As the Spirit Moves Me: Jesus' seven last words on the cross
This is Easter week, a Holy occasion in the Christian world. For millions, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the Tomb.
I've asked old friend Bruce Buller, former pastor of Homestead United Methodist Church in southeast Rochester, to share with us the meaning of the seven last Words of Christ on the Cross. Bruce writes: "These seven words rise out of the rememberings, the witness of early Christian Faith communities. They represent the memory and the spirit gifts to individuals and communities that witness to Jesus, God with us and One of us.
"Woman, that's your son, Son, that's your mother."
"I believe that Jesus struggled to work out the relationship with Mary all of his life," Bruce said. "After all, she had given birth to him, that birth was a gift of the Holy Spirit. Who is my mother and who are my sisters and brothers? What place does Mary have in that response? But here at the cross he gets it right, and he demonstrates loving care for Mother Mary" (John 19:26-27).
"Today you will be with me in Paradise."
To the thief who had a faithful word in the crucifixion moment, the gift of life eternal is the word of faithfulness for all of us. In this day we share Life and Life Eternal. That's a promise that is kept by the Eternal One for all of us (Luke 23:43).
"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
While the soldiers do the bloody work of the crucifixion, the painful fulfillment of the Roman decree is complete. On the pavement below the soldiers gamble for Jesus' robe, while these words are spoken. No matter how we sin God loves us (Luke 23:34).
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Jesus is experiencing the deepest emotion of human distress. Today Jesus walks with us, and knows our pain, our suffering, our longing to be whole. Here the words of the Psalmist are Jesus' Words. He can express his pain and know the presence of the Spirit. That is good grief work (Matthew 27:46).
Bruce writes: "Again, the word of human suffering is present. The cross moments in our lives are real for Jesus and we walk His way and He walks our way. That is always and now" (John 19:28).
"It is finished."
This is the earthly demonstration and redeeming presence of the spirit walking out in human life. From birth to death Jesus is that demonstration. Touch the lepers, learn to love one another, learn the lessons of prayers, act in Faith and the questions give new answers. Be the teacher, the healer, the one with words of life. All of this is Jesus' ministry with us and for us. (John 19:30)
"Father, into your hands I commend My Spirit."
Of course, life does not end, the gift of life is now and the gift is eternal. Spirit is always at work in Jesus and in us. In this we live and in this we give thanks. God loves us. Amen.
During recent years, many of you have attended portions of a three-hour Good Friday service featuring the seven last words. Usually the seven sermons of 40 minutes were shared by three or four pastors. Feel free to study these "Seven last words of Jesus on the Cross."
My thanks to retired pastor Bruce Buller for his assistance on the Easter week column.
Next week: Good News Evangelical Free Church in Pine Island.