Title: The Seven Sayings of Christ on the Cross
by Pastor David Cox————————
Table of Contents
4. A Word of Forgiveness: Father forgive them. Luke 23:34.
5. A Word of Salvation: Today you will be with me in Paradise. Luke 23:43.
6. A Word of Affection: Behold your son; Behold your mother. John 19:26-27.
7. A Word of Anguish: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me. Mat 27:46; Mark 15:34.
8. A Word of Suffering: I thirst. John 19:28.
9. A Word of Victory: It is finished. John 19:30.
10. A Word of Contentment: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. Luke 23:46.
11. Appendix 1 – The medical aspect of Christ’s Death
Wikipedia.org designates these seven sayings with the following titles:
The crucifixion of Christ is unique in that it is the single event in history that anchors and causes the salvation of sinful human beings, but also because it is unique in itself.
It is interesting that no one gospel has all seven of these sayings. Each of the Gospel writers brings out one or other of these events.
Three sayings appear exclusively from Luke, and three from John. The other saying is in both Matthew and Mark.
In Matthew (Jewish King presentation of Christ) and Mark (servant presentation of Christ), Jesus cries out to God. In Luke (to the Gentiles) he forgives his killers, and reassures the repentant thief, and commends his spirit to the Father. In John he speaks to his mother, he shows his humanity in thirst, and he declares the end of his human life.
I will summarize from Arthur Pink in his book, The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross, as he makes these points:
(1) the Death of Christ was Natural. It was a real death. Salvation was purchased by Christ’s real blood (Act 20:28), and God was acting in Christ’s death in order to reconcile Himself (God) with the world (2Co. 5:19). The death of the Messiah (“Jehovah’s Fellow”) was only possible because he became flesh, “and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phi. 2.8).
(2) the Death of Christ was Unnatural. It was abnormal because even though God became flesh in order to suffer and die, it cannot be assumed that “death” had a claim upon Jesus as it does on us. Death is the wages of sin, but Jesus had none. From before his birth, he was known as “that Holy Thing” (Luk. 1:35). Repeatedly Scripture proclaims that Jesus “did no sin” 1Pe 2:22, he had “no sin” 1Jn 3:5, and he “knew no sin” 2Co 5:21. He was the Holy One of God “without blemish and without spot” 1Pe 1:19. Death had no claim on him, and even Pilate could find no fault with him.
(3) the Death of Christ was preter-natural. It was marked out and determined beforehand. Jesus was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13.8). Jesus’ righteousness in dying on the Cross was for sins “that are past” (Rom 3:25).
(4) the Death of Christ was supernatural. It was a death unlike any other death. In all things Jesus has the pre-eminence. His birth was different from any other birth, and so his death. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to take it again” (Joh. 10:17, 18).
THE DOCTRINE OF THE CROSS
In Galatians 5:11, and Rom 5:12, Paul uses the term “cross” not as a physical piece of wood, but as a doctrine which he preaches, and at which people have a difficult time accepting.
The doctrine of the cross is a doctrine of Jesus dying for us, paying the penalty for us. It is as important how Jesus responded to this God the Father’s will for his life as it is that he died. For example, if Jesus would have been beheaded or hanged by a noose, we could not have seen his reaction and acceptance of this torture for us. We see his patience and willful obedience even unto death. That is our moral and spiritual example to follow.
Hebrews 12:3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
The doctrine of the cross is to be applied to the body of Christ, which is the body of the redeemed. Each of these saying can equally be applied to the church as it can be applied to Christ.
WHO SENT JESUS TO THE CROSS?
Neither the Jews nor Pilate sent Jesus to the Cross but God the Father did. It is interesting that these 7 sayings begin with Jesus speaking to God the Father, and ending with Jesus speaking to God the Father.
From Christ’s birth, Jesus entered the world with an anticipation of the cross. For example, in Luke 1:31, Jesus was to be named “Jesus” (Jehovah is salvation) because he would save his people from their sins (Mat 1:21).
4. A Word of Forgiveness
“Father forgive them; for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34.
FIRST EVENT GIVES THE TONE OF ALL
The purpose of the incarnation was for Jesus to forgive sin, and when we see a series of things, we pay special attention to the first and last (and middle). But what a fitting beginning of relating the events of the cross than to start with Jesus forgiving those very people who were crucifying Him.
Jesus began his public ministry with prayer (Luke 3:21), and here he is closing his ministry and life with prayer. The Son of God came into the world to save sinners, and the world refused to recognize Him in this capacity. In this prayer of interecession, Christ forgave those who actually did the killling of the Son of God. At the same time that these refused to recognize Him, later on, one of the thieves did recognize Him and found salvation. But this aggressive rejection of the Messiah of God did not start here. From his birth, Herod sought to kill him. The cross is a final yielding of Christ the Messiah into the hands evil men. Satan has his day on this day, but even so, the will of God overcomes all the evil and aggression that Satan seeks to thrust upon the Christ-Messiah. (“Christ” is greek for “Messiah”, so the concepts are identical.)
Satan, in his mind, finishes the Messiah’s iinfluence and effect on mankind by killing him, but little does he understand that the way of God IS TO DIE. By death, the child of God encounters victory. Only if the seed first dies will it bring new life.
