God Speaks from the Cross
The Pulpit Of The Cross
Jesus used many pulpits during His lifetime. He spoke from a boat, from a mountain top. He spoke in the streets of Tyre and Sidon. He spoke on a country road near a cemetery. He spoke in a banquet hall. But all of these pulpits fade into insignificance when compared to the pulpit He mounted just before His death - the pulpit of the Cross. From there He spoke His last words - words of tenderness and love, words of forgiveness and peace, words of anguish and loneliness, words of faith and trust. We shall gather round the pulpit of the Cross during the weeks of Lent and Holy Week to listen to the dying words of our Saviour. When a person nears death, his loved ones bend close to hear his last words. Ever since the day of Christ’s death, the Church has been bending close to the Cross, especially during Lent, to hear its dying Saviour’s last words.
THE FIRST WORD
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)
His first request on the Cross was not for Himself. He didn’t call for twelve legions of angels to rescue Him as He could have. Rather, He prayed for those who nailed Him to the Cross: the Roman soldiers, the chief priests and rulers, and the crowds that demanded His death. Jesus could have ruined it all by striking back at the people who were killing Him. But He reached down into the innermost part of His being and said, “Father, forgive...” Many of them never responded but the important thing was that He responded. He forgave. Only when we see what sin really does are we ready for forgiveness. Christ’s broken body and wounded hands show us what sin does. It drives nails into His Body. It is this which staggers our sensitivities and makes us cry, “Lord, be merciful to me the sinner!” Then God breaks through and assures us that our sin cannot and will not keep Him from loving us. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
THE SECOND WORD
“Truly I say to you, Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Peter denied his Lord in public, the penitent thief confessed Jesus in public. “Remember me, Lord, when You come into Your kingdom.” The response on the part of Jesus was instantaneous: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Here is salvation in one sentence. The first person to enter heaven was a thief - a forgiven thief, but a thief to the very end, for he ended up stealing heaven by God’s grace through repentance. If one who is so bad that he has to be executed for his crimes is the first to enter heaven, then there is hope for me. “Today,” said a great French preacher. “What immediacy! ‘You will be with me.’ What companionship! ‘in paradise.’ What a place!”
“He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Son, behold your mother’” (John 19:26-27)
With this third word from the cross, Jesus showed His tender concern for His mother. His deep concern was that as a widow her basic needs would be met after His death. He commanded her to the loving care of His faithful and beloved disciple, John. He was concerned not only about promising a dying thief the peace of Paradise, but also about the physical and temporal needs of His mother. Jesus is concerned about all daily wants. As the Good Shepherd Who gave His life for His sheep, His love is all-embracing and all-inclusive. And He wants us to be concerned about the daily wants and needs of His children beginning, of course, with our own family.
THE FOURTH WORD
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).
Jesus had been forsaken by man but not by God. This was the absolute of spiritual loneliness. His cry was nothing less than the absolute of suffering, a mental anguish which staggers one’s whole being. Jesus was experiencing what other people feel when they are separated from God. Having borne the alienation of our sins so completely, He could not sense God’s presence at that moment, yet He still had a basic trust in Him as “My God,” and He cried out to Him as “My God.” He passed through the absolute worst, and by the power of an absolute faith he turned Calvary into an absolute best. When faced with absolute despair, Jesus shows us what to do: Cry out to God! Cry out from the depths of our heart. Express our utter desperate need of Him. God will never hide His face from us. He experienced that God-forsakenness that we might ever have the assurance of His abiding presence.
THE FIFTH WORD
“I thirst” (John 19:28)
It is strange that the Lord Jesus “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand” (Is. 40:12), and Who made water come out of the rock; Who is the source of living water (John 4:10) - strange that the Creator - God, become fully human, can say, “I thirst.” St. Augustine says, “The thirst of Christ on the Cross was not only a bodily thirst, but also a thirst for the salvation of human kind.” He was thirsty for the faithful to have their parched bodies flow with living water (John 7:38). He is always inviting us with the words, “To the thirsty I will give freely from the fountain of the water of life” (Rev. 21:6). “I thirst.” It was a cry from a dying man for water, but it was also a thirst for God Whose face was momentarily overcast by clouds of human faithlessness and evil. It was a yearning for that great day when He could say, “I am going to my Father’s house, for my work is done, and I will bring with Me human nature sanctified, redeemed, and glorified.”
THE SIXTH WORD
“It is finished” (John 19:30)
In Greek it is a single word: tetelestai. It means not just “finished” but “gloriously finished.” It is a shout of victory, a thanksgiving, a cry after a night of pain. St. Augustine said, “This was the fulfilment of the prophecies (Ps. 22:31), as if Christ wanted to say, ‘What the prophet had written about Me ... has been finished.’” The power of Satan has been destroyed. “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). The act of redemption has been accomplished. The Prodigal can now return home. “it is finished.” “Come for all is now ready.” As Spurgeon said, “It is finished - sin blotted out; reconciliation complete; everlasting righteousness brought in; and believing souls saved.”
THE SEVENTH WORD
“Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit” (Luke 23:46)
The darkness in which Jesus had felt He was forsaken by the Father has passed. Instead, in full faith and hope, Jesus now entrusts His Spirit to the Father Who can redeem Him from death. “Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.” From this beautiful relinquishment comes God’s peace and rest. After Christ had given up His Spirit, one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear. Immediately blood and water flowed out. St. James of Serugh says, “He received the spear in His side and opened the door for all to enter. His side was opened so that sinners might enter through it to heaven. Water and blood flowed out of it: A new well has been opened on Calvary,” the well of the Fountain of the Water of Life. With this cry, it is as if Jesus paraphrased the words of St. Paul, “O death! Where is your sting? O grave! Where is your victory? O world! O life! Where is your power to destroy the Son of God?” Death did not win the day. It never does for the true believer. When our end comes, we shall know what to say: “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.”
Dear Lord, as You speak to us from the pulpit of the Cross we shall be bending close and listening. For You shall be sharing with us Your last will and testament - a will in which You remember not only the penitent thief but each one of us. To us You bequeath Your Kingdom. For us the Cross. For us the nails. For us the scourgings. For us the crown of thorns. For us the lashes. For us the cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” For us the words, “Father, forgive them...” For us - that we may be forgiven and share in Your eternal life beginning here and now. Amen.
SOURCE : God Speaks from the Cross – Anthony M. Coniaris