Mediation on the Last Seven Words of Jesus from the Cross

1. ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ (Luke 23:34)

Devotion (Revd Sabelo Mthimkhulu)

“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”
This is considered as the First word Jesus said on the cross.
Forgiveness is the heart of Christian ethics.
Yes, maybe that’s true, but is forgiveness that simple.
Unfortunately, Not.

In the verse we just read, Jesus shows compassion for those who harm him.

He shows compassion and seeks forgiveness for those who mock, torture and crucify Him.

What a difficult thing to do. Scholars that work around the topic of forgiveness suggests that there are at least two forms of forgiveness.

  • Decisional forgiveness- making a decision not to hold an offense against someone and restore the relationship to where it was before the offense occurred. It is a difficult decision to make.
  • Emotional forgiveness- this is more difficult than making a decision to forgive, but it is important, it is deeper and could last longer. It requires one to move from the state of being angry to a more positive state, from hatred to loving.Forgiveness does not mean you necessarily have to forget the offensive actions, but it means looking beyond them and see a possibility of trusting and loving again after the offense.
    Fortunately, Christians, we are always offered an opportunity to practice these 2 forms of forgiveness.
    When we come to worship God (whether on our Sunday or weekly services), we are given a chance to perceive, receive and reflect to others the merciful face of God.

It is not just an event; it is a process we go through each and every day we come to a forgiving Christ.
Forgiveness restores us to what God has created us to be
“Creatures that live in relational harmony with God and each other”
By offering forgives we are participating this restoration.
So, Christianity is rooted in an act of forgiveness, we cannot be what God want us to be, unless we forgive.
If we want to be Christ like we ought to forgive. Jesus here teaches us that forgiveness does not precedes repentance.
We forgive even those who haven’t repented.

God is love “agape” and through God’s grace, this love has been poured into our hearts.
It is this love that requires us to forgive.
Christian forgiveness needs to be also accompanied by reconciliation; Jesus teaches us that on Mat 5:23-24
“When you are offering your gift to the alter, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the alter and go, first reconcile with your brother or sister and then come to offer your gift”

Reconciliation does not only help us, but it also helps the other to realize their mistakes and would probably not do them again.
God has given us a gift of forgives, let us go out and exercise this wonderful gift.
For Christ’s sake
For the sake of others
And for our sake
Amen.

Silence
Prayer

Loving Jesus,
Thank you for teaching us the Way of Forgiveness.
Help us to learn anew
That forgiveness comes before anything else;
Forgiveness makes the dead live
And the ugly beautiful.
When we crucify you again and again
through our wounding of others and the world,
Father forgive us, and help us to find the pathway back to you.
As we gaze at the Cross,
We see tendrils and flowers sprouting from the wood.

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
By Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

2. ‘Today, you will be with me in paradise.’ (Luke 23: 43)

Devotion (Timothy Nsereko)

“Today, you will be with me in paradise.’ (Luke 23: 43)

These words are said by Jesus Christ to one of the two men with whom he was crucified with on the mountain, at a place called the Skull. He said these words to one of the men who showed remorse and repented his sins at the last hour of death.

One of these two criminals who was being crucified with Jesus, he felt he deserved death because of the crimes he had done, but he looked at Jesus, the son of God , as a person who was being persecuted and crucified for nothing. And much as he was a sinner, he knew that Jesus had the power to forgive him the sins he had committed. Its why he told him that “ Remember me, Jesus, when you come King.” To which Jesus replied, that I promise you , that today you will be in Paradise with me.

By saying remember me when you come King, its an indication that much as this man never lived a Godly life, a life of sin, deep inside his heart he knew what the scriptures were saying and he believed that Jesus was to die, resurrect and become king.

Jesus talks to this man in a forgiving tone. With all the humiliation and suffering he had been subjected to, people would have thought that he would curse those who were torturing and abusing him. But instead assures them that no matter which harm, humiliation and torture they do to him, they will be with him in paradise with repentance. In reflection of these words to our daily lives, we go through trials , tribulations , temptations and disappointments, things that may push us away from God, yet deep down in our hearts we know that he is the truth and life.

