For at least a century, at special three-hour services on Good Friday, it has been the custom in many churches to reflect on the Seven Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. In this tradition, Fleming Rutledge here presents seven eloquent meditations on these final sayings of Jesus. Rutledge links the sayings from the cross with contemporary events and concerns, but also incorporates recent biblical scholarship and modern questions about the death of Christ, particularly in light of Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ. Rutledge shows how each word or saying from the Cross affords an opportunity for readers to gain a deeper understanding of the horrific death suffered by Jesus. Intending for this book to lead readers into a genuine devotional experience, Rutledge has made every effort to evoke and preserve the contemplative atmosphere of the three-hour Good Friday memorial. The book includes frequent references to hymns associated with this special day, and each meditation ends with an appropriate hymn text for personal prayer and reflection.
“Now we need to ask further about the meaning of ‘It is finished.’ The English is ambiguous, but the Greek is not. It does not mean ‘It’s over; this is the end; I’m done for.’ It means ‘It is completed; it is perfected.’ The Latin says it splendidly: Consummatum est. Jesus is announcing that, at the precise moment when he seems to be defeated, he is actually the conqueror: Christus Victor. He has done what he came into the world to do, the Word made flesh.” (Pages 61–62)
“In this first word from the Cross, Jesus does not pray for the good and the innocent. He prays for people doing terrible things. He prays for men who are committing sadistic acts, offering them to his Father’s mercy. It is for his enemies that he prays, saying, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’” (Page 11)
“The saying is not about being nice to your mother. It is about the new community that comes into being through the power of Jesus.” (Page 31)
“These divine gifts are beyond our capacity to earn through any means we could possibly devise. It has already been done for us. It is freely accomplished through the self-giving of Christ. He is the perfect sin offering, ‘once for all’ (ephapax), as the letter to the Hebrews repeatedly says (7:27; 9:12; 9:26; 10:10).” (Page 67)
“The Crucifixion is not an accident, not a mistake, not an unfortunate slip-up. It is the deliberate self-offering of the Good Shepherd. And so when he says ‘I thirst,’ it is to show that he is fulfilling his purpose according to the plan of God from the beginning.” (Page 54)