Satan also sought no ordinary death for the Christ-Messiah, but a death of intense pain, suffering, and public scandal, shame. It should be very instructive to us what “mankind” did to Jesus. The very hands that healed the sick, that by touching the afflicted he removed their burdens and pains… Those feet that walked and sought out the needy to help them… Those feet that walked beside the feeble sheep to comfort them… Those hands and feet were forcefully NAILED TO A CROSS so that they could ministry no more. This is the final attack of Satan against the person of Jesus. Satan’s final attempt to stop Jesus from having any kind of ministry, and yet, through this, Jesus’ ministry multiplied 100 fold.
JESUS LIVED FORGIVENESS AT ANY COST
“Forgiveness” means to cancel, remit, pardon, to no longer hold something against a person. Jesus was asking the Father to not hold his killers responsible for their actions. The possibilities here are the soldiers, Pilate, the Jewish leaders (1Co. 2:8), and/or the Jewish nation (Acts 13:27).
It is easier to forgive somebody when you are well, rich or well off economically, and really it doesn’t cost you anything. But when you are sick and dying, when you have lost all the worldly possessions you have ever had, and you are facing death by torture, it is not so easy to forgive those who are inflicting this on you.
One would expect a scathing rebuke of his torturers. But Jesus, by this demostration of his great heart of forgiveness, shows us that He never allowed his own desires, welfare, or well-being to come before his service to others.
In Heb. 9:22; the Bible on behalf of God demands that all remission of sin be effected with the price of blood. There is no “getting around” this, because this is what the justice of God demands.
WE SHOULD LOVE OUR ENEMIES
In Mat. 5:44, Luk. 6:27-28; the Bible commands us to love our enemies. While this is supposedly done “tongue-in-cheek” by many Christians, Jesus shows us what this means by forgiving his executioners.
It is also important to understand how Jesus saw sin and sinners. Jesus hates sin, and died to defeat the power of sin in our lives, but he loves sinners. That is a difficult thing to separate many times, and we confuse the sinner and what they do to use. Jesus didn’t.
In Act. 3:17, likewise Peter makes the statement that the Jews crucified Jesus in ignorance, “through ignorance ye did it.” This is the same as what Jesus says here of the Jews and Romans crucifying him, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do” Luk. 23:34.
All this should teach us that sin is the enemy to oppose, and that no human is ever beyond the mercy of God.
JESUS ASKS FORGIVENESS FOR THEIR SINS
Why did Christ ask the Father to forgive these people’s sins? In the gospel history that we have, this is unprecedented, because while Jesus himself freely forgave individuals of their sins (Mat. 9:2; Luk. 7:48), he had never asked the Father to do the forgiving. Well the Jews discerned (Mar. 2:7), only God can truly forgive sins. To answer this question we reflect on where and what Jesus was doing when he invoked the Father. Actually hanging on the cross, and actually fulfilling the requirements of God for Jesus to be the Saviour, he could not invoke divine rights and powers on the cross. He would die as a man, as any other man would die. Jesus refused to use his divine abilities on the cross in order to effect salvation for us.
But he was no longer on earth! He had been “lifted up from the earth” (Joh. 12:32)! Moreover, on the cross he was acting as our substitute; the just was about to die for the unjust. Hence it was that hanging there as our representative, he was no longer in the place of authority where he might exercise his own divine prerogatives, therefore takes he the position of a suppliant before the Father. Thus we say that when the blessed Lord Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them”, we see him absolutely identified with his people. No longer was he in the position “on earth” where he had the “power” or “right” to forgive sins; instead, he intercedes for sinners – as we must. –Pink, Seven Saying of our Saviour on the Cross.
JESUS IDENTIFIES WITH HUMANITY
It is beyond our capabilities to understand why God insisted on the Christ-Messiah to have to identify Himself in this way, but God insisted on the Christ being a full human being. This identification with us is complete in the sense that what a human being is, Jesus Christ was. It is incomplete in the sense that because of his requirements of being the Lamb of God, Christ could not experience first hand sin. But none-the-less, Christ did identify with the transgressors, and he became sin on the cross.
THE SPILLING OF HIS BLOOD, THE LETTING OF HIS LIFE
Isa 53:12 Therefore will I divide him [a portion] with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The Scriptures make clear that the power of Christ to redeem is invested in his “pouring out of his soul unto death.” This “bearing of the sin of many” is in the justice of God what makes him the Saviour of mankind.
All of this gave Jesus the Christ-Messiah the right, the power, the correct-in-the-sight-of-God ability to interceed. Here in the end, we see Christ shining bright in this intercessive ministry.
