- Faith & Family
Merely remembering the horrors that Christ experienced leading up to and during his crucifixion can serve as a lesson, especially for Blacks, according to the Reverend Eddie Lake of Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“It is the fact that Christ had to endure physical torment to the point where he was weakened not just physically but emotionally, yet he was still able to compete his task and extend forgiveness o those who were abusing him really sets the tone for those who would worship him later to live that kind of life,” Lake explained. “In the Black experience, we’ve seen these sort of martyrs before from slavery times to the Jim Crow era. A lot of [our ancestors’] strength came from understanding all that Jesus did.”
Many denominations choose to remember the seven last sentences of Jesus Christ as he hung dying on a crucifix. Each sentence provides a lesson in itself. The Miami Times spoke with various local ministers to get their insight into the meaning of each phrase.
1. Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
Among the most famous of the “Seven Last Words,” this quote is actually Jesus Christ asking for his enemies to be pardoned, according to Reverend Eric Readon of New Beginning Baptist Church.
“Jesus was actually saying was that even though his enemies were persecuting the Savior, they thought they were really persecuting a man. In other words, he was saying that they were doing it out of ignorance. So even when Jesus was asking for forgiveness, he was portraying for us [future Christians] that even when enemies wrong us, we can’t try to handle it ourselves, but we should let God handle it.”
2. “Truly, I tell you today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
That quote was Jesus telling the thief who believed in Christ’s innocence that he was now saved and would go on to Heaven, according to Reverend Yvonne Strachan, an associate minister at New Generation Baptist Church.
However, Strachan also believes that Christians should learn from this saying, “Do not count anyone out. God can save anyone.”
3. “Woman, behold your son … behold your mother.” John 19:26
In this line, Jesus Christ is telling his disciple, John the Evangelist, to look after his mother.
“To, me this line is really about compassion,” Strachan said. “Jesus was not so overtaken by his own pain that he forgot the needs of others.”
4. “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabach thani?” (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?) Mark 15:34
“You know at this point, many people have said that Jesus was separated from God but I never thought that,” said the Reverend Mildred Roscoe of Salters Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. “I take it to mean that he called out because of human pain, yes, but he also called out to teach us that the word of God counts no matter the circumstances.”
Roscoe explained further, “The [quote] is there to show us that even when we feel that God has forsaken us, that we should continue to trust in the word and to trust in God.”
5. “I thirst.” John 19:28
According to Readon, “Jesus was literally thirsty on the cross, but today’s Christians can see that statement metaphorically, meaning that we ought to be thirsty for the word, we ought to be thirsty to be living right.”
6. “It is finished.” John 19:30
“It was an articulation that the assignment God had given him — to let the world know about Him and to die on the cross for the sins of humanity — had been completed,” explained Lake. “It was a message of conclusion.”
7. “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46
“What Jesus was doing was that he knew he was dying on that cross at that moment, so he gave up his spirit,” Reverend Jeffrey Mack of Second Canaan Missionary Baptist Church explained.
For Christians, they should understand these words as a final acceptance of death.
He further explained, “Those words mean that our spirits belong to God and that even when we surrendered our life to Christ, we must still be willing to accept life and death.”
By Kaila Heard