In whichever circumstances we face or go through, we should always remember that he is a forgiving God, who is ready to listen and forgive all those that who are remorseful.

Lets pray: Blessed Jesus, in the comfort of your love, we lay before you our memories that haunt us and the despair that frighten us . Help us to discover your forgiveness in our memories and to know your peace in our distress. Bless us with your
wonderful power of forgiveness and give us grace to unconditionally forgive those who do us wrong. Amen

Silence
Prayer

Loving Jesus,
Thank you for inviting us to live with you
in the Today of Eternity.
Teach us that we are always in your Presence,
Even in our weakness and failure.
Teach us to be repentant,
To find our home in you, in the suffering we endure,
For you suffer with us.
You promise us that You remain with us
even when we are condemned.
You share in our humanity,
as you call us to share in the sufferings of all your peoples.
We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
By Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

3. ‘Woman, here is your son. Son, here is your mother.’ (John 19:26-27)

Devotion (Sonto Buthelezi)

I greet you all in the name of our Lord Jesus.

Woman, here is your son, son here is your mother. This is the third word, found in John chapter 19:26, spoken by Jesus as he hangs on the cross moments before he gives up his life. What do these words mean to you and I today? Maybe in answering that question, let us look at what Jesus could have meant by giving this instruction.

Jesus says to his mother here is your son and he says to the son here is your mother, he could have perhaps just been saying to each of them, you have each other to depend on. Now that I will be absent from your life and can no longer be the comfort, the unifying factor, the strength, the hope, the love and everything else that is characteristic of who Jesus has been during his time here on earth, he now says, you need to dig deep within yourselves and be that for one another.

He knows that there will be times of despair as they continue with their lives following what has just transpired, him being crucified. He knows that they will need someone to encourage them, to love and comfort them, to strengthen them and to minister to them. He makes it clear that this will be possible if they look to one another. He knows that they stand to encounter a multitude of challenges because of the gospel.

Now Jesus today is identifying the same challenges that are inherent in our world now and says to us today, we are the mother and we are the son and we ought to serve one another for the benefit of the other. He says let us forget about our own selves and our own selfish needs but everything that we do must instead benefit the other person.

We need to think of the other person before we speak and before we act. Our meditations must continually be placed on the fact that we have been given a responsibility and that responsibility is to see to it that the church progresses, that the church advances, that Christ himself is forever upheld as the Rock of Salvation and as the cornerstone of the body of Christ.

As mothers, let us reflect on the face of Christ, what type of mothers have we become with time; as sons let us look to Christ – what would have been his expectation of us. Are we in right standing with that which Jesus spoke to Mary and spoke to the disciple whom he loved?
With gender based violence, high rates of unemployment and so many other social ills and including the pandemic – do we have a role in society? Do we have a role in the church? Do we have a role to influence and bring positive change in the crowds that we find ourselves in? Can we be counted as part of the solution or are we part of the problem that needs to be eliminated?

Can we look to God, can we look to Christ and cry out to him this Good Friday – that O God, won’t you once again rekindle the message that you had given us in our hearts; won’t you once again re-ignite us; won’t you one again reconcile us to you so that everything that we do as mothers and everything we do as sons benefits the crowds that we find ourselves in and influences them positively, shining your light through; Can you teach us how to put down our own lives and be of servitude to your people.