“These words were probably spoken while our Lord was being nailed to the cross, or as soon as the cross was reared up on end. It is worthy of remark that as soon as the blood of the Great Sacrifice began to flow, the Great High Priest began to intercede” JC Ryle, Commentary on Luke, p. 467
“Is there pardon with God for enemies? How inexcusable then are all they that persist and perish in their enmity to Christ!” – John Flavel, The Fountain of Life, p. 377
“If your spirits be full of tumult and revenge, the spirit of Christ will grow a stranger to you: that dove delights in clean and quiet breasts. O then imitate Christ in this excellency also!” – John Flavel, ibid, p. 382
“This first of the seven cross-sayings of our Lord presents him in the attitude of prayer. How significant! How instructive! His public ministry had opened with prayer (Luke 3:21), and here we see it closing in prayer. Surely he has left us an example! No longer might those hands minister to the sick, for they are nailed to the cross; no longer may those feet carry him on errands of mercy, for they are fastened to the cruel tree; no longer may he engage in instructing the apostles, for they have forsaken him and fled. How then does he occupy himself? In the ministry of prayer! What a lesson for us.” – AW Pink, Seven Sayings
“There are individuals upon earth for whom no one feels inclined to pray, because they are too depraved. There are those who even dare not pray for themselves, because their consciences testify that such worthless creatures as they are cannot reckon upon being heard. What a prospect is here opened to people of this description! Ah, if no heart beats for them on earth, the heart of the King of kings may still feel for them. If among their friends, not one is to be found to intercede for them, yet possibly the Lord of Glory is not ashamed of bearing their names before His Father’s throne. O what hope beams on Calvary for a sinful world!” –FW Krummacher, The Suffering Savior, p. 360
“Louis XII, King of France, had many enemies before he succeeded to the throne. When he became king, he caused a list to be made of his persecutors, and marked against each of their names a large black cross. When this became known, the enemies of the king fled, because they thought it was a sign that he intended to punish them. But the king, hearing of their fears, made them be recalled, with an assurance of pardon: and said that he had put a cross beside each name, to remind him of the Cross of Christ, that He might endeavor to follow the example of Him who had prayed for His murderers, and had exclaimed, ‘Father, forgive them, for thy know not what they do.’” – Gray and Adams Bible commentary (quote attributed to “Bate”). P. 429
5. A Word of Salvation.
“Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom… today shalt thou be with me in paradise” Luke 23:42-43
Isaiah 53:12 prophesied of the Messiah’s crucifixion among transgressors. This passage says…
Isa. 53:12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The Messiah was to bare the sin of the sinful, and he was to make intercession for them. Part of this work was involved with his identification with them, and this reflects his incarnation.
THE TWO THIEVES
The two thieves represent humanity. Each of them represent one of only two options that are the responses of men’s souls to salvation and the Saviour. One rejected Christ, mocking him. The other also mocked Christ, but changed his mind and attitude, and was gloriously saved. In the beginning, both thieves mocked Christ (Mar 15:32). But something changed in the heart of the one.
THE BELIEVING THIEF
In Luke 23:40-41, this man expresses the innocence of Jesus, and the other two’s guilt. In Luk. 23:42 he requests Jesus to remember him when he enters his kingdom.
It should be very carefully noted what was in this man’s heart that stirred Christ to declare unto him his salvation. First of all, this thief did not ask for immediate rescue from the cross. He accepted his human punishment for his sins, the consequences for his sinful life. No. He was not seeking rescue from the cross, but rescue from an eternity in hell. Secondly, this man recognized the Kingdom of Christ, and Christ as its King. The Jews were mocking Christ’s claims to be God and King of the Jews (i.e. the Messiah). They posted a sign over Jesus’ head. This thief believed Jesus was the Messiah, and that resulted in his salvation. He wanted to enter into Christ’s heaven with him.
At this time, all Old Testament saints could not yet enter into hell because Christ had not yet died on the cross in time for them. They went to Sheol, to the part known as paradise. See Appendix 2 about this. The promise was to enter into Paradise with Jesus.
In the Septuagint (Greek OT), the word “paradise” was used for the Garden of Eden, and over the years, it became synonymous with heaven. Even in Revelation we find this concept continued…
Rev 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
This tree of life is mentioned again in Rev 22:1-2 in the new Jerusalem, heaven. Paul equates “paradise” with the third heaven where God resides 2Co 12:3-4.
THE UNBELIEVING THIEF
Luke 23:39 this thief mocks Jesus which bore the exalted title of Messiah, but was dying before his eyes.
“Is there an eternal state, into which souls pass after this life? How precious then is present time, upon the improvement whereof that state depends. O what a huge weight hath God hanged upon a small wire! God hath set us here in a state of trial: ‘According as we improve these few hours, so will it fare with us to all eternity.’ Every day, every hour, nay, every moment of your present time has an influence into your eternity. Do you believe this?” – John Flavel, The Fountain of Life, Works Vol. 1, p. 397
“The word ‘today’ contains a body of divinity. It tells us that the very moment a believer dies, his soul is in happiness and safe keeping. His full redemption is not yet come. His perfect bliss will not begin before the resurrection morning. But there is no mysterious delay, no season of suspense, no purgatory, between his death and a state of reward. In the day that he breathes his last he goes to Paradise. In the hour that he departs he is with Christ” –JC Ryle, Commentary on Luke, p. 474
“Another important lesson which we may learn from the crucifixion of Christ between the two thieves, and the fact that one received Him and the other rejected Him, is that of the Sovereignty of God. The two malefactors were crucified together. They were equally near to Christ. Both of them saw and heard all that transpired during those fateful six hours. Both were notoriously wicked; both were suffering acutely; both were dying; and both urgently needed forgiveness. Yet one of them died in his sins, died as he had lived—hardened and impenitent; while the other repented of his wickedness, believed in Christ, called on Him for mercy, and went to Paradise. How can this be accounted for except by the sovereignty of God! We see precisely the same thing going on today. Under exactly the same circumstances and conditions, one is melted and another remains unmoved. Under the same sermon one man will listen with indifference, while another will have his eyes opened to see his need, and his will moved, to close with God’s offer of mercy.” –AW Pink, The Seven Sayings of our Savior on the cross
6. A Word of Affection.
“Behold your son; Behold your mother.” John 19:26-27.
