Last Words

Luke 23: 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Vince Lombardi, Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame football coach, was twice named NFL Coach of the Year; he coached in two Super Bowl Championships (the 1st and 2nd Super Bowls), and prior to that, six NFL championships.  Lombardi was a respected coach, so much so that to this day, when the Super Bowl trophy is handed out, it bears his name – the Vince Lombardi Trophy

In 1970 Lombardi was diagnosed with advanced, malignant cancer.  A few months later Lombardi was surrounded at his hospital bedside with family, friends, clergy, and players.  Apparently on his deathbed, he told his priest that he was not afraid to die, but that he regretted he could not have accomplished more in his life.  To his wife Marie, he apparently said: “Happy anniversary.  I love you.” 

To me, last words are a significant thing.  They represent the opportunity for the dying person to share what is really important in life, an opportunity to emphasize priorities.  Renowned psychologist Erik Erikson taught his stage theory of psychosocial development, and the 8th and last stage was “Integrity vs. Despair”.  “During the integrity verses despair stage, people reflect back on the life they have lived and come away with either a sense of fulfillment from a life well lived or a sense of regret and despair over a life misspent.” 

Luke 22-23 paints a poignant picture of Jesus’ final day leading to his crucifixion.  Jesus was betrayed by Judas, abandoned by his closest friends, arrested, unfairly tried, mocked, beaten, and whipped.  He was nailed to a cross, along with two sinners, one of whom mocked him even as he hung next to Jesus.  What had Jesus done to deserve this?  His followers, his loved ones could not understand what was happening.  Jesus had a rich life helping the sick, the poor, the unloved.  He stood up to the abusive religious rulers, and some began to understand that this was the Christ, the Messiah.  But there he hung, seemingly helpless.  What a sad end to a life that had so much promise.

Yet what were his final words?  If you read all the accounts of Jesus’ final minutes (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) there were seven statements he made (The Seven Last Words from the Cross).  He prayed: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).  To the criminal who repented on the cross he said: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).  To his mother and the disciple at the cross he said “Woman, behold your son”, and “Behold your mother” (John 19: 26-27).  He prayed “my God, My God why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).  Jesus also said: “I thirst” (John 19:28).  Jesus shouted: “It is finished” (John 19:30), and46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46). 

Mary and the others who stood with her, the other disciples who abandoned Jesus – all of them did not realize that Jesus was not some unfortunate pawn whose plans and purposes had been thwarted.  What had just transpired on the cross was victory.  Victory over sin.  For that reason, Jesus could confidently cry out: “It is Finished”.  He had completed his Father’s plan.  16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16

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