Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. On this day people meditate on the Way of the cross which has 14 stations to remember the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and some churches meditate on the Words from the cross. Today I would like to share a few thoughts on the last seven words of Christ from the Cross.
The movement of Jesus Christ created enormous changes in the lives of people and accelerated everyone to turn to God contemplating their purpose of living. His new contextual hermeneutics on law, scripture, traditions, rituals, customs and culture was anthropocentric, especially concerning the suffering masses. A lacuna prevailed between the establishment and Jesus, as he nailed the unethical practices of the religious domain in his teachings. The establishment was threatened by the movement of Jesus which opposed human exploitations and discriminations. He prioritized his mission to the needy and his religious teachings were embedded with ethics of life that incorporated the whole world as one God’s family. He appealed to the dominant subjects with a moral demand and had a dream of establishing the reign of God In abundance. Eventually, he became an eyesore for the religious leaders and their jealousy crucified him on the Cross. The truth was hidden and the falsified accusations fabricated on Jesus made him look like a political traitor and a religious heretic. The dominant powers were determined to ruin the life of Jesus because they felt his existence was a threat. Yes, Jesus was a threat to the normal order or the establishment. In fact, we can say that the embodiment of God became a threat to them. However, even in such an ominous situation the dependency of Jesus on God became a key for the whole humankind to navigate their spirituality. He taught some lessons while he was hanging on the Cross and thus became an ultimate teacher who professed love even at the point of death.
His whole ministry can be encapsulated as “Kingdom Of God”. In modern terms we may call it the “Reign of God”. While summing up the ministries of Jesus, theologians categorize those under three dimensions, 1. Teaching Ministry 2. Healing Ministry and 3. Exorcism. Jesus was in a haste to spread the word of God, because the living word in him was creative, redemptive and transformative. Jesus is the true and living Word. Even today, his words give meaning to our lives and profoundly invite us to realize God in us and others. The meditation of the Cross and Jesus is a perpetual call for us to actively participate in God’s will in our context.
His words from the Cross apparently declare the moral appeal of God to the whole human race for a redemptive life. All the Four Gospels record the passion of Christ and especially the words he uttered on the Cross. However none of them records all the words. While aggregating the last seven words from all the Gospels has been a contribution of the early church fathers. I would like to reflect on the last seven words of Christ with certain moral and spiritual obligations.
First Word On the Cross: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Praying Jesus: Even at the Cross Jesus exhibits his teaching in action. Here he prays for those who crucified him. Praying for enemies (It is a relative term) witness the absence of gulf between his preaching and practice, faith and action, worship and witness. The religious and political establishments failed to understand God and their purpose of life. Instead they crucified Jesus. In such a context, Jesus pleads with the father to forgive their ignorance and arrogance. This explicitly reveals Jesus' love toward all for a redemptive purpose. He started embracing those who crucified him through Love. This prayer elucidates that God calls us to be the agent of God’s embracing love, not only during pleasant situations but even at times of great ordeal. When we are pinned to God, the unceasing love of God will connect us to the whole world to lament over the dominant and oppressive structures for God’s forgiveness. How do we pray? Do we lament over the odds of society which crucifies the truth and justice for the selfish and narrow intuitions? I see this as a divine protest against the odds of society through moral resistance. Word of Jesus shows us a new way to love by praying for others.
Second word on the cross: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Accepting Jesus: Two more were crucified with Jesus one on the left and other on the right. When Jesus prayed for the offenders one was transformed and the other was confused. The Words of Jesus give us clarity of life if we apply them in our lives. The living word reverses us from our sins and opens us to God. The two thieves were also identified as revolutionaries. The zealots were identified as terrorists, some theologians acknowledge these two men as Zealots, because they were much concerned about the ends and not the means. But for Jesus both means and ends are important. When one thief pleaded to Jesus with a sense of repentance by saying “Lord, remember me in your kingdom,” Jesus replied with the assurance that He would be with him in paradise. Jesus accepts us completely when we turn to him by acknowledging our faults for doing things in our own selfish way. For God both the means and the ends are important and thus Jesus always tells us that he is the way of life. Being truthful even at the times of difficulties will be our loyalty towards God.
Third Word on Cross: “Woman, behold, your son. … Behold, your mother.” (John 19:26-27) Demanding Jesus: When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved, he said the following words, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” I feel a great figurative speech is hidden in this word, if we consider the image of Jesus' mother as the destitutes and the vulnerables of society and the disciple as the Church we can draw an extensive meaning for this text. Discipleship envisages us to be caretakers of such subjects whose lives are at unrest. Caring for the poor, orphans, widows and all the destitutes is the primary demand because such subjects congregate God’s own family. Church is one of the vehicles to display God’s care. The third word on the cross heeds to the “diakonia” of the church. The quality of servanthood is to heal the suffering from their pathos is the new demand that Jesus pronounces on cross. As a universal church do we feel connected to the people who are in need? Do we extend our true love to them as God’s true family?
