For every person, there will come a last meal, a last breath, and of course a last statement. In many ways, what we say in the end can be an insight into what we were in life, what we stood for, lived for.
Sometimes people don’t know that they are uttering their last words. Michael Jackson, leaving practice for his “This Is It” concert, said, “This is it. . . . This really is it!” Sadly, he died shortly after saying this. The last words of P. T. Barnum were “What were today’s receipts?”
Other times, people’s last words are flippant. The day Karl Marx died, his housekeeper came to him and said, “Tell me your last words, and I will write them down!” Marx replied, “Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!” Comedian Groucho Marx’s last words were “Die, my dear? Why, that’s the last thing I’ll do!” Nostradamus predicted the future correctly with his departing words: “Tomorrow, I shall no longer be here!” Pablo Picasso said, “Drink to me, drink to my health; you know I can’t drink anymore!”
Some last words are tragic. Actress Joan Crawford, when her housekeeper was praying for her, gave these final words: “D****t! Don’t you dare pray for me!” Brad Delp, the lead singer of the band Boston committed suicide. On a note clipped to his shirt were his final words: “I am a lonely soul.”
Some last words are filled with courage. Nathan Hale, American patriot, was to be hanged for spying on the British. His last words were, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Todd Beamer, at the end of a cell phone call before he and others stormed the cockpit on UA Flight 93 to stop the Islamic hijackers, gave his last words: “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!”
Other last words are filled with faith. John Wesley said, “The best of all is: God is with us!” D. L. Moody declared, “I see earth receding, and heaven is opening. God is calling me.”
When Stephen was being stoned to death, his last words were, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” (Acts 7:55 NLT).
Let’s take a look at the last words of Jesus—the ones that He uttered from the cross, that is. He gave seven statements as he hung there:
1. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34 NKJV). These words were a prayer of forgiveness for those who were crucifying Him.
2. “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43 NKJV). These words of pardon were spoken to the thief who was being crucified next to Him.
3. (To Mary, about John) “Woman, behold your son.” (And to John, about Mary) “Behold your mother!” (John 19:26¬–27 NKJV). With these words, Jesus passed responsibility to His friend to take care of His mother.
4. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46 NKJV). These words were a plea to the Father. It was at this point that Jesus most likely bore all the sin of the world. On the cross, God treated Jesus as if He had lived your life. He did this so He could treat you as if you had lived Jesus’ life—without sin. That’s the good news of the gospel!
5. “I thirst!” His first words of a personal nature. John 19:28–29 says, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said ‘I thirst!’” (NKJV).
The worst of His battle was now behind Him. Up to this point, He had only focused on the needs of others: those who crucified Him, then the criminal who called upon Him, the mother who bore Him, and finally, the sins of the whole world! He had been so busy thinking of others, He had not thought of Himself.
Imagine the Creator of the universe saying this! The one who created water! He could have so easily performed a miracle! He could have spoken water into existence. But it’s important to note that He never once performed a miracle for His own benefit. When tempted by Satan to do so, He refused!
Scripture tells us that on a different occasion, Jesus was hungry, He grew tired, and He wept. He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Yes, Jesus was 100 percent God, but He was also 100 percent man!
He was called “a Man of sorrows.” No matter how great your need or difficulty, you can know that He understands. You can “cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NKJV).
Is your body racked with pain? So was His! Have you ever been misunderstood, misjudged, misrepresented? So was He! Have you had your closest friends turn away from you? So has Jesus! Has anyone ever betrayed you? It happened to Him too!
But Jesus did not focus on His pain. Instead, He concerned Himself with the pain of others.
Many of those who are suffering today would forget much of their personal pain if they focused more on the needs of others. That’s not to say we don’t have personal battles to fight or struggles to deal with. But if you think your life is hard, you need to go to a third-world country. Or if you are having aches and pains, and then you visit a person with cancer, it helps to put things in perspective.
Jesus was always thinking of others. But now he is experiencing a thirst that is burning and severe. Scientists tell us that thirst is the most agonizing of all pain. Every cell in the body cries out for relief, and it only gets worse with time.
This statement shows Jesus’ humanity, and that He practiced what He prayed. He has already prayed, “Father, forgive them. . . .” Now He asks for water from His enemies! Some of us do not like to ask for favors from anybody, but if we do ask favors, we ask them of very close friends. Here, Jesus was so forgiving, He was willing to ask a favor from an enemy!
He asks for some water, and a brave soldier gives it to Him. We don’t know this man’s name, but Jesus did. He could literally say to this man, “I was thirsty, and you gave Me water!” But remember, you and I can still do this today. According to Matthew 25, When we give food or drink to “the least of these,” we are doing it unto Jesus.
6. “It is finished!”
This sixth statement from the cross was not the whimper of a defeated man. It was the triumphant shout of victory of the Son of God. At the age of 33, most people are saying, “It is beginning!” but Jesus was saying, “It is finished!” He didn’t say, “I am finished!” It wasn’t the shout of a victim overwhelmed by his circumstances. It was the shout of a Victor overcoming all His enemies. In the Greek, it is one word: tetelestai. It means, “It is finished, it stands finished, and it will always be finished.”
Scripture tells us He shouted this with a loud voice. I call it the “battle cry of the cross.” These words were heard by those who stood close at Calvary: the soldiers, the brave women, and the apostle John. But they also reverberated no doubt though the halls of Heaven! In the presence of the Father they were heard—a cry of victory. A new covenant and relationship between God and man was now made available. They most likely reverberated through the corridors of Hell as well—as it was realized what a horrendous mistake the crucifixion was for the devil’s cause.
What did Jesus mean when He said: “It is finished?” It means He had completed the job the Father had given Him to do (see John 17:4). One day, all of us will have to give an account of what we have done with our lives, according to Romans14:12. We need to find the work God has given us to do and do it!
Other ways this word tetelestai is translated are: “It is made an end of,” “It is paid,” “It is performed,” and “It is accomplished.” What was made an end of? Our sins and the guilt that accompanies them. What was paid? The price of our redemption! What was performed? The righteous requirements of the law! What was finished? The horrific suffering of Christ, and Satan’s stronghold on humanity.
Because of what Jesus did on the cross, you no longer have to be a slave to sin or any vice—not drugs, alcohol, immorality, lying, or stealing.
Also finished was our salvation! All our sins were transferred to Jesus when He hung on that cross, and all His righteousness was transferred to our account!
It is finished! There is nothing you or I can do to add on to the work He did for us! Sometimes we think that there are certain things we need to do to obtain salvation. Yet Jesus said, “It is finished!” God Almighty is satisfied with the work of Christ; why aren’t you?
7. “Into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
This final statement from Calvary, spoken to God the Father, clearly shows that He was in control. Once He had completed His work, He was able to depart. The sin of the world had been atoned for. He died confidently because He had the Father’s presence with Him.
It is interesting that in His seven statements from the cross, three of them were addressed to God the Father (first, fourth, and seventh). Jesus addressed the Father at the beginning, middle and end. We should do the same in life.One day we will breathe our last breath and leave this world. May we be calling on the Father as we do.
American tenor Richard Versalle was singing one night in the Metropolitan Opera. Versalle had climbed a ladder for his scene and sang the words, “Too bad you can only live so long!” He immediately had a heart attack and died. Those were his last words. Each of us will “only live so long.” Then one day, we too will give our last words—our last will and testament. What will those words be, and how will they reflect the choice we’ve made—either to live for Jesus, or to live for ourselves?