READ: John 19:25-30
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother Mary, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing near her, Jesus said to His mother, ‘Mother, behold, your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, Jesus knew that all things had been accomplished, and so that scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ The soldiers help up to His lips a sponge soaked sour wine. After Jesus had taken the wine, He said, ‘It i finished!’ And then bowing His head, He gave up His Spirit.” – John 19:25-30
The last words of Jesus, we remember them particularly on Good Friday. Traditionally, we have called these last phrases the seven last words. But the last words of Christ, we remembered quite differently in the four Gospels. Matthew and Mark remember “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” – a cry of human anguish that quotes an ancient Psalm, Psalm 22. Yet, Luke and John make no mention of this cry. Luke records Jesus’ words of mercy, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” Only Luke remembers them, as Luke also only records Jesus’ words of mercy to the penitent thief, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Again, only Luke hears Jesus say, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” John’s Gospel, the Gospel of the beloved disciple, records none these last words. His remembrance is much different. John remembers Jesus’ words to Mary. Only John remembers Jesus’ messianic quote from Psalm 69.21, “I am thirsty”. Only John has Jesus’ last words from the cross to be, “It is finished.”
Here, at this most dramatic moment in the Gospel story, when Jesus is uttering His last words, the Gospel writers hear Him say such different words. You would think those last words would have been etched in the memories of all the disciples … yet they each remembered Christ’s last words in different ways. It was if Jesus spoke different last words to each different listener.
The other night, Brother Thomas peacefully died by candlelight and in the company of the Brothers. Brother Thomas was a man of eighty-one years, sixty-eight of those years, he lived in Greyfriars’ Abbey. He was a man of gentle grace, a humble man, a soft-spoken man, a man who worked the farm with hearty joy and said his prayers with a sweet and tender voice. He was truly a man of God. As Brother Thomas finished his earthly journey, he smiled and spoke his last words, traditional words of Benedictine Brothers as they depart, “Brothers, I will wait for your coming.” He spoke those last words to all of us, but in my own soul, he spoke those especially to me.
As I shared in the Good Friday service today, I once again heard those last words of Christ. I heard the words remembered by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but I also heard words spoken as if particularly to me. Oh, I suppose this is just my spiritual imagining … yet that imagining just might be … an authentic comforting ministry of the Spirit of the Lord.
If Jesus were speaking to you His last words from the cross, what might Jesus want YOU to hear and to always remember?
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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