So many challenges have overtaken the word, can you today not remind us that through you we need to be comfort, we need to be love, we need to be reassurance – that we need to be all these things that you were to those people that were side-lined and outcast. Can we be to each other, these things – Mother, here is your son, son, here is your mother

Silence
Prayer

Loving Jesus,
Under the Cross, you call us to new sense of family,
a transformed community of hospitality,
of giving and receiving;
Break down the middle wall of partition, and
Help us to know that in You, Oh Christ,
we are kith and kin.
Teach us to open our eyes to behold the Other,
Saint and Sinner,
as our Brother and Sister and as our Neighbour.
We give thanks that in your darkest hour, in your dying,
At the foot of the Cross, the Church is born.
We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
By Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

4. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mark 15:34)

Devotion (Mpumelelo Mtshawu)

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

On the 27th of March 2020 in our country was the beginning of a long and painful life situation for many of our people. Isaiah 59 vs 8 says “They don’t know how to live at peace with others, what they do is not fair. They lead twisted lives. No one lives like that will enjoy peace and rest.

The darkness mentioned on the opening verses did not last only three hours for most us in this country. In our country the pandemic was not the only treat, but the betrayal of God was seen in our own homes. Good people we have sinned against God, by allowing the devil to enter hour hearts. The pandemic made us to feel the darkness hour felt by Jesus himself.

Good people of God in the dark moments of live, we are made by the enemy to believe that God is far than we can comprehend. In pandemic we were sent back to our sinful nature, where the worship of evil powers was dominant in our hearts, hence our homes. Isaiah the prophet said we don’t know how to live with each other because of our sinful nature. The pandemic was an opportunity of me and you to get to the Lord Supper.

Here our Lord Jesus is demonstrating the family values of serving each other. When we are called to Christ`s table, we are called to eat the bread and drink the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians 11vs 26 – 27 said we are called to do things in remembrance of him. This is the command that was given in the Lord`s supper, and Isaiah showed us that without God we lack the capacity of peace. We had news of abuse of woman and children by people who are supposed to the protect them. Jesus Christ is hanging on the cross because the people he came to save have rejected him and conspire to kill him.

The sinful nature is not permitted in the presence of God and this was evident in the Lord`s supper, it is the place for us to do an introspection of our lives or self-reflection. The statement meant that all His disciples were to do a stock take of their walk with the Lord.

Eloi, Eloi Lamasabachtan is the cry of someone who has been left alone after walking with the Lord. The self-reflection done in the presence of God will lead to this code of heaven. Good people when He feels distant, when it feels like we are lost in the darkness, God is in fact with us, near enough to touch or lift us if we will simply reach out to him in faith through his word by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are called to recite the scriptures in our darkness hour as Jesus cried out with a loud voice Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Even today is still faced with this pandemic. The pandemic and its lockdown regulations meant that people with be confined in their homes an no visitations were allowed even between closes family members. Only essential services were allowed. The lockdown situation in our country showed us fragmented we are as country.

The pandemic has made us to be able to identify ourselves with the characters found in the passion of Christ. The following are few that I have observed because of the time:
• The pandemic has created widowers with our communities.

This situation reminds of the book of Esther were a star as per the scribes found herself with both parents being dead and she was raised by the uncle. The bible has not mentioned if the uncle had kids and family only the niece is mentioned on the story. The man who find himself with this kind of responsibility is Mordecai he raised Esther in the Persian country were foreign Gods are worshiped.

Esther was raised according to God`s standard and she never forgets who she was, but in the middle of here life Pandemic strike, her people were threatened by the Hamman`s of that world.

The lockdown has reviled to us that in this country we have the Hamman’s in our homes. There was an increase in the gender-based violence within our homes. Woman children were marginalised by their own husband who some of them pledge allegiance to their marriages in the church in the presents of priest. During this lockdown some churches were also advocating for opening the worship centres because of the lack of income on their side.

The poor and the marginalised were expected to contribute towards the upkeep of the churches and risk their lives in attending the services.
The sun refused to look to upon the awful scene. Its full, bright rays were illuminating the earth at midday, when suddenly it seemed to be blotted out.

There was no natural cause for this darkness, which was as deep as midnight without moon and stars. In that thick darkness God`s presence was hidden. He makes darkness His pavilion and conceals His glory from human eyes. God and His holy angels were beside the cross. The Father was with His Son. Yet His presence was not revealed. Had his glory flashed forth from the clouds, every human being would have been destroyed.
In that dreadful hour Christ was not to be comforted with the Father`s presence. He endured the suffering alone. In the thick darkness, God covered the last human agony of His Son.