JESUS’ RELATIONSHIP WITH MARY
Jesus’ relationship with Mary has always been an issue of dispute between Bible believers and those who would exalt Mary over Jesus and desire to worship her instead of her son. Here we note that Jesus ended his earthly relationship with Mary, establishing John as her caretaker in her old age.
CLOSURE WITH MARY
Mary is a unique individual in the Bible. Besides being the blessed Christian woman that God used to introduce the Christ into the world, Mary was an observer and witness to many things that few others saw. It is very probable that Mary had a great deal to do with “filling in the details of Jesus’ life” when the Scriptures were written, as well as verifying these details.
This moment with Mary and word to Mary provides closure between Jesus and Mary. This is seen in two ways. First Mary was present when Jesus entered the world (and the vehicle through which Jesus came). Mary will now be the witness of Jesus’ exodus from this life. Mary also was with Jesus in the wedding of Cana when he began his earthly ministry. Now Mary will be present and a witness to the ending of his earthly ministry. The counterpart of the great joy she had at the birth of her son, and that son being the Christ, now is offset by the great sadness of witnessing her son’s execution in a painful and shameful way, with those present scorning Jesus, and making fun of the very mission for which hecame to this earth.
THE SORROW OF MARY’S HEART
According to Simeon’s prophecy (Luke 2:35), Mary was to have her soul pierced. Undoubtedly this is a reference to her being alive and a witness to Jesus’ crucifixion.
JESUS’ REJECTION BY HIS OUR FAMILY
Many speculate that Joseph probably had already passed away, and Mary needed the support of Jesus. The rest of his brothers and sisters (John 7:2-5) probably were not believers at this point. Again this follows the prophecies given of the Messiah, in that he would be estranged from even his own family (Psa 69:8). Within the teachings of Jesus himself, we also see that the cause of the Gospel is one that would excise dire things from those who follow Christ, and the followers of Jesus would likewise “pay the price” with the rejection and persecution of their own families (Mat 10:34-36).
Contrary to this passage proving that Jesus was an only child, what this proves is that (1) Joseph had already died, and (2) Mary was so much associated with the beliefs and ministry of Jesus, that even her own children, her own flesh and blood, had apparently abandoned her to her devotion to her firstborn. John 7::2-5 makes the statement that “neither did his brethren believe in him.” Now what is a “brother”? The term is used in only two forms in Scripture: (1) it is a physical, flesh and blood relative to a person, usually having the same mother and father, but at times used of “half-brothers”, those who have the same mother OR father. (2) It is used spiritually in Scripture for one who shares the same beliiefs of another, and this is very clearly understood in Scripture to be someone who is a fellow believer that Jesus is the Christ-Messiah, the anointed one who is the Saviour.
While some (Catholics mainly) wish to push Jesus into being an only child of Mary for the purpose of adorning and exalting Mary, because the cannot bear the thought of Mary having sex with her husband as though that was sin, we cannot accept that position. If John 7:2-6 does refer to “spiritual brethren”, then how can these “brethren” of Jesus be his brethren if they don’t believe in him? The phrase “neither did his brethren believe in him” means that they were NOT spiritual brethren. Likewise other passages clearly refer to the Lord’s brother (James) which is ridiculous if you try to make it mean a spiritual brother because in a church context where everybody is defined as a spiritual brother of Jesus because of their faith, then it carries no meaning. Why say that? What does it mean? It has to mean a physical brother in the flesh.
Mark 6:3 also refers to the physical brethren of Jesus.
THE FAITHFUL FOUR
Our account here is that Mary his mother, Mary of Cleopas, his mother’s sister, Mary Magdalene, and the apostle John are all at the foot of the cross. Why is this remarkable? First of all, the shepherd had been smitten and the sheep scattered. The rest of Christ’s followers were not to be found it appears. They feared retribution against them for their association with Jesus. But these faithful believers would not allow these fears, which undoubtedly were as much pressuring them as the rest, to keep them away from their precious Jesus in his hour of need. Even though the whole world abandons you, when you are faithful to God, He will always leave a faithful few.
But those who come to comfort and console are not to find a disturbed, rattled friend who is panicking and fearing for his life, cursing his captors, and pleading for freedom. What they find is a compassionate friend who is more concerned for his family and friends than apparently his own welfare. Jesus had resolved to die on the cross. There was no fear, no panick, no refusal of this God’s will for Him.
