THE SAYINGS ON THE CROSS.
It is natural that we should observe closely the words of the dying. When men are leaving the world, and are aware of it, their words take on an added weight: for earth is vanishing; thoughts are finally disentangled from worldly things; whatever sincerity is in the man will be most sincere then: we listen to a soul almost in the other world. Lord William Russell, on the scaffold, took his watch from his pocket, and gave it to Dr. Burnett with the remark,- I have no further use for this. My thoughts are in eternity. The seven savings on the Cross - seven is the number of revelation: none of the Evangelists report all; each reports some - are an epitome of the heart of the dying Christ. They are strikingly grouped. Three are before the Darkness - handling His enemies in grace, re-assuring the dying thief, comforting His mother: then comes  the lonely cry in the midnight of His soul: lastly, three after the Darkness, concerning Himself alone - His thirst, His finished work, His commended Spirit.* On a cross there is not much time for speaking: seven short, sharp, pregnant utterances lay bare the heart of the dying Christ.
[* Or spirit, referring to His animating spirit which all who are alive have. (See, Luke 8: 55. cf. Acts 7: 59; Job. 34: 14; James 2: 26, etc.). Ed.]
It would appear that while the nails were being driven in, our
Lord first spoke; for Luke (23: 34) says,- And when they crucified Him, Jesus said, Father forgive them; for they know
not what they do. Several Latin writers say that the frenzied
victims, in the moment of the affixing on the cross, would shriek and curse and
spit at the executioners. Startling as
ever is the fact, and old as the history of Christ,
that this Man, as in life so in death, never says, Father forgive Me. In
the moment of the fresh, quivering agony, the Lord uttered what has been the
martyrs model prayer for two millenniums: in the moment when a word from Him
could have annihilated three thousand - as actually happened from Sinai - or
when He might at least have left them to accomplish their doom, He begins the
saving of two thousand years and He begins it on the Cross. Father, forgive them: and
what was the Fathers reply? The dying
thief; then the Roman Guard (Matt. 27: 54);
then, within a few days, eight thousand of His enemies, then forty years
respite for the whole of
As the first saying prays for others pardon, so the second
grants it:- This day, He says to the dying thief, shalt thou be with
[* That is, with Christ in the underworld of Hades until the time of Resurrection, (Psalm 139: 8b. cf. Rev. 6: 9-11; Matthew 12: 40; 16: 18; John 3: 13; 13: 36, 14: 3, etc. ). Ed.]
The third saying addresses the little loved group standing,
overwhelmed, around the Cross, and strikes the tenderest human note of
all:- When Jesus saw His mother - with a sword, as foretold, through
her heart He
saith, Woman, behold Thy son! (John
19: 26). Whom should a dying son
think of but his mother? and as all her sons were still in the camp of the Enemy, He had no choice but to
find her a new son and a new home; and He holds death at bay until He has made
provision for His mother. Here is the death-blow of another error.
We now arrive at a sudden break - a
sharp change - as a loud cry, revealing still un-exhausted energies, peals
through the darkness. For as the
darkness descended, the Offering was bared before God; and in the exact moment
at which the Paschal Lamb was slain for the sin it bore, the Wrath fell, and
there went up the awful, desolate cry,- My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? It was Jesus taking the place of the lost soul.
An astronomer says of an eclipse in
When the darkness had gone, with the relaxing tension of a sacrifice finally offered the Lord yielded to the only physical cry of all:- Jesus, knowing that all things are now finished, saith, I thirst (John 19: 28). I am forsaken was the agony of a tormented spirit: I thirst is the anguish of a tortured body. It is said that no death exceeds in distress the death by thirst: this cry is the cry of the battlefield, in which all other agony is swallowed up. Again we behold the deathblow of an error. Angels do not thirst; a phantom, an apparition, does not thirst; God does not thirst: it is the man* Christ Jesus, in whom all our physical agony met, as He tasted death for every man. He thirsted, that we might never cry - I am tormented in this flame.
[* That is, the God-man Christ Jesus - the promised Messiah who is yet to come
and save all
The sixth cry is the triumphant shout of the victorious
Christ. When Jesus had received the vinegar* - possibly
as a final stimulant for dying utterance He said, It is finished (John
19: 30). It is the one cry in all
literature which summarizes the work of
The seventh utterance is our Lords farewell to earth. When Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said this, He gave up the ghost (Luke 23: 46). Jesus died in the light. The My God has disappeared, and the Father has come back: no trace of anxiety or struggle remains: it is the sigh of a perfect repose. Here is the deathblow of another error. Jesus, says Christian Science, was alive in the tomb, while the disciples thought Him dead: on the contrary, dismissing His spirit as the High Priest sacrificing the Lamb, the Lord, dying exactly as a man dies. He gave up the ghost. Whatever He intended to do had been done; whatever the sacrifice had been offered for, that had been accomplished: the Son restores His Spirit to the Father, because for whatever purpose God had become incarnate, that purpose Incarnate Godhead had accomplished for ever.
A company of
- D. M. PANTON.