Famous Last Words

Over the course of history there have been some interesting last words that have also revealed where people’s hearts were at. Here are just a few examples:

• The last words of the famous painter Picasso were “Drink to me.”
• P. T. Barnum, the creator of  “Greatest Show on Earth,” the Barnum and Bailey Circus, had these last words when he died in 1891: “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”
• Sir Winston Churchill, the statesman who is famous for his commencement address of “Never give up!” died in 1965, with these last words. “I’m bored with it all.”

These last words gave insight to where their hearts were. Likewise, the last words of Jesus on the cross reveal where His heart was at but they also tell us a great deal about how we should live our lives. There are seven recorded sayings: if there were more, we don’t know but it is interesting that there are seven, a number that represents completeness.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:33-38).

These first words from the cross, recorded by Dr. Luke, emphasize the essence of His ministry—forgiveness. Hanging on the cross Jesus is not thinking of Himself but others, not His pain but our sins. He makes no threat, no curse, no complaint for His comfort. In the face of unimaginable suffering, He extends mercy to His persecutors, embodying the radical love that defined His life. He offers forgiveness; for the disciples who forsook Him and fled in the night, for the ones who shouted “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday and “crucify Him” a few days later, for the soldiers who nailed Him to the cross and for the bitter hearts of His religious enemies. Yet His forgiveness knows no bounds—it encompasses not only those directly involved in His crucifixion but extends to all humanity, past, present, and future. His act of forgiveness on the cross challenges us to examine how we forgive—to let go of envy, bitterness, resentment, and judgment, hatred and to, rather, embrace a spirit of compassion and reconciliation.

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)

Next, we hear Jesus say this to the thief beside Him.  From it we learn Jesus is very focused, He is on a mission to build a bridge of redemption for mankind. His promise of paradise to the repentant thief serves as a powerful testament to the boundless grace and mercy of God.

The word “Paradise” is a Persian word meaning “a walled garden”. When a Persian king wished to do one of his subjects a very special honour, he made him a “companion of the garden” and he was chosen to walk in the royal garden with the king. It was more than immortality that Jesus promised the penitent thief. He promised the honoured place of a companion of the garden in the courts of heaven. In this moment, Jesus reveals the heart of His mission—to seek and save the lost, to offer redemption to all who earnestly seek it.

What Jesus says here compels us to participate in God’s mission of reconciliation, reaching out to those on the margins, extending hope to the lost, the last and the least. It is a reminder for us that the worst sinner can be saved. We all have to decide, the time of decision came for both of the thieves.

“Woman, behold your son!” “Behold your mother!” (John 19:25b-27)

In the next statement we see that Jesus is full of compassion. John records that Jesus looks down from the cross and said these words to his mother and the Apostle John.  Even in His darkest hour, He prioritizes the well-being of those He loves, giving us another example of selflessness and sacrificial love. It is interesting Jesus refers to her as “woman” instead of His mother, for she too must see Him as Lord and not her son to enjoy the freedom He purchased.

In this, Jesus reminds us to consider our own relationships and responsibilities—to care for those entrusted to us, to bear one another’s burdens, and to extend compassion and support to those in need. It reminds us that true discipleship is not measured by some grand gesture but by our willingness to love and serve others, even when it requires personal sacrifice.

”My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)

Here, we see how much He values communion with the Father.   His cry of abandonment on the cross echoes the anguish of separation from the Father—a moment of profound despair. The greatest pain Jesus endured was not the physical pain of the cross but the spiritual separation from His Father. At the cross the Son carried the wrath of God for the sin of the whole world. The darkness lasted three hours and was an outward sign of the darkness that now wrapped itself around the soul of Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we read, “ For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” His cry challenges us to recognize the cost of our redemption, and to embrace the grace offered to us through Christ’s sacrifice. It prompts us to cultivate a deeper intimacy with God and find strength in communion with Him.

“I thirst!” (John 19:28-29)

In these next words we are reminded of Jesus’ humanity.  Although Jesus was divine, He was also uniquely man and felt all the emotions and pain as we feel them. Execution by crucifixion was not a sudden death like being shot by a firing squad. It was a long drawn out, lingering death carried out under the scorching sun. Psalm 22 speaks graphically of His condition, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth”. In this moment, He identifies with our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, bridging the gap between the divine and the human. This declaration challenges us to recognize the humanity of those around us.

“It is finished!” (John 19:30)

These words reflect that Jesus was determined to finish His destiny.  It is good to note that He didn’t say “I am finished” but rather “It is finished.” It was a shout of victory over sin, death and hell. The sacrifices and ceremonies of the Old Testament were but types pointing to the Christ, but now He had come, shadow had given way to substance; that which had been promised centuries before had at last been realized.  The Word tells us there is nothing left for mankind to do but to enter into the results of Christ’s finished work. This declaration challenges us to embrace the fullness of Christ’s victory—to live in the freedom and power of His resurrection, to walk in the newness of life, and to proclaim the good news to all who will hear. It prompts us to live with confidence and assurance, knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Father, into thy hands I commit My spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

Jesus’ final words are an act of surrender into the hands of the Father. Here He exemplifies His absolute trust and obedience. Jesus consciously gave His life. He laid it upon the altar. In this moment, He relinquishes control, entrusting His life and His spirit into the hands of the one who sent Him. This ultimate act of trust challenges us to relinquish our own will and desires and to yield to God’s sovereign purposes for our lives. To surrender our fears and anxieties, to release our grip on the things of this world, and to rest in the assurance of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness.

Jesus’ last words from the cross offer us a profound glimpse into His character and mission. In our day, they challenge us to follow our Lord and the example He gave us in the last moments on the cross.