Seven Lasting Words
When the Gospels came to be written, each evangelist had a distinctive angle in telling the story of Jesus; that is why there are differences in the wording and ordering of the events. Despite this, there is a remarkable similarity in how the story is told. Nearly 1/3 of the gospel accounts are devoted to the last week of Jesus’ life. This emphasis shows that the evangelists considered the cross and the resurrection the focal point of Jesus’ life and ministry.
As each enters the telling of the last week, it almost feels as if time slows to a crawl, as everything that happens and everything that Jesus says is of the greatest importance. Especially the three hours Jesus was dying on the cross. Even here there are differences in how the evangelists tell the events of those three hours. But when we look at the accounts as a whole, Jesus speaks seven times from the cross. Although traditionally these have been called the Seven Last Words of Christ they are actually seven statements. The Seven Last Words are:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
“Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.”
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“It is finished.”
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Meditation on these seven last words has frequently formed the heart of services on Good Friday. This began for both Protestants and Catholics in the late 18th Century. The Tenebrae service of light and dark, which we celebrate at Central on Good Friday, is in this tradition. But to meditate on the Seven Last Words is appropriate at other times. They are really the Seven Lasting Words because they continue to speak so powerfully today. For our five services for Lent this year I will use the first five of the Seven Last Words and next Lent use the last two and add three meditations on individuals Jesus encounters on the way and at the cross. It would be a good spiritual exercise to already meditate on these Seven Last Words, asking what the Word says to you.