All who have seen the Christ in His suffering had been convinced of His divinity. But His accusers would not give heed to the signs of heaven. Through long hours of agony Christ had been looked upon by the scornful crowd. Now He was mercifully hidden by the mantle of God.

God has graciously shown compassion for you and me on the cross, with the ultimate demonstration being the sacrifice of his only Son, Jesus took our places on the cross. Through this one act God demonstrated his complete justice. We who are guilty are made just by the sacrifice of the only person who was completely righteous. (2 Corinthians 5:21) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Good people, God desires to be near us, so much so that He is willing to mask the fullness of His glory with thick darkness in order to interact directly with us. He loves mankind enough to come personally, first in the thick darkness and later in the Son. Our God is a personal God, not a distant one good people.

Beloved who hasn’t felt the darkness of depression or uncertainty, of fear or sadness? In the dark moments of life, we are made to believe that God is far nearer than we can comprehend. In those times in our lives, when He feels distant, when it feels like we are lost in the darkness, God is in fact with us, near enough to touch or lift us if we will simply reach out to him in faith through his word by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are called to recite the scriptures in our darkness hour as Jesus cried out with a loud voice Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus was not questioning God, he was quoting Psalm 22 vs1, a deep expression of the anguish he felt when he took on the sins of the word, which caused him to be separated from his father. This was what Jesus dreaded as he prayed to God in the garden of Gethsemane to take the cup of suffering from him (26:39). The physical agony of pain was horrible, but even the worse was the period of spiritual separation from God. Jesus suffered this double death so that we would never have to experience eternal separation from God.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.

Let us observe the moment of silence:

Lest Pray:

Dear Lord Jesus,
We remember the sacrifice you made for us on the cross so that we might have eternal life. In taking on the mantle of humanity and through your suffering and death you have opened the door for our eternal salvation. Guide each step we take as we carry our own crosses. Open our eyes, also, to the truth that your story did not end on the cross.

Just as you conquered death and came back to show us the way, help us conquer the sins and temptations we encounter as we enter the new life you offer us. In Jesus Christ, mighty name Amen:

Silence
Prayer

Loving Jesus,
In your cry of anguish and loneliness,
In your utter desolation and hopelessness,
You are still on the Cross for us.
In these times, when meaning collapses,
and we are filled with doubt and uncertainty,
You are still on the Cross for us.
As we go through the valley of tribulation,
When we feel that God is absent,
You are still on the Cross for us.
When we ask : Where is God?
Has God deserted us?
You are still on the Cross for us.
We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
By Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

5. ‘I am thirsty’ (John 19:26)

Devotion (Zoh Mdhladhla)

When was the last time you felt very thirsty?

• It could have been in the sports field.
• On a very hot summer day.
• Perhaps you have been working the fields since dawn.

No matter how long, since the human’s body is made of 60 – 75% water this should be continually replenished. I’m no Jewish scholar but we would assume that Jesus was convicted on Thursday afternoon if we use the current calendar.

Then we would imagine that Jesus has not eaten since capture. He has lost a lot blood through injuries he has sustained from the crown of thorns, from the beating, from falling and being crushed by a huge heavy cross he has been carrying since the morning and ultimately the nails piercing through the skin and bone as he is nailed on the cross. By now he must have been hyperthermic.

He needs just a sip of ordinary water not Wine nor Coke nor Tropika. He just wants to keep his metabolism or his heart pumping. He knew this was going to happen, but nothing could have prepared him for it.

It was prophesied earlier in Old Testament, long before he was born. Psalm 22:16 states: “My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet”. Also, in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus predicts his crucifixion. “We going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law — Matthew 20:17.

If one takes from the Forth Word: My god my God why have you forsaken me. He still has some hope of surviving crucifixion. What do we learn from this? “Hope”.

