“Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”” (Matthew 27:54)
During these 7 weeks of the Christian Lent season, I’ve been using each of the 7 last words of Christ on each Sunday during worship service as a theme of worship. Because of that, I’ve spent a lot of time meditating and contemplating on Christ’s 7 last words on the cross. There are many things one can learn from Christ’s words, and one of the things I realized was that these 7 last sayings illustrate why our faith is so unique, and how the salvation offered through Christ’s sacrifice is unlike anything from other religion or spirituality:
(1) “Father Forgive Them For They Know Not What They Do” (Luke 23:33-37)
—– Salvation is from our known and unknown sins of rebellion
Christianity is not shy in talking about sins, because we’re sinful beings. Not only that, but we even have no idea how sinful we are, and how much our heart deceives us and how much our rebellion hurts God. It’s not a matter of following moral code. It’s a matter of God’s forgiveness.
(2) “Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise” (Luke 23:39-43)
—– Salvation is an acknowledgement of our inadequacy and an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty
The thief on the cross, staring at his own imminent death, asked Christ to remember him, and Christ told him that he’ll be in paradise just based on a simple act of asking Christ. While the thief has a clear idea that he’ll die in a few hours, we have no idea when we’ll die, but it could be years, months, days, hours, or minutes. Nothing we could do in years (let alone minutes) can earn our salvation, except to acknowledge God.
(3) “Here is Your Son / Here is Your Mother” (John 19:25b-27)
—– Salvation is relational and familial
Salvation is not just an individual thing. Reconciling with God should bring reconciliation with people. That’s why Christians are collectively called a royal priesthood, a holy nation. That’s why we go to church to be with the saved community and work out our salvation together. That’s why we have brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to have a love relationship with God and love relationship with others.
(4) “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:33-34)
—– Salvation is sacrificial and costly
The physical and emotional suffering is so great that even Christ finds it hard to bear. It is often said but true: salvation is free but it is also costly.
(5) “I Thirst” (John 19:28-29)
—– Salvation is incarnational
There is a God who’s so intimately involved with human affairs that He came to live among us with flesh and blood. He has emotions and weaknesses. He can cry and he can be thirsty. But he’s also the perfect man. His desires are purposeful. When He thirst for water on the cross, He drank so He could have the strength to utter aloud the words “It Is Finished.”
(6) “It Is Finished” (John 19:30)
—– Salvation is accomplished by Christ, not by man
Salvation is not an intellectual pursuit where you gain lots of knowledge and study zen stories that are hard to understand and yet you call that wisdom. It is not gained by retreating to temples to find enlightenment. In other words, it is not man-centered, but Christ-centered. Christ is the alpha and omega of salvation.
(7) “Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit” (Luke 23:44-47)
—– Salvation is life commitment
If salvation were a ticket to heaven, once you’ve gotten the ticket, you can do whatever else you like. But we do need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. A saving faith is best demonstrated by one’s works. When one truly loves God, one is (borrowing Olivia Newton-John’s lyrics…) “hopelessly devoted” to God for life.