I was asked to assist the Spencerport Ecumenical Ministries in reflecting on the seven last words of Christ as part of the joint Good Friday Service. Below is what I shared:
In his final words, Jesus points us back into the Old Testament, the 31st Psalm, both for teaching and for comfort. While Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” the Psalmist continues, “You have redeemed me, O Lord, Faithful God… I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love… you have taken heed of my adversities, and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place.”
When we consider the fact that we are here in this place at this time, because Jesus was hung from a cross at the hands of his enemies, the question must arise as to why the last words are quoting a psalm of praise for deliverance.
By using this particular phrase, we are reminded that Jesus knew the scriptures and that he was fulfilling what had been written. In a simple phrase, he not only proclaimed his faith in God as father, his “dad” if you will, but his faith that beyond this horrific event called crucifixion there is delivery from evil and exoneration of the righteous.
In all our humanity, who has never suffered periods of doubt? Many have been the times when I have not thought that I have been someplace where the ground is wide, flat, and easy to walk. Instead, I tend to focus on the brambles in my path, the rocks on the road, the words of others, and even on political decisions with which I may not agree. I would venture to say that each of us understands these feelings.
While I like to think I can find a place of sympathy with Jesus, as he hung dying, I truly wonder if any of us can. I am certain that, out of a certain fear of death, nearly all of us have toyed with the idea of immortality. Regardless of how selfless we might be, I think that each and every one of us has a certain amount of self-preservation programmed into us. Combined with our doubt, self-preservation would fight against impending death, would argue for our worthiness, and would find someone or something to blame for what was happening to us.
Jesus, in his last moment does not fight, argue, or blame. Instead, he sings a song of praise to his creator. He tells us he has been taken through the pain into a place where the paths are wide and level, into a place where those who speak against him have fallen silent, into a place of pure love. When we focus only on the death of Christ as a human being, we miss the bigger picture.
It is often much easier to recognize the problem in front of us, than the fact that each and every one of us is a miracle. This was the final gift of the man on the cross – giving us a way to wipe away fear, to wipe away anger, to wipe away grief, and focus on the glories of life, everlasting, in union with the Lord, God, Almighty.