Hope and mercy from your detractors, persecutors or tormentors. His hope was dashed when they gave him sour wine instead water hence, he says in the Sixth Word: “It is finished”.

This does not necessary mean we should give up hope. We know that Jesus Christ had to pass through Death and would rise again as promised in the Scriptures. And this a promise for all of us who believe that “Death is but a doorway to new life”.

This teaches us that Jesus was born of a man he was a Physical being he could also hurt and feel pain. But in the Spiritual world he is totally different, he is a man of hope. He gives hope to the down trodden and the condemned. The Good thief knew that this was no ordinary man, that is why he asked Jesus to remember him in his Kingdom.

What is it that we thirst for?
• Justice
• Education
• Freedom
• Pay rise
• Favourable weather
• Vaccine for the Corona Virus
• Etc

These are all but physical manifestation of thirst. We should really thirst for the Word of God that it may flow into our veins and that we become Christ like. We should desire for God’s Mercy. Have we forgotten that God’s mercy is sufficient for all of us?

Silence
Prayer

Loving Jesus,
Your words on the Cross, “I Thirst” –
Cries from the very depths of your soul –
Are writ large across the heavens;
They echo in time and space,
As You thirst for Love to reign over our world,
As You thirst for Justice and Peace among the nations.
You said, “BLESSED are those who hunger and
Thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled”:
Become in us a fount of water, Oh Lord,
Springing up with new and eternal life.
We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
By Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

6. ‘It is finished.’ (John 19:20)
Devotion (Stuart Talbot)

How would you know Corona is over? How will you know when Corona is done, is dead? How would you know when it’s all over, when it is finished?
Don’t you wish you would hear these words, “It is over, it is finished”

There is a very wise bear and he said something like this.
“Hey Poo”. “Yes Piglet”. “This thing seems to be going on forever”.
“You mean this pandemic thing?”
“Yeah, will it ever end?”
“Oh I hope so Piglet”
“I do too.” “I miss so much.” “What do you miss?”
“Hugs Poo. I miss hugs. Yeah it’s the one thing that the humans were good at.” “I know Piglet. I know “

Don’t you wish that there were no more masks, there were no numbers on the radio, no social distancing, no more deaths alone, no more suffering outside of community, no more isolation, no more pain, no more oxygen masks no more anxiety that you could catch covid, that you may be killing somebody ’cause you’ve had it and you didn’t know, no more tests

No more hearing, “the toilet paper is out of stock, the hand sanitizers sold out, the food in the store is no more”. No more hearing “No”.
We do want to hear that its over, that it IS finished…. we can fly again we can see our grandchildren …we can meet together …we can choose to zoom.

It IS finished

“When will it be finished”?

Haven’t you wondered when will it be finished”….when enough people have vaccines, when enough people have contracted and are antibody strong immune when the variance stop mutating faster than the antibodies …..when will it all be over when will the funeral be over when there are no more deaths

Recently I felt like I am finished I have often felt this in the last little while I’m finished, I’m tired, I’m depressed, I’ve had it this is enough, I can’t go on I’m Corona’d out.

I just want this thing over.

Jesus often did say I am…. The Resurrection and the life,

I am the way ‘
I am the vine
in the gospel of John, but he never did say
I am finished because the I am ….can never get finished.

That’s why John recalls the words from the cross John chapter 19 verse 30, “It is finished.”
in parallel Crucifixion passages in Luke 23 and Matthew 27 and Mark 15 there are different ways to state this.

So words like completed, perfected, done, accomplished are all words that are used in different translations to show that something is finished.
What is completed , finished, accomplished , done?

In Jesus his own words he said “It is my meet or my mission to do the will of the one who sent me. “It is finished”, he says. “It is klaar, it’s over, I’ve done what I was sent for.”

