What Were the Last Words of Jesus and Why Are They so Powerful?
Last words are powerful. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows the significance of last words. Words said in anger can haunt your thoughts for years, but words said in love are something those left behind will cherish forever. I’ve sat at the bedsides of loved ones and watched them take their final breath here on earth. It’s heartbreaking, but those last moments together are priceless. If you knew your time on earth was coming to an end, what words would you want to leave for your loved ones? What do you want them to remember? Just as our last words are precious and powerful, how much more so are the last words of Jesus?
He knew his time on this earth was coming to an end and He didn’t waste that time. He was intentional about preparing His disciples and friends for His death and resurrection.
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What Were the Last Words of Jesus?
The last seven words of Jesus are actually seven phrases. Let’s look at each Gospel’s account of the last words of Jesus while He hung on the cross.
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46.
“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” Matthew 27:50
“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:34.
”And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last” Mark 15:37.
“And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" Luke 23:34.
“And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” Luke 23:43.
“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last” Luke 23:46.
“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home”John 19:26-27.
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst” John 19:28.
“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, "It is finished," and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” John 19:30.
I love that the different Gospel accounts help us more fully understand Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Just like different people today would all give slightly different accounts of the same event, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all had a different view of the crucifixion of Jesus. They may have been standing in different places, so they saw things differently, or maybe one heard something the others didn’t. Each of these accounts is in the Bible for a reason and put together they give us the last words of Jesus before His death.
What Happened before the Last Words of Jesus?
It feels weird to have a favorite Gospel, but mine is John. When I think about Jesus’ last words, this is where I turn first. In John 13:1 (ESV) we read, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
Jesus knew His time here on earth was running short, so what did He do? We find out in John 13-17. These chapters are an account of Jesus’ last actions and words. In that sense, I think they’re some of the most important chapters in the Bible. Here’s a quick snapshot of Jesus’ last days before His death:
Jesus washed the disciples’ feet to teach them what it looks like to serve others, John 13:4-17.
He told them that one of them would betray Him, and soon, John 13:21-30.
He told them He would be leaving and where He was going, they couldn’t follow, John 13:31-33.
He gave them a new commandment to love one another, John 13:34.
He told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crows. John 13:37-38
He encouraged His disciples and taught them important truths He wanted them to remember:
Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him, John 14:6. Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus, John 14:11. Jesus will send the Holy Spirit to live in the disciples, John 14:16-17. They will live because Jesus lives, a hint at His resurrection, John 14:19. Jesus is in the Father, the disciples are in Jesus, and Jesus is in the disciples. A beautiful picture of unity, John 14:20. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit will teach the disciples and remind them of Jesus’ words, John 14:26. Jesus offers His peace and encourages the disciples to not be afraid, John 14:27.
Jesus explains that He is the true vine and that the disciples are to abide in Him and bear much fruit as He, in turn, abides in us. He professes His love for the disciples and tells them to abide in His love and be filled with joy, John 15:1-11. Jesus commands the disciples to love others as He has loved them. He calls them chosen friends, John 15:12-17. Jesus warns the disciples that the world hated Him and it will hate them too. They will be persecuted, but they should remember that this world isn’t their home, John 15:18-22. Jesus explains more about the Holy Spirit and His role in their lives, John 16:4-15. Jesus tells them they’ll feel sorrow for a time, but their sorrow will turn to joy, John 16:16-24. Jesus once again states His time on earth is short, the disciples will soon be scattered, and He will be left alone. He warns them that they will experience tribulation, but to take heart and be at peace because He has overcome the world, John 16:25-33
Finally, Jesus prays for his disciples—and us—in the most beautiful and powerful prayer. After He prays, they head to their favorite garden, John 17
Jesus went away from the disciples a little ways and prayed. He asked that this cup be taken from Him, but ultimately for the Father’s will to be done. An angel appeared to Him and strengthened Him. He was in such agony that while He was praying, His sweat became like blood, Luke 22:39-44.
Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. The ear of one of the servants of those who came to arrest Jesus was cut off by one of the disciples. Jesus heals him and is quickly arrested and taken to the high priest’s house, Luke 22:47-54.
What follows is a trial before the Jewish Council. Peter denies Jesus three times before the rooster crows. Jesus is delivered to Pilate, the governor of Judea. Pilate finds Jesus innocent of the charges against him. Then, a betrayal by the Jewish people who cry, “Crucify Him” (Mark 15:13). Pilate washes his hands of the matter, has Jesus severely beaten, and turns Him over to be crucified.
Jesus’ final words before His death are near.
What Can We Learn from the Last Words of Jesus?
The very last words Jesus spoke were either, “It is finished” or “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” It’s likely these words were said at the same time, one right after the other. The tone of voice isn’t given in Scripture, but I imagine these words were said with great joy. We often think of the last words of Jesus being somber because He was dying a painful death on a cross. Yet, this was the end. Jesus’ time on earth as a human was over. He was returning to the Father, committing into His hands His spirit. What joy and relief Jesus must have felt!
I’ve had some pretty awful medical tests and procedures done and when we get to the end, no matter how terrible I feel, how exhausted I am, or how awful that last bit of pain is, I’m rejoicing because it’s almost over. I know the end is moments away and the relief has already begun to set in. I could be wrong, but I imagine those moments are a tiny taste of the relief and joy Jesus felt during His last moments of unimaginable excruciating pain.
How amazing must it have been to know that He had succeeded in living a completely sinless life, to know that His life in a human body was finished and that He accomplished every task the Father sent Him to earth to complete.
With His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection, the curse of sin was broken, the power of death lost its sting, the path of redemption was secured, and humans could directly approach God and have an intimate relationship with Him. That’s amazing! God is all about relationship. It’s why He sent Jesus in the first place. It’s why Jesus’ anguish was so great when He felt the presence of the Father leave Him at the end. It’s why, even from a cross, Jesus made sure His earthly mother would be cared for. It’s why He asked God to forgive those who were crucifying Him. We can learn a lot about relationships from Jesus’ last words.
What else can we learn from Jesus’ last words? Obedience. Jesus could rejoice because He was obedient to the Father, even when it cost Him everything. Trust. Jesus trusted God with His life and death and committed His spirit into the loving hands of the Father. We can do the same. Joy. Even when our path is painful, joy is found as we walk in obedience and trust God with our life.
Jesus is a wonderful example for us to follow. His last words do indeed bring comfort and are words we can both cherish and learn from.
Note: I know some of you are thinking, But those aren’t really the last words of Jesus! You’re right. After Jesus rose from the dead He appeared to many people and said many more last words. So let me leave you with the last words Jesus spoke before He ascended into heaven. They are also powerful and memorable.
So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” Acts 1:6-11.
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Passionate about helping people find joy for their journey, Josie Siler, a small-town Wisconsin girl, has big dreams. As an author and photographer, Josie shares God’s gifts of beauty, hope, and adventure with people who are overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, encouraging them to walk in the freedom and joy found in Jesus. Josie is the author of the award-winning picture book, Howie’s Broken Hee-Haw, published by End Game Press. She's also a chronic illness warrior who believes every day is a gift that should be celebrated. When she’s not writing or taking pictures, you’ll find Josie looking for adventure, curled up with a good book, or cuddling her teddy bear dog Ruby Mae (a.k.a. The Scruffy Princess). Connect with Josie at JosieSiler.com.