The Seven Last Words of Christ

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  The Seven Last Words of Christ: Reflections for Holy Week    The Seven Last Words of Christ   Reflections for Holy Week    Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts  Note: You may download this resource at no cost, for personal use or for use in a Christian ministry, as long as you are not publishing it for sale. All I ask is that you acknowledge the source of this material: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/. For all other uses,   please contact me at mark@markdroberts.com. Thank you. You may also be interested in: The Stations of the Cross: A Devotional Guide for Lent and Holy Week   The First Word: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”  (Luke 23:34)      Copyright © 2007, Linda E. S. Roberts. For permission to use this picture, please contact Mark. Reflection   It makes sense that the first word of Jesus from the cross is a word of forgiveness. That’s the point of the cross, after all. Jesus is dying so that we might be forgiven for our sins, so that we might be reconciled to God for eternity. But the forgiveness of God through Christ doesn’t come only to those who don’t know what they are doing when they sin. In the mercy of God, we receive his forgiveness even when we do what we know to be wrong. God chooses to wipe away our sins, not because we have some convenient excuse, and not because we have tried hard to make up for them, but because he is a God of amazing grace, with mercies that are new every morning. As we read the words, “Father, forgive them,” may we understand that we too are forgiven through Christ. As John writes in his first letter, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9). Because Christ died on the cross for us, we are cleansed from all wickedness, from every last sin. We are united with God the Father as his beloved children. We are free to approach his throne of grace with our needs and concerns. God “has removed our sins as far from u s as the east is from the west” (Ps 103:13). What great news!   Questions for Reflection  Do you really believe God has forgiven your sins? Do you take time on a regular basis to confess your sins so that you might enjoy the freedom of forgiveness? Do you need to experience God’s forgiveness in a fresh way today?   Prayer    Gracious Lord Jesus, it’s easy for me to speak of your forgiveness, even to ask for it and to thank you for it. But do I really believe I’m forgiven? Do I experience the freedom that comes from the assurance that you have cleansed me from my sins? Or do I live as if I’m  “semi - forgiven”? Even though I’ve put my faith in you and confessed my sins, do I live as sin still has power over me? Do I try to prove myself to you, as if I might be able to earn more forgiveness? Dear Lord, though I believe at one level that you have forgiven me, this amazing truth needs to penetrate my heart in new ways. Help me to know with fresh conviction that I am fully and finally forgiven, not because of anything I have done, but because of what you have done for me. May I live today as a forgiven person, opening my heart to you, choosing not to sin because the power of sin has been broken by your salvation. All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, for your matchless forgiveness! Amen. The Second Word: “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  (Luke 23:43)   Copyright © 2007, Linda E. S. Roberts. For permission to use this picture, please contact Mark. Reflection  As Jesus hung on the cross, he was mocked by the leaders and the soldiers. One of the criminals being crucified with him added his own measure of scorn. But the other crucified  criminal sensed that Jesus was being treated unjustly. After speaking up for Jesus, he cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come   into your kingdom” (v. 42).   Jesus responded to this criminal, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). The word  paradise , from the Greek word  paradeisos , which meant “garden,” was used in the Greek Old Testament as a word for the Garden of Eden. In Judaism of the time of Jesus it was associated with heaven, and also with the future when God would restore all things to the perfection of the Garden. Paradise was sometimes thought to be the place where righteous people went after death. This seems to be the way Jesus uses  paradise  in this passage. Thus we have encountered one of the most astounding and encouraging verses in all of Scripture. Jesus promised that the criminal would be with him in paradise. Yet the text of Luke gives us no reason to believe this man had been a follower of Jesus, or even a believer in him in any well-developed sense. He might have felt sorry for his sins, but he did not obviously repent. Rather, the criminal’s cry to be remembered seems more like a desperate, last-gasp effort. Though we should make every effort to have right theology, and though we should live our lives each day as disciples of Jesus, in the end, our relationship with him comes down to simple trust. “Jesus, remember me,” we cry. And Jesus, embodying the mercy of God, says to us, “You will be with me in paradise.” We are welcome there not because we have right theology, and not because we are living rightly, but because God is merciful and we have put our trust in Jesus. Questions for Reflection  Have you staked your life on Jesus? Have you put your ultimate trust in him? Do you know that, when your time comes, you will be with him in paradise? Prayer  Dear Lord Jesus, how I wonder at your grace and mercy! When we cry out to you, you hear us. When we ask you to remember us when you come into your kingdom, you offer the promise of paradise. Your mercy, dear Lord, exceeds anything we might imagine. It embraces us, encourages us, heals us. O Lord, though my situation is so different from the criminal who cried out to you, I am nevertheless quite like him. Today I live, trusting you and you alone. My life, but now and in the world to come, is in your hands. And so I pray: Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom! Jesus, remember me today as I seek to live within your kingdom! Amen. The Third Word: “Dear woman, here is your son.”  (John 19:26)  
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