On the cross, Jesus was mostly silent. The excruciating pain He endured would have made it nearly impossible for Him to speak. Any utterance would have used the strength needed to pull himself up by His impaled hands and feet in order to take a breath. Therefore, the words Jesus spoke from the cross are significant. Among the seven expressions attributed to Jesus during His crucifixion, three were prayers to His heavenly Father.
His first words from the cross were a prayer. As the soldiers divided His clothes and cast lots, He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). We see that even in the midst of injustice and humiliation, Jesus prayed for His persecutors. The Roman soldiers were doing what they had known and taught. Their allegiance was to the emperor, and they cared little about the Jewish scuffles of the day. However, we would later see that Jesus’ prayer is answered, as the centurion overseeing the execution praised and confessed that Jesus was indeed a righteous man, the Son of God (Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47).
Jesus’ second prayer, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34) is a recitation of Psalm 22. Many scholars believe this is an indication of the only time in Jesus’ life when He was abandoned by the Father. Some scholars argue that this was the moment when the Son took upon Himself the sins of all humanity, and the Father turned from the presence of sin. Regardless of one’s interpretation, Jesus’ second prayer exemplifies the depth of His suffering on our behalf.
Jesus’ final utterance from the cross is also His third prayer, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Here, Jesus quotes Psalm 31:5 and announces to all His trust in His heavenly Father to raise Him from the dead. Just a few days later, He did!
>> Take time today to read and reflect on Christ’s prayers from the cross. How are His prayers meaningful to you during this Holy Week?
We are sobered by this picture of Christ’s suffering on our behalf. We recognize your wrath against sinners, Lord God. Teach us the true weight of sin so that we may better grasp the significance of grace.