Voices of Faith: What are we to make of the three versions of Jesus’ last words?


WORDS OF SUFFERING

The Rev. Raymond Davis Jr., founder of the Greater Corinthian Church of the Christ, Kansas City, Mo.:

These three versions of the last words of Jesus have one thing in common. Each text references the suffering circumstance of the cross of Christ. Jesus’ words of suffering were prophetically predicted, even chosen from words of suffering that had been spoken before him.

Consider the first two texts: Matthew 27:46, taken from Psalm 22, a Davidic Psalm, “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me.” The whole of this text consists of both anguish and praise. Jesus’ anguish was but for a moment because God’s forsaken was but for a moment Isaiah 54:7

Luke 23:46, taken from another Davidic Psalm, 31:5: “Into thy hands I commit My Spirit.”

One of the critical issues of being committed is in the lack of abatement of suffering. The commitment must result in surrender and unwavering trust. These particular words are the result and a statement of trust.

The Isaiah 53 Old Testament text is the beforehand description of the predicted Messiah.

Our salvation is defined in the context of the suffering Messiah on the cross, where also we hear God’s love spoken in the midst of suffering. Consider: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities. . . . Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him.”

Jesus last words were three: “It is finished” (John 19:30).

God’s accomplishments in Christ were many and mighty.

INSPIRATIONAL PROCLAMATIONS

The Rev. Robert Lee Hill, Community Christian Church, Kansas City: The New Testament gospel narratives contain what are traditionally regarded as the “Seven Last Words of Christ.” Uttered in the harrowing anguish of the crucifixion, they are among the most inspirational of Jesus’ proclamations, each one of them a veritable sermon.

Luke’s gospel contains three of these traditional “last words,” while John’s gospel has three different ones, and Matthew bears one more.

Matthew’s “last word” has Jesus quoting from Psalm 22. Down through the centuries, countless people have found great comfort in the notion that Jesus could experience and express utter abandonment. Accordingly, all prayers, especially honest anguish, establish connections to one’s ultimate source.

John’s brief “last word” — “It is finished” — can be understood as a searing truth about his earthly life and the initiation of his mission. Christ was finished with the world’s haughty attempt at humiliation, finished with the world’s vain attempt to keep him in its grasp and control his gospel of radical grace. His movement of care, compassion, justice, mercy, welcome and wonder was now launched.

According to Luke’s gospel, the light of day was eclipsed as Jesus, the one proclaimed as “the light of the world,” illuminated the central thesis of his entire ministry: “Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit.” No despairing submission. No bitter resignation. Simply and finally trusting surrender into the grace-filled hands of God.

Who else but God would have hands strong enough to receive the rabbi carpenter’s spirit?

These three “last words” are invitations to honest anguish, acknowledgment that Jesus’ mission has been launched, and trusting in the ultimate grace of God.

Have a question for The Star’s religious writers? Write to faith@kcstar.com.

2014 The Kansas City Star

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