In John chapter 4 verse 34 Jesus says, “my food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work” and in John 17 in the high priestly prayer Jesus says

I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do“. So when Jesus speaks of the completed work what does he mean?
What does it mean for us who are so tired, so Corona’d out so desperate for something.

Well, it’s the hope of Easter that is for us to live into to the finished work of Christ, to live and work for a world without the effects of sin, without the world of suffering, pain, hardship, to live into the finished work of Christ. To live into Gods shalom, means, the initial intention for all of creation that

God had when he created the world.

We will live through the dark days of Easter Saturday

We will live towards the coming dawn of the resurrection life

That is the hope that Jesus gives when he said it is finished
it is completed
it is come
it is perfected
it is accomplished
it is done
it is over
it is finished

Silence
Prayer

Loving Jesus,
You bow your sacred head, so wounded,
And we see, on the Cross, the perfection of your love.
You have stayed the course,
You have run the race,
Your journey from Bethlehem to Golgotha.
Dear Lord, make your home in our lives,
Dwell in us and imbue us with sustaining grace,
To accomplish your mission in our lives
In Time and Eternity.
We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
By Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

7. ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ (Luke 23: 46)
Devotion (Revd Andrew Warmback)

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last.

In saying these words Jesus was quoting from Psalm 31:5, words written by David centuries earlier also in a time of great distress.

It is at the point of his death that Jesus, in a loud voice, says these last words on the cross. Jesus lets go of his life and gives himself to God.
Jesus’ death had a great impact: the curtain in the temple was torn in two – perhaps it was the curtain separating the Jews from the Gentles in the Temple courts, signalling something of the end of divisions between people, or it was the curtain to the holy of holies, whose tearing opens the way for all to have access to God, not just certain religious figures on our behalf.

Also the gospels tell us that there was an earthquake – Jesus’ death impacts the earth itself, opening the way for it to be restored too.

Throughout his life Jesus trusted God fully. God was his source of strength and guidance; he trusted in God’s love and provision for him. After all it was God’s plan or mission that he was carrying out.

Jesus’ life and death impacted on his early followers as it does on us. Jesus encouraged his followers to rely on God too, to trust in God’s goodness, God’s grace for them and God’s forgiveness of them.

The hands of God are indeed open, loving, welcoming, and comforting. And God’s arms are outstretched to receive us.
‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’

What does this mean? Our “spirit” is our life. The commending of our life to God reminds us of our Lenten practice of giving up, letting go, handing over. Most surprisingly we find that it is in the process of giving up that we gain, in not holding onto life that we receive a greater appreciation of what is important to us. In the mystery of Jesus’ death on the cross we find the seeds of a new birth, and the flowering of life.

We don’t know what the next few months or the next year holds for us. Much has been taken from us: our familiar way of life, health, work, and for some life itself.

We have experienced fear and anxiety. We are uncertain about the future course of the pandemic.
The challenge now more than ever is to commend ourselves to God, and trust God who is our source of hope and whose vision for the world, whose kingdom we work for. Let us prayer for ourselves and for our world. Let us continue to pray for all health workers, for those who are vulnerable, those who make decisions to keep us safe and practice good health protocols ourselves.

Some have the practice before going to sleep each night of commending their lives into God’s hands, using these words of Jesus.

Like Jesus let us entrust ourselves to God, today and everyday.
Amen

Silence
Prayer

Loving Jesus,
In the midst of our profound pain and anxiety,
As the darkness and gloom of Death descends,
You cradle us in your nail-pierced Hands.
Both Priest and Victim,
You entrust and commend us all –
our bruised and battered world,
with our fears and hopes –
Back into the Father’s hands.
Lead us to that holy Sabbath rest
That flows from your riven side.
Still our hearts, and all Creation,
As we wait in Silence…
We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
By Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

(These Prayers were composed by Betty Govinden, Anglican Parish of St Aidan’s and read by Bulelwa Magudu.)

 

During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account: Account Name: St Paul’s Church Account Number: 50854628623 Bank: First National Bank (FNB) Branch Code: 221426