“Hath Jesus Christ given such a famous pattern of obedience and tenderness to parents? Then there can be nothing of Christ in stubborn, rebellious, and careless children, that regard not the good or comfort of their parents. The children of disobedience cannot be the children of God. If providence directs this to the hands of any that are so, my heart’s desire and prayer for them is, that the Lord would search their souls by it, and discover their evils to them…” John Flavel, The Fountain of Life, Works Vol. 1, p. 388
“We should mark the high honor our Lord puts on the fifth commandment. Even in His last hour He magnifies it, and makes it honourable, by providing for His mother according to the flesh. The Christian who does not lay himself out to honor father and mother – both one and the other parent, is a very ignorant religionist” –JC Ryle, Commentary on John’s Gospel, Vol. 3, p. 350
“Permit just a brief word of exhortation. Probably these lines may be read by numbers of grownup people who still have living fathers and mothers. How are you treating them? Are you truly “honoring” them? Does this example of Christ on the Cross put you to shame? It may be you are young and vigorous, and your parents gray-headed and infirm; but saith the Holy Spirit, “Despise not thy mother when she is old” (Pro 23:22). It may be you are rich, and they are poor; then fail not to make provision for them. It may be they live in a distant state or land, then neglect not to write them words of appreciation and cheer which shall brighten their closing days. These are sacred duties. “Honor thy father, and thy mother.” –AW Pink, The Seven Saying of our Savior on the Cross
7. A Word of Anguish
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” Mat 27:46; Mark 15:34.
Isa 53:9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither [was any] deceit in his mouth.
THE PHYSICAL SUFFERING OF CHRIST
Part of the plan of salvation is first the identification or union of Christ the Messiah with the human race. This happened in the incarnation. Once that had taken place, we understand that Jesus was not just “playing man” as some have suggested, saying that Jesus was not really flesh and blood, but just an apparition, like a ghost. According to the authority of God’s word, Jesus actually suffered physically. This is important because it proves to us that he was flesh and blood, and that he was one of us, i.e. human.
DESCRIPTIONS OF CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS
Isa 50:6 I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
Isa 53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, [there is] no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were [our] faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither [was any] deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put [him] to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see [his] seed, he shall prolong [his] days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, [and] shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him [a portion] with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Ps 69:21 They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
If we compare these verses with the crucifixion accounts, we see that God plainly tells us that Jesus suffered greatly before he died. This suffering is the price he paid (in part) for our salvation.
THE SPIRITUAL SUFFERING OF JESUS
Beyond the physical pain and suffering that Jesus experienced on the Cross, Jesus suffered in a spiritual way, because he “took on the sins of the world”, and “became sin for us.”
THE MEANING OF JESUS CRY
In the scheme of God’s plan, God is judge of the world, and things are simple. He who sins will die and be punished forever in hell. Nobdoy escapes and nobody can hide his sin from God the Father’s eye. Since every man has sinned, everybody will go to hell forever. God saw this situation, and the plan of salvation that He created is to resolve this situation.
Even though God is omniscient, there is something that “God doesn’t know”, a place where God doesn’t go, and a thing “God doesn’t see”. This place was created by Jesus on the cross. God exists in three persons (yet just 1 God) for the divine purposes. In studying the nature of God, we understand that God is love, this is his essence, his being. You cannot have this biblical kind of love without three elements. You need the person who loves, the person who is loved, and the manifestation of that love between the two. This represents the trinity exactly.
Again we see a need for the different persons of God in the salvation of mankind. In the plan of God, Jesus came to be the Saviour. God the Father is the judge which when he sees sin, he judges with absolute punishment. Jesus is our lawyer which works to set us free from the penalty of the law which we have broke. But more than that, Jesus actually became sin for us, and bore our sins on Himself on the cross.This is even better than a lawyer, because Jesus our lawyer paid the penalty, not us.
Col 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
The work of Jesus (if you receives Him as your person Saviour) is to take our sins and nail them to the cross. This is actually the evidence that God the Father (judge) will see and use to judge us. But this place which God has created is a place where God the Father refuses to enter and see. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mat 27:46, Mar 15:34. In other words, the cross is the only place which God the Father doesn’t “see”, because Jesus became sin for us there. This is salvation at its very core. If you accept Jesus as your personal Saviour, you believe that Jesus bore your sins on the cross, and all the evidence of all your sins are nailed to the cross by your believing in Jesus.
“These words show the greatest faith that ever was in this world. Faith is the believing the Word of God, not because we see it to be true, or feel it to be true, but because God has said it.” – Robert Murray McCheyne, sermon entitled “My God, My God”
“From the broken bread and poured-out wine seems to rise the cry “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?’ For me – for me!” –Robert Murray McCheyne
“The ocean of Christ’s sufferings is unfathomable” – Robert Murray McCheyne, ibid
“I do not think that the records of time or even of eternity, contain a sentence more full of anguish. Here the wormwood and the gall, and all the other bitternesses, are outdone. Here you may look as into a vast abyss; and though you strain your eyes, and gaze till sight fails you, yet you perceive no bottom; it is measureless, unfathomable, inconceivable. This anguish of the Saviour on your behalf and mine is no more to be measured and weighed than the sin which needed it, or the love which endured it. We will adore where we cannot comprehend.” – CH Spurgeon, Spurgeon Sermon #2133
“Make a life-study of that bitter but blessed question, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” Thus the Savior raises an inquiry not so much for himself as for us; and not so much because of any despair within his heart as because of a hope and a joy set before him, which were wells of comfort to him in his wilderness of woe.” – CH Spurgeon
“Let the expression sink down into our hearts, and not be forgotten. We can have no stronger proof of the sinfulness of sin, or of the vicarious nature of Christ’s sufferings, than His cry, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!’ It is a cry that should stir us up to hate sin, and encourage us to trust in Christ.” –JC Ryle, Commentary on Matthew, p. 394
“All the wailings and howlings of the damned to all eternity, will fall infinitely short of expressing the evil and bitterness of sin with such emphasis as these few words, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me.” –Jamieson (quote noted by JC Ryle in his commentary).
