‘The last words of Jesus’ (An Easter reflection)

The last words spoken by dying people can be sad, weird or anything in between. Elvis Presley said, “I’m going to the bathroom to read.” Joseph Wright was a linguist who edited the English Dialect Dictionary. His last word was “Dictionary.” Multimillionaire, Richard Mellon enjoyed a game of Tag with his brother through seven decades of his life. When dying, Richard whispered, “Last tag” to his brother who then was “It” for four years until his death.

In John 19:30 we find out what the last words of Jesus were. He said ‘it is finished’. But what was it that was finished? His drink? His suffering? His life? What is sometimes not so clear can be sorted out by going back to the original language that John used. While Jesus spoke in Aramaic, John, like the rest of the gospel writers recorded everything in the common Greek tongue of the day, Greek. And in that language, Jesus said just one word, and that word has the meaning, ‘it is finished, it stands finished and it will always be finished’. A servant would use this word in replying to his master, ‘I have completed the tasks you gave me to do’. A financial or accounts manager in the business world of this time would use it to mean, ‘the debt is paid in full’.

The death of Jesus was no accident. He willingly embraced the cross. His death was not an example either. His death was a payment. And by saying ‘it is finished’, Jesus expressed that salvation of God’s people was now complete. The debt had been paid leaving absolutely nothing to pay. Salvation is God’s work on our behalf.

The story is told of a rather eccentric evangelist called Alexander Wooten who was approached by a young man who asked him ‘Sir, what must I do to be saved?’ Wooten replied ‘it’s too late’ and went on with his work. The man became troubled by this and replied, ‘Do you mean it’s now too late for me to be saved? Is there nothing I can do?’ ‘Too late’ said Wooten, ‘it’s already been done! All you can do is repent and believe!’ Everything hinges on what Jesus completed. Salvation is a gift of God’s grace to be received by faith. This last word of Jesus is a lifeline to the believer. Let His Name be your last word.

Rev Philip Burns