The Seven Words from the Cross
PRELIMINARY READING: Pilate, wanting to satisfy the people, decided that what they demanded should be done: he let them have Barabbas, who had been put in prison for revolt and murder, for whom they were asking. Then Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified in line with their wishes. The soldiers took off the robe and put His own clothes on Him, and they took Jesus and led Him out to crucify Him. He was carrying His own cross. As they were going out, they found a man from Cyrene by the name of Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus. He was on his way in from the country, and as he was about to pass by, they took hold of him, laid the Cross on him, and forced him to carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of the people followed Him. The women in the crowd were beating their breasts and weeping over Him. He turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me; rather, cry over yourselves and your children, because the time is coming when people will say: Blessed are the women who could not have children, the wombs that did not bear, and the breasts that did not nurse. Then people will say to the mountains: ‘Fall on us’ and to the hills: ‘Cover us!’ For if this is done to the green tree, what will be done to a dry one?” Two others, who were criminals, were also taken away to be executed with Him.
(TLH Hymn #153)
FIRST WORD: They took Jesus to what was called Place of the Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh and gall, but when He tasted it, He refused to drink it. They crucified Him there. At that time they crucified two robbers with Him, one at His right and the other at His left and Jesus in the middle. It was nine in the morning when they crucified Him. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
What about us? Do we always “know” what we do? - Often, YES! Sometimes though, because we perhaps purposely dull our own consciences, we might behave as if we don’t know any better than to give ourselves over to the sins in which we engage.
Jesus nevertheless prayed for those present and us, “Father, forgive them,” in effect saying, “Put their blame on ME!” - Because He has so forgiven us, can and will we, do we forgive those who accuse us of things whether they’re true or not? Name-callers who make fun and hurt our pride and feelings, or who may even hurt us physically? Those who may cheat us, or force heavy, dirty “cross-bearing” conditions for us?
(Illustration of Corrie ten Boom and her former prison guard…)
Will you pray now with Jesus for those who ever offend you, “Father, forgive them”? And God help us to forgive them from the heart ourselves, even as we ask God to do!
(TLH Hymn #171 sts. 1,2)
SECOND WORD: When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier, throwing dice for them to see what each one should get, and the tunic was left over. The tunic was without a seam, woven in one piece from top to bottom. They said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but let’s throw dice and see who gets it” – in this way what the Scripture said was fulfilled: “They divided My clothes among them, and for My garment they threw dice.” So that is what the soldiers did. Then they sat down there and kept watch over Him. - Pilate also wrote a notice, the accusation that had been written against Him they placed above His head on the Cross. It read: “This is Jesus from Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many Jews read this notice, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Therefore the ruling priests of the Jews told Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews’ but ‘He said, I am the King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” - The people stood there watching. Those who passed by ridiculed Him, shaking their heads and saying, “Ha! You who are going to tear down the Temple and build it in three days – save Yourself if You are the Son of God, come down from the Cross.” In the same way the ruling priests together with the scribes and elders were sneering and made fun of Him among themselves and said, “He saved others – He cannot save Himself. He should save Himself if He is the Christ whom God has chosen. He is Israel’s King – He should come down from the Cross now, and we shall believe Him. He has put His trust in God – let God rescue Him now if He so wishes, for He said ‘I am the Son of God.’” The soldiers also made fun of Him when they went up to Him and offered Him sour wine. They said, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” In the same way the robbers who were crucified with Him also were insulting Him. One of the criminals who were hanging there was mocking Him: “Aren’t You the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other, warning him, asked, “Aren’t you afraid of God? You are condemned just as He is. Our punishment is just, for we are getting what we deserve for what we’ve done, but this One has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
As with His prayers of the night before at Gethsemane, the Lord’s promise shows us that He was still trusting His Heavenly Father for the final outcome of things! He also had the right and power to grant Paradise to the robber who asked. It will be the same at our earthly ends for us who believe. Jesus can make us stand at our judgment and grant Heaven’s eternal glory in spite of our sin, because He paid for us with His life!
(TLH Hymn #171 sts. 3,4)
THIRD WORD: Now, His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary from Magdala were standing near the Cross of Jesus. Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing near. “Woman,” He said to His mother, “There is your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “There is your mother!” From that time on this disciple took her into his own home.
Here we do well to remember the prediction by Simeon, how a “sword” would pierce Mary’s own soul over her Son. To the very end we see Jesus offer His obedience to all God’s Law and Commandments. Fulfilling the Fourth Commandment, we behold Him honoring His mother! Also here we see and must marvel at what manner of care He displayed, turning a blind eye to His own suffering. Can we doubt, then, that His eye is even on the sparrow and the hairs of our heads are numbered? – Let’s pause to reflect and know right now how deeply He also loves and cares for us, always! And nothing can separate us from that love, as it says in Romans!
(TLH Hymn #171 sts. 5,6)
FOURTH WORD: It was about noon when darkness came over the whole land – lasting until three in the afternoon, because the sun stopped shining. About three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” When they heard Him say that, some of those standing nearby said, “Listen! He’s calling Elijah.”
No, He wasn’t! These were now the most crucial moments. As God’s appointed sacrifice Jesus experienced absolute abandonment from His Heavenly Father in both body and soul. HE was marked as the “Chief of sinners.” He suffered the worst that hell could throw at Him! And it was all done in our place and for our sakes. This darkest moment gives us the strongest Gospel! Jesus GOT what we deserve!
(TLH Hymn #171 sts. 7,8)
FIFTH WORD: After this, knowing that everything had now been finished, and to have the words of the Scripture come true, Jesus said, I thirst.”
He who once met the Samaritan woman at a well and promised “rivers of Living Water” to her and all who would ask of Him, all who would believe – HE underwent an incomprehensible parched dehydration throughout His entire Being! Suffering more than the rich man begging but a drop of water from Lazarus, Christ’s thirst surpassed all compare, suffering as He did for the sins of the whole world!
(TLH Hymn #171 sts. 9,10)
SIXTH WORD: A jar full of sour wine was standing there. Immediately one of the men ran, took a sponge, soaked it in sour wine, put it on a hyssop stem, held it to His mouth, and offered Him a drink. The others said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to save Him.” When Jesus had taken the wine, He said, “It is finished.”
(TLH Hymn #170 sts. 1-5)
SEVENTH WORD: And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.” After He said this, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
Jesus continued to entrust Himself to God even until and at the moment of His death! What about us for our lives until then?—For matters of health, property, finances and the future… commending ourselves, our families and loved ones, the Church, friends, and even our enemies?
(TLH Hymn #171 sts. 11,12)
CLOSING READING: Just then the inner curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and the bodies of many believers who had been sleeping were brought back to life. They came out of the tombs after He had risen and went into the Holy City where they appeared to many people. When the captain who stood facing Jesus saw how He gave up His spirit, he praised God. He said, “Certainly this Man was righteous!” Now when the captain and those watching Jesus with him saw the earthquake and the other things happening, they were terrified. “Certainly” they said, “This WAS THE SON OF GOD!”
(Worship with Offering.. / Continue with Prayers and Close.. )