8. A Word of Suffering
“I thirst.” John 19:28.
This is a fulfillment of a prophecy in Psa 69:21.
Psa 69:21 They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Jesus undoubtedly was conscious of this prophecy and acted to fulfill it. This shows that Jesus was mentally alert, in full possession of his mental faculties, and that the events of that day had not caused him to become deranged nor disturbed.
THE THIRSTY JESUS
It is kind of ironic that Jesus’ pain and suffering is presented to us in these words. Jesus thirsted. This is the same person who is represented in Scriptures as He himself is water.
John 4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
It is irony in this passage that eternal life is represented in Scriptures with the concept of clean, cool, fresh water.
Rev 7:16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
Rev 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
“In order to get the primary force of this fifth Cross-utterance of the Saviour, we must note its setting: “Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst” (Joh 19:28). The reference is to the Sixtyninth Psalm—another of the Messianic Psalms which describes so graphically His passion. In it the Spirit of prophecy had declared, “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (vs. 21). This remained yet unaccomplished. The predictions of the previous verses had already received fulfillment. He had sunk in the “deep mire” (vs. 2); He had been “hated without a cause” (vs. 4); He had “borne reproach and shame” (vs. 7); He had “become a stranger unto his brethren” (vs. 8); He had become “a proverb” to His revilers, and “the song of the drunkards” (vss. 11-12); He had “cried unto God” in His distress (vss. 16-20)—and now there remained nothing more than the offering Him the drink of vinegar and gall, and in order to this He cried, “I thirst.” –AW Pink, The Seven Sayings of our Savior from the Cross
“The law is a bright glass, wherein we may see the evil of sin; but there is the red glass of the sufferings of Christ, and in that we may see more of the evil of sin, than if God should let us down to hell, and there we should see all the tortures and torments of the damned. If we should see them how they lie sweltering under God’s wrath there, it were not so much as the beholding of sin through the red glass of the sufferings of Christ” – Jeremiah Burroughs, The Evil of Evils
“Suppose the bars of the bottomless pit were broken up; and damned spirits should ascend from thence, and come up among us, with the chains of darkness rattling at their heels, and we should hear the groans, and see the ghastly paleness and trembling of those poor creatures upon whom the righteous God hath impressed his fury and indignation; if we could hear how their consciences are lashed by the fearful scourge of guilt, and how they shriek at every lash the arm of justice gives them. If we should see and hear all this, it is not so much as what we may see in this text, where the Son of God, under his sufferings for it, cries out, I thirst.” – John Flavel, The Fountain of Life, Works Vol. 1, p. 425
9. A Word of Victory
“It is finished.” John 19:30.
This work in Greek “tetelestai” is actually a banking term meaning “paid in full”. Whatever is the salvation, it is God being paid what He demands to forgive sinners of their sins, and it was done completely by this point in time.
In John 10:18, the Scriptures plainly state that nobody “took Jesus’ life”, but that he laid it down of his own volition. In John 19:30, it states that “he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost”. Nobody can die on command of their own will. This is another proof of Jesus’ deity.
Pro 4:19 The way of the wicked [is] as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.
Hab. 1:13 [Thou art] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, [and] holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth [the man that is] more righteous than he?
Jn 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Rom 5:7-8 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
“It would need all the other words that ever were spoken, or ever can be spoken, to explain this one word. It is deep; I cannot fathom it.” – Charles Spurgeon, Christ’s Dying Word for His Church, Sermons on the Gospel of John, p. 170
“This was not the despairing cry of a helpless martyr; it was not an expression of satisfaction that the termination of his sufferings was now reached; it was not the last gasp of a worn-out life. No, rather was it the declaration on the part of the Divine Redeemer that all for which he came from heaven to earth to do, was not done; that all that was needed to reveal the full character of God had been accomplished; that all that was required by the law before sinners could be saved had now been performed; that the full price of our redemption was now paid” – AW Pink, Seven Sayings
“As long as there is breath in our bodies, let us serve Christ; as long as we can think, as long as we can speak, as long as we can work, let us serve him, let us serve him with our last gasp; and, if it be possible, let us try to set some work going that will glorify him when we are dead and gone.” –CH Spurgeon, sermon “Christ’s Dying Word”
“Let all that suffer for Christ, and with Christ, comfort themselves with this, that yet a little while and they also shall say, ‘It is finished.’” – Matthew Henry, Commentary
10. A Word of Contentment
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46.
