Living Our Easter Identity: The Impact of Christ's Dying Words

Kim Sullivan

April 10, 2022

Even today, Jesus' last words still resonate and offer us encouragement for our daily life. Consider how our Savior responded to great suffering and see what lessons we can find in his dying words.

Jesus empathizes with us

Jesus was human as well as divine, and empathizes with our human struggles. He knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said,

“I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips" (John 19:28b-29 NLT).

Jesus’ body had gone through great torment in those last hours. He had been beaten, scourged, crucified, and left to hang in the hot, Middle Eastern sun. It is certain that he was severely dehydrated. Yet, he who could call down angels to rescue him from the cross, who could command stones to become bread, who could stretch a few loaves and fishes to feed thousands, he refused to use his divine authority for self-gain and instead embraced self-sacrifice and human suffering.

What comfort we can have knowing that he understands human suffering! He endured the worst life has to offer. He endured physical pain, spiritual alienation, and unfair judgments, and at any time he could have escaped from all that he endured, and yet he did not, all for our sake.

Charles Spurgeon put it like this,“for if Jesus said, ‘I thirst,’ then he knows all our frailties and woes. The next time we are in pain or are suffering depression of spirit we will remember that our Lord understands it all, for he has had practical, personal experience of it.”

Because of this great love, we can know that we are never alone. He fellowships with our pain, and for this reason we can endure hardship in his likeness.

Jesus was forsaken for us

Jesus was forsaken so that we would not be. Instead we could be forgiven for all of our sins.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 26:47).

The suffering Jesus endured was not only physical, but immensely more spiritual. God is a holy God, and cannot abide our sin. This is why we needed a Savior, so that even in our sin, we could be reconciled to God. Jesus suffered in our place. Our sin separated Jesus from his Father. He died spiritually before he died physically. In that moment, he quotes Psalm 22, a lament that calls upon God to witness our pain.

And knowing that the joy of Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd!") follows the cries of Psalm 22, Jesus suffered with purpose, hope, and joy. Jesus suffered for the glory of our restoration. As Paul puts it, he, "for the joy set before him, endured the cross” (Heb 12:2).

Jesus assures our salvation

In Jesus, we have the assurance of knowing that our salvation has been secured for us.

"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Jesus was crucified between two thieves, one of whom mocked him, and the other asked forgiveness. In their dying moments, to the repentant thief on the cross Jesus reached out with the promise of salvation. We too can find assurance in those same words. In this promise, we can find the assurance that God treasures a contrite heart and assures us of his salvation. We can look forward to paradise with our Savior, because not only did Christ in his innocence suffer in our guilty place, he welcomes those who trust in him to join him in glory.

He modeled forgiveness

Jesus modeled how to forgive those who have wronged us in our lives.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

Even while Jesus endured excruciating pain at the hands of his own creatures, he did not choose anger or revenge. From the cross, Jesus spoke words of forgiveness for those who had abused him. When we struggle with forgiveness we can be encouraged and challenged by Christ's example of extending forgiveness even from a place of abuse and pain. Our God values a forgiving heart and he wants to protect us from the pain of living in anger.

Jesus exercised responsibility

Jesus was dutiful in carrying out his personal responsibilities.

When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home (John 29:26-27 NLT).

Scripture commands us in Ephesians 6:1, to honor our parents. Jesus had a responsibility to care for his widowed mother. He took a moment, in the middle of great suffering, to put his affairs in order. In addition, he took a moment to think on very human terms about how the current situation was affecting one of his most human relationships. He was experiencing injustice, ingratitude, and ignorance, yet he chose to see things from his mother’s point of view.

Jesus is our example here in two ways. First, we must do those things which the Scripture commands within our earthly roles. Even when circumstances try to distract us from doing what Scripture has instructed us to do, we must press harder and more deeply. Secondly, when we suffer, we must keep the interests of others in mind. There is a strength and energy that comes from serving others even in the midst of our discomfort, and often it is the very key to enduring hardship.

Jesus completed the work

Jesus finished all of the work that he came to this earth to complete.

When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30).

When Jesus tasted the bitterness of what the world had to offer him, he knew that without the presence of God there was nothing left to live for. He had completed the work his Father had sent him to do. He had not let the bitter cup pass from him, but had endured our suffering to the end. For us he accomplished God's plan of salvation that had been in motion since the Garden of Eden. Jesus finished the job, so we do not have to work to achieve our salvation--it has already been accomplished on our behalf. It is a gift we receive, just like the thief on the cross received it.

Jesus stated that he was here to do the things his Father commanded him to do. This phrase, “It is finished,” can also be translated, “It’s fulfilled,” or “It’s accomplished.” The beautiful promise in this is that we too can say “It is finished.” He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” Just as the Father finished the work he had in Jesus, he will finish his work in you. Continue to put your faith in Jesus who is the author and finisher of your faith. Because of the work of the cross, we are no longer captive to sin and death, but are free to perform the good works he has planned for us from the beginning.

Jesus commits himself to the Father

Jesus gave up his spirit and committed himself into the Father's hands.

Jesus called out with a loud voice saying, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46).

Finally, Jesus placed his spirit into the Father's caring hands. In this last act, Jesus breathed his last and gave himself over to the Father's care. In God's presence, our soul finds rest and healing. As we trust God and lean into him our worries lift and our hearts find peace.

Our culture puts great stock in a man’s last words, but the great consolation in the story of the crucifixion is that Jesus’ dying words were not his last words! When he was raised from the dead, Jesus left instructions to the budding church. Life had conquered death and death had forever lost its sting. Jesus used his last breath to declare that God keeps his promises--his plan of salvation had been accomplished once and for all. What do Christ's words mean for your life? Will you claim God's promise too?

About the author — Kim Sullivan

Kim Sullivan is a writer with a background in everything from homeschooling to nonprofit management. She has raised three children each of whom are successful in their own unique way. Recently, Kim has done the most radical and risky thing she has ever done…she moved 700 miles from her suburban Chicago home and everything familiar to her and relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is working on a brand-new website and blogs at Journey to Epiphany. She is also writing a book about her adventures in following Jesus.

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