Fourth Word from Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) Redeeming Jesus: Jesus not only spoke but also sang on the cross. He sang psalm 22;1 and questioned God for all the unjustified sufferings. Questioning God is one of the faculties of faith and God gives us the freedom of expression. We have to remember God is not a dictator but a friend. Here the tone of Jesus should be understood as the voice of the voiceless who suffer due to oppressive structures because as Son of man Jesus represents the suffering masses. Jesus on the cross is the true manifestation of the victims of the manipulative power mongers and aggressive imperial notions. Our spirituality necessitates us to search for God's point of view in the midst of suffering. While bearing the cross, Jesus was oscillating in the uncanniness of human behaviors that estranges God from people. The pathological expression of Jesus apparently highlights his advocacy for the voiceless. There are people who are in chaos unjustifiably, and are desecrated as well as fail to express themselves for a sustainable change. Their hopes are devastated by the display of fear and terror by authoritarian structures in different domains. They are “No People” who are crucified in everyday life situations and this word demands us to advocate for such deserving people of God. For Whom do we advocate today? !!!
Fifth Word on the Cross: “I thirst.” (John 19:28)
Advocating Jesus: Many preachers interpret this thirst as a spiritual one connecting to the soul. Yes I do see this as a call of Jesus to all of us but underpins it with the nature around us. The breach of do’s and don'ts with nature has encircled human life in agony and uncertainty. When Jesus said, “I thirst”, they soaked the sponge in a jar of wine vinegar and lifted it to Jesus' lips. The demand of Jesus was not heeded properly which exemplifies the alienation of human beings from nature, the true gift of God. Natural resources are abused and the proximity to it is monopolized by the consumerist markets and the number of people alienated from natural resources is alarming. Issues like global warming, climate change, air pollution, water pollution, and waste management need our persistent attention. Our spirituality should not be a consumerist spirituality, rather a complementing one in protecting our nature for the future. We need to evade the colonial mindset that treats nature as a commodity and should get a new perspective, treating it as a gift of God. If our minds are with God then we will take responsibility in protecting the natural resources which manifest God, if we abuse it we will make our future a hell. Discovery Channel has predicted that if we are not going to attend the OZONE LAYER DAMAGE, by 2065 the earth will become infertile because of the heat rays from the sun. Jesus wants to quench the thirst of nature too. Ecological concern is a spiritual concern and it is connected to God from creation. Do we thirst for a safe world?
Sixth Word on the Cross: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
Victorious Jesus: Everyone’s destiny is God and we are just sojourners in this world. God created the world for all and everyone has a role to play in their timeline. The purpose of life will be fulfilled when we live in truth and spirit and Jesus stood for truth and embraced all the oppositions on the cross and said that he had completed his task. The meaning of the 6th word is extending the agenda of Jesus to the church to introspectively consider its works. Spiritually, We are the church and it is not a building. Jesus’s mandate wanted us to be the true agencies of God in Christ, to display God’s abundant love to all. In a context of hate, bigotry, animosity the need of the hour is love. I can say that no man is a separate entity and absolute individualism is an illusion. Covid 19 teaches us a truth, that we are not even self-sufficient in an uncanny pandemic context. Such situations lead us to map our purpose of living in God. Life without the other is a false notion and thus navigating our purpose and engineering our duty to all makes life meaningful. Let us continue to be a beloved community to fulfill the call of our master Jesus Christ. Even in the context of death our faith will urge us to envision God’s victorious power, so let us have faith in God and continue to love one another to carry the baton of Jesus.
Seventh Word on the Cross: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Depending Jesus: Jesus was always theocentric and God is always people centric. Jesus acknowledged that God is the beginning and the end of life. Three times Jesus addressed God the Father on the cross because he knew that human powers are limited and volatile. Being God-conscious helps one to generate hope. Jesus was always dependent on God. People of faith can face any situation because they trust only in God. Covid 19 poses many questions of human supremacy and nailed all of us to look to God for healing. Jesus was open to God because he accomplished his purpose on the cross till the last breath of his life. He was raised by God to show the magnitude of God’s power over evil and human manipulations. We are not sure about our future but sure about the one who holds our future. It is God the alpha and the omega of life. Submission to God will enable us to see the glory of God, because nothing is impossible for God. The last words of Jesus are commendable to trace his commitment to God even at death. Amen.
Friends let us continue to ponder the above thoughts for our spiritual and holistic enhancement and my Sincere and meaningful wishes for you for Easter. May the Power of God help us to have faith in God and follow the footsteps of his son and our Lord Jesus Christ to see God’s glory in our lives. The message of the cross gives us the strength to face the world in its ferocity and to embrace it with the love of God to realize the dream of God's beloved community. Amen.