THE UNIQUENESS OF CHRIST’S DEATH
1. Christ “laid down his life”, and no man took it from him. John 18 speaks of his arrest, which he foreknew and could have avoided, but went directly into the events that he knew would result in his death.
2. Jesus surrendered his life as an action of his will, not as a failure of his physical body. If we study Mat 27:50, we find that Jesus “yielded up the spirit”. This is an action which he did in his own will, not something that was thrust upon him out of his own control.
3. The barrier between God and Man because of man’s sin was done away with. This barrier was represented by a very thick and heavy veil in the temple. At this point according to Mark 15:38, the veil was rent. Both Matthew and Luke, and the author of Hebrews records this event because it is significant. This veil was off limits, and no man entered there except for the high priest once a year. The veil separated man from God, and at this point, man now had access to God through Christ’s work on the Cross.
Compare Heb 6:19-20; 9:3; 10:19-20.
In Mar 15.39, the centurion said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” There was something about the way Jesus died that gave testimony to his Divinity and being the Messiah.
“Is this the privilege of dying believers, to commend their souls into the hands of God? Then as ever you hope for comfort, or peace in your last hour, see that your souls be such, as may be then fit to be commended into the hands of an holy and just God: See that they be holy souls…endeavors after holiness are inseparably connected with all rational expectations of blessedness. Will you put an unclean, filthy, defiled thing into the pure hand of the most holy God? O see they be holy, and already accepted in the beloved, or woe to them when they take their leave of those tabernacles they now dwell in. The gracious soul may confidently say then, Lord Jesus! Into thy hand I commend my spirit. O let all that can say so then, now say, Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ.” – John Flavel, The Fountain of Life, Works Vol. 1, p. 453
“There is a sense, however, in which our Lord’s words supply a lesson to all true Christians. They show us the manner in which death should be met by all God’s children. They afford an example which every believer should strive to follow. Like our Master, we should not be afraid to confront the king of terrors. We should regard him as a vanquished enemy, whose sting has been taken away by Christ’s death.” –JC Ryle, Commentary on Luke, p. 480
11. Appendix – The medical aspect of Christ’s Death
Medical Account of Crucifixion
by Dr. C. Truman Davis
A Physician Testifies About the Crucifixion
About a decade ago, reading Jim Bishop’s “The Day Christ Died”, I realized that I had for years taken the Crucifixion more or less for granted – that I had grown callous to its horror by a too easy familiarity with the grim details and a too distant friendship with our Lord. It finally occurred to me that, though a physician, I didn’t even know the actual immediate cause of death.
The Gospel writers don’t help us much on this point, because crucifixion and scourging were so common during their lifetime that they apparently considered a detailed description unnecessary. So we have only the concise words of the Evangelists: “Pilate, having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to them to be crucified-and they crucified Him.” I have no competence to discuss the infinite psychic and spiritual suffering of the Incarnate God atoning for the sins of fallen man.
But it seemed to me that as a physician I might pursue the physiological and anatomical aspects of our Lord’s passion in some detail.
What did the body of Jesus of Nazareth actually endure during those hours of torture?
This led me first to a study of the practice of crucifixion itself; that is, torture and execution by fixation to a cross. I am indebted to many who have studied this subject in the past, and especially to a contemporary colleague, Dr. Pierre Barbet, a French surgeon who has done exhaustive historical and experimental research and has written extensively on the subject.
Apparently, the first known practice of crucifixion was by the Persians. Alexander and his generals brought it back to the Mediterranean world- to Egypt and to Carthage.
The Romans apparently learned the practice from the Carthaginians and (as with almost everything the Romans did) rapidly developed a very high degree of efficiency and skill at it. A number of Roman authors (Livy, Cicer, Tacitus) comment on crucifixion, and several innovations, modifications, and variations are described in the ancient literature.
For instance, the upright portion of the cross (or stipes) could have the cross-arm (or patibulum) attached two or three feet below its topiin what we commonly think of as the Latin cross.
The most common form used in our Lord’s Day, however, was the Tau cross, shaped like our T. In this cross the patibulum was placed in a notch at the top of the stipes.
There is archeological evidence that it was on this type of cross that Jesus was crucified.
Without any historical or biblical proof, Medieval and Renaissance painters have given us our picture of Christ carrying the entire cross.
But the upright post, or stipes, was generally fixed permanently in the ground at the site of execution and the condemned man was forced to carry the patibulum, weighing about 110 pounds, from the prison to the place of execution.
Many of the painters and most of the sculptors of crucifixion also show the nails through the palms.
Historical Roman accounts and experimental work have established that the nails were driven between the small bones of the wrists (radial and ulna) and not through the palms. Nails driven through the palms will strip out between the fingers when made to support the weight of the human body.
The misconception may have come about through a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words to Thomas, “Observe my hands.” Joh 20:27 Anatomists, both modern and ancient, have always considered the wrist as part of the hand. A titulus, or small sign, stating the victim’s crime was usually placed on a staff, carried at the front of the procession from the prison, and later nailed to the cross so that it extended above the head.
This sign with its staff nailed to the top of the cross would have given it somewhat the characteristic form of the Latin cross.
