We are fascinated with the last words of famous people. Being a good southern boy my father taught me the last words of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who went back to his youth and said “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”
Oscar Wilde, looking around the room ended his earthly life by saying, “Either that wallpaper goes or I do.”
The Rev. Bob Jones Sr., speaking to his wife said “Elizabeth, get my shoes, I have to go preach.”
Charles Schultz, the creator of Peanuts comic strip, said “That poor little boy; he never did get to kick the football.
Today we read the last words of God incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth.
Luke 23:44-49 44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. 46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. 47 Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.
What do these words teach us? What do the last words of Jesus before he dies give us, or demand of us who are alive on this Good Friday? Two things:
1. They give us a great comfort.
In the midst of the apocalyptic events that were happening, Jesus calmly calls upon his father. Note that he realizes that his hope lies not in the strength of armies, not in the power of governments, not in the security of money, but in his father.
Jesus has spoken directly to his father in the first word. He now returns in the last word. As the sun is darkened, as the veil is rent from top to bottom, as the dead rise from their graves and go into the city of Jerusalem, Jesus finds comfort from his father.
There are those of you here today who need comforting. It may be that your problems are physical and that you are in pain, turn to the Father though the pain of his son. It may be that your problems are familial, your son or daughter has done or said something that you never imagined possible. Turn to your father who will always support his children. It may be that your problems are financial; turn to the one who paid it all.
This cry of Jesus comes to us as an echo of the septuagental version of Psalm 30 and verse six. It was this Psalm that young men and women said before going to sleep so that they might have a peaceful night of rest.
Real peace comes only through the prince of peace. The one who hung on the cross and endured both the physical and spiritual pain for his children.
Are you one of his children? These last words not only give us great comfort, but they demand something from us.
2. They demand a great confession.
Notice that the roman guard makes a great confession here. He sees that Jesus is truly the son of God. He calls him a “Righteous one” indicating that he now realizes that this Jesus was indeed the person whom he claimed to be. He realizes that what Jesus has done here on this cross is not simply an example, even the supreme example of some general truth.
Jesus stands before us as a flashing neon sign that the world is not simply perplexed, needing good advice; nor simply misguided, needing good leadership; nor simply mistaken, needing good examples.
The world is sick and needs to be healed; it is sinful and needs to be forgiven; it is desperate and needs the in-breaking of the Kingdom of heaven. That is why the drama played out on good Friday and Easter Sunday is the most important thing in the history of mankind.
Our Lord stands before each of you today. You must make a decision, you cannot, just as Pilate could not, put off a decision. He is a righteous man, the son of God, the savior of the world and he stands before you today. Will you, like the centurion believe that he is a righteous man? Or will you walk out and ignore the fact that the great God of the universe died to give his people life.
You who need comfort- turn to Jesus. But you must realize that the greatest comfort comes in the form of forgiveness of sin through this righteous man whose name is Jesus of Nazareth. Please do not walk out of here today without making this great confession.