a phrase from Psalm 22 where the Psalmist cries out for help in a situation that he feels far away from God. We know that God is always near (Psalm 145), but in some situations it may feel that He is not but we are reminded of his comforting words.
Mark records the same phrase as Matthew but Luke provides a little more. Before they cast lots for his clothing, Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). After being nailed to the cross and all the beating and ridicule before this, Jesus has the heart to forgive them, in the middle of their sin. Jesus is hanging there dying, and he asks God to forgive them. He says they don’t know what they’re doing and asks for their forgiveness. Jesus tells us to forgive others so we can be forgiven (Matthew 6:14). Jesus didn’t need to be forgiven of anything but he knew they needed forgiveness. So he asks for it, even as they were in the middle of the act.
In Luke 23:43, a criminal hanging by Jesus asks him to remember him. Jesus replies with, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” It is a phrase that has long been debated about what paradise is and what Jesus meant. Even in this dark, hopeless situation Jesus offers peace and encouragement to a dying man as he himself is dying. Jesus offers life at a time of death and salvation to a man that even Satan cannot overcome.
Again Jesus quotes the Psalms from 35:1 as he breathes his last. It says, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” (Luke 23:46). Until the very end Jesus is faithful to the Father and knows He is doing the right thing. We need to remember that God is going to do the right thing, even if it doesn’t seem right to us. Sometimes in life, we need to trust God with our spirit and our life, and watch what He can do. Proverbs 3:5-6 promises us that when we trust God, he will bless us and keep us on a path to life.
The gospel of John holds the rest of Jesus’ quotes on the cross. In John 19:26 when Jesus sees his mother and the disciple he loved he says, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.” Jesus makes sure his mother is taken care of even after his death. His compassion overflows on the cross as his mother sees him hanging. Jesus also wanted his mother to know who her son truly was as the Son of God. Even on the cross, Jesus was thinking of others.
The next one John records has a specific purpose. Jesus was on the cross and in John 19:28 it says, “Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.”” Jesus said this to fulfill what was written in the Psalms about this event. Psalms 22 and 69 reference this saying by Jesus when they offer him sour wine to drink but Jesus refuses to drink it.
Right after this, Jesus says the famous three words, “It is finished!”. The whole reason Jesus came had now ended. The suffering, the healings, the miracles, pain was now finished. The rescue plan for all humanity and the plan to defeat Satan and drive him out was done. What a sorrowful but glorious phrase.