But, of course, the physical passion of the Christ began in Gethsemane. Of the many aspects of this initial suffering, the one of greatest physiological interest is the bloody sweat. It is interesting that St. Luke, the physician, is the only one to mention this. He says, “And being in Agony, He prayed the longer. And His sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground.” Luk 22:44
Every ruse (trick) imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away this description, apparently under the mistaken impression that this just doesn’t happen.
A great deal of effort could have been saved had the doubters consulted the medical literature. Though very rare, the phenomenon of Hematidrosis, or bloody sweat, is well documented. Under great emotional stress of the kind our Lord suffered, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. This process might well have produced marked weakness and possible shock.
After the arrest in the middle of the night, Jesus was next brought before the Sanhedrin and Caiphus, the High Priest; it is here that the first physical trauma was inflicted. A soldier struck Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiphus. The palace guards then blind-folded Him and mockingly taunted Him to identify them as they each passed by, spat upon Him, and struck Him in the face. In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted from a sleepless night, Jesus is taken across the Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. You are, of course, familiar with Pilate’s action in attempting to pass responsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea.
Jesus apparently suffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned to Pilate. It was then, in response to the cries of the mob, that Pilate ordered Bar-Abbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.
There is much disagreement among authorities about the unusual scourging as a prelude to crucifixion. Most Roman writers from this period do not associate the two.
Many scholars believe that Pilate originally ordered Jesus scourged as his full punishment and that the death sentence by crucifixion came only in response to the taunt by the mob that the Procurator was not properly defending Caesar against this pretender who allegedly claimed to be the King of the Jews.
Preparations for the scourging were carried out when the Prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. It is doubtful the Romans would have made any attempt to follow the Jewish law in this matter, but the Jews had an ancient law prohibiting more than forty lashes. The Roman legionnaire steps forward with the flagrum (or flagellum) in his hand. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs. At first the thongs cut through the skin only.
Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.
The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows.
Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.
The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with His own blood.
The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be king. They throw a robe across His shoulders and place a stick in His hand for a scepter.
They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. Flexible branch covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) are plaited into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. Again there is copious bleeding, the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body.
After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from His hand and strike Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp.
Finally, they tire of their sadistic sport and the robe is torn from His back. Already having adhered to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, its removal causes excruciating pain just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, and almost as though He were again being whipped the wounds once more begin to bleed. In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans return His garments.
The heavy patibulum of the cross is tied across His shoulders, and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion begins its slow journey along the Via Dolorosa.
In spite of His efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious blood loss, is too much. He stumbles and falls. The rough wood of the beam gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tries to rise, but human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus follows, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock, until the 650 yard journey from the fortress Antonia to Golgotha is finally completed.
Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic mixture. He refuses to drink. Simon is ordered to place the patibulum on the ground and Jesus quickly thrown backward with His shoulders against the wood.
The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action being careful not to pull the arms to tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement.
The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus reading “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” Luk 23:38 is nailed in place. The left foot is now pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed.
The Victim is now crucified.
As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists excruciating pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain-the nails in the writs are putting pressure on the median nerves. As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.
At this point, as the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act.
Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences recorded:
The first, looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice for His seamless garment, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luk 23:34
The second, to the penitent thief, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” Luk 23:43
The third, looking down at the terrified, grief-stricken adolescent John-the beloved Apostle-he said, “Behold thy mother.” Then, looking to His mother Mary, “Woman behold thy son.” Joh 19:26-27
The fourth cry is from the beginning of the 22nd Psalm, Psa 22:1 “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” Mat 27:46
Hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain where tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins… A terrible crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. One remembers again the 22nd Psalm, the 14th verse: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.” Psa 22:14
It is now almost over. The loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level; the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissue; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain.
Jesus gasps His fifth cry, “I thirst.” Joh 19:28. One remembers another verse from the prophetic 22nd Psalm: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou has brought me into the dust of death.” Psa 22:15 A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine which is the staple drink of the Roman legionaries, is lifted to His lips. He apparently doesn’t take any of the liquid.
The body of Jesus is now in extremes, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues.
This realization brings out His sixth words, possibly little more than a tortured whisper, “It is finished.”Joh 19:30 His mission of atonement has completed. Finally He can allow his body to die.
With one last surge of strength, he once again presses His torn feet against the nail, straightens His legs, takes a deeper breath, and utters His seventh and last cry, “Father! Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” Luk 23:46
The rest you know. In order that the Sabbath not be profaned, the Jews asked that the condemned men be dispatched and removed from the crosses.
The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of the bones of the legs.
This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; thus the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest and rapid suffocation occurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiers came to Jesus they saw that this was unnecessary. Apparently to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance through the fifth inter space between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. The 34th verse of the 19th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John reports: Joh 19:34 “And immediately there came out blood and water.” That is, there was an escape of water fluid from the sac surrounding the heart, giving postmortem evidence that, Our Lord died not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure (a broken heart) due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.
Thus we have had our glimpse – including the medical evidence – of that epitome of evil which man has exhibited toward Man and toward God.
It has been a terrible sight, and more than enough to leave us despondent and depressed.
How grateful we can be that we have the great sequel in the infinite mercy of God toward man-at once the miracle of the atonement (a tone ment) and the expectation of the triumphant Easter morning.