THE SEVEN SAYINGS OF CHRIST FROM THE CROSS
WORDS FROM THE CROSS
The Puritan pastor Matthew Henry (1662-1714), best known for his commentary on the entire Bible, made this insightful remark concerning the death of Jesus Christ: "One reason why He died the death of the cross was that he might have liberty of speech to the last, and so might glorify His Father, and edify those about Him."
This liberty of speech has provided the church with these rich utterances for our reflection. Many words have been written upon these seven sayings. Below I shall provide you with each of the seven sayings in their most widely accepted chronological order. I will give you the Scripture reference to each saying, all of which come from the gospels. Following each saying I will provide you with a few quotes from some of my favorite authors who have written upon these words in their commentaries or other works. Lord willing, over time, I will add more helpful quotes as I come across them in my reading. May the Lord richly bless your own meditation upon these statemets of Christ as He hung upon the cross.
1. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34
“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
2. “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” Luke 23:43
“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
3. “Woman, behold your son!” John 19:26, “Behold your mother!” John 19:27
“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
4. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34
“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).
5. “I thirst” John 19:28
“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
6. “It is finished” John 19:30
“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
7. “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” Luke 23:46
“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 a 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
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