The Seven Last Statements
This service is based on the Seven last statements Jesus made from the cross. It is suggested to have seven different readers for the seven statements and the prayer following each statement and explanation. We give a short prayer, but readers should feel free to pray up to a minute or two. Avoid long prayers.
Suggested worship songs: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross; At the Cross
- Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
Reader: Jesus is praying for us. He’s praying for our forgiveness, not for vindication. He is praying for all his executioners and for all of us. In doing so, Jesus is revealing the heart of the Father. Jesus isn’t begging the Father to give something from a begrudging heart. This is the will of the Father made evident at the cross—forgiveness. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” as the famous scripture reads.
Prayer opening: We give thanks, loving Father, for your merciful love on such vivid display in your Son at the cross. We confess our sins and receive your forgiveness with grateful hearts.
2. “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
Reader: The request of the thief on the cross was “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” To be remembered by Jesus, to be known by him: this is salvation. And it goes beyond being kept in Jesus’ thoughts. Jesus said, “you will be WITH me.” Emmanuel, God with us. Along with the thief on the cross, you are with God, and you are saved. Whatever else we find in paradise, we will find Jesus, and we will be with him. Not even death can separate us from his love.
Prayer opening: We give thanks for your constant, abiding presence, Jesus. We receive your presence with us, whether we walk through paradise or we walk through death.
3. “Woman, here is your son…here is your mother.” John 19:26-27
Reader: Jesus is concerned about others, in this case his mother. He is a faithful, loving son even to the end. Jesus is also showing us a new covenant community—an expanded family that transcends all the normal human bonds of blood and kinship. The family is the Body of Jesus in which our congregation belongs.
Prayer opening: We give thanks that we belong to one another in you, Lord Jesus. We receive with love these sisters and brothers you have given us in your body.
4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
Reader: It was high noon, but the sun refused to shine into this dark hour. Some would say it shows God’s displeasure and the whole cosmos joined in grief. But there’s another way to think of this deep darkness. Jesus, the Light of the Cosmos, is at work in the darkness. It’s hard work, arduous labor. Hammer and nails; bone and flesh; blood, sweat and tears…and pain; agonizing pain. Jesus is laying down the ransom for our reconciliation with the Father. In this dark hour, the Father and Spirit are not absent to Jesus. Though Jesus is feeling our feelings of abandonment, he is crying out the words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” from the song found in Psalm 22, which ends with these words, “They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” (Psalm 22:31).
Prayer opening: We give thanks that the dark can never overcome the Light. We receive you, Jesus, the Light of the World, into our darkness.
5. “I am thirsty.” John 19:28
Jesus is thirsty because of his humanity, and his suffering on the cross. Jesus reminds us in this moment that he is human and remains at the Father’s side, as our God with skin on. He knew hunger; he knew thirst; he felt the emotion of death when his friend Lazarus died; he understands what it’s like to be wrongly accused, to be betrayed by close friends and to be doubted by his own family. “I am thirsty” may seem like the most insignificant of his statements on the cross, but it reminds us that he is a God who took on our flesh. It’s no small matter that he understands us.
Prayer opening: We give thanks, Lord Jesus, that you did not avoid our pain and suffering; rather you entered into it willingly for the joy set before you. We receive you and worship you as a God who did not stand back at an antiseptic distance from pain but came intimately close to it for our salvation.
6. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46
Reader: The hands of the Father, how safe a place is that? Jesus said he committed his spirit, his being, into the safest place beyond creation. From the savagery of the cross, in a sea of agony, Jesus was filled with confidence that the Father had him “in hand.” With so much danger, anxiety and fear in the world, this is where we are, safe in life and death, in the kind and tender hands of the Father.
Prayer opening: We give thanks that you demonstrated how to be human when you trusted your Father, Jesus! We receive your grip, Father, and rejoice that nothing can snatch us from your hand!
7. “It is finished.” John 19:30
When Jesus cried out “It is finished,” it was a declaration of good news. It ushered in a new covenant relationship with God and his people. The old was gone and the new had come. “It is finished” proclaimed God’s presence would no longer dwell in a building made by human hands but he would live in all of us. “It is finished” was a cry on behalf of all of God’s children in recognition that the Lord’s atoning work in Jesus was good, binding, final and complete. Grace is the finished work of Jesus, made visible at the cross, for our sakes. We no longer have to hide our sin and shame, for it is finished. We no longer have to pretend to have it all together, for it is finished.
Prayer opening: We give thanks, Father God, that we no longer have to wonder or doubt about our salvation, for it is finished. We receive the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which we no longer need to question, for it is finished.