Good Friday Sermons
Thoughts on Jesus 7 Last Words -
His 7 Gifts to Mankind
For Good Friday sermons and meditations, there is so much material. So much happened on the worst - and the best - day in history.
All four of the evangelists - the 4 gospel writers - wrote accounts of it, because it the focal point of our redemption. The word of God in the Holy Bible is the first and best source we should use for sermons, as well as for times of meditation and reflection. (Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; John 18-19)
From these 8 chapters, principally devoted to the last 24 hours of Jesus' life, there is an abundance of topics that can be chosen.
On this page, I will discuss Jesus' last words - the 7 last words - which he said from the cross before his death.
Good Friday Sermons - Tre Ore - Good Friday Meditation
It is a good and praiseworthy custom to spend Good Friday in silent prayer and reflection as best we can, while going about our duties. Especially at the time Jesus was on the cross, it is good to stop everything and take time to pray and meditate, whether we are at home, or in church.
For many years, in addition to special services in church on Good Friday, I attended a special devotion held in church, called "Tre Ore." It means "3 Hours." It is a time of meditation and reflection during the time Jesus was on the cross, which was at least 3 hours from before noon to around 3 o'clock on the first Good Friday.
Reflection on the 7 Last Words of Jesus
Almost every year, one of the devotions held was Jesus last words, the 7 last words or short sayings Jesus was able to say.
Each word took about 15-20 minutes. First a meditation was read, taken from the bible account of Jesus crucifixion, ending with the word Jesus said. Then a period of silent reflection. Then the word was sung by a choir in Latin. Then prayers were said, and hymns were sung by all. The people took turns seated, standing, and kneeling.
These 7 Words Are Found in the Bible
Each of these words is found in one of the 4 gospel accounts of the crucifixion. Only the 4th word is found in 2 accounts. Matthew records 1, Mark records 1 Luke records 3, and John records 3.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention that Jesus cried in a loud voice before he died. Only Luke mentions what he cried, and it's the seventh and final word Jesus said before he died. It was an obvious miracle, proving Jesus laid down his life on his terms, because a victim of crucifixion normally died by asphyxiation, and could scarcely speak, if at all.
Each of these words could make a sermon or meditation in itself - or even be broken into a series of sermons or meditations.
7 Words, 7 Gifts
I have heard that each of the seven last words of Jesus on the cross overcomes one of the seven capital sins, the sins that are the source of all the other sins. By his words, Jesus was destroying the kingdom of Satan, who uses these sins to tempt people. The seven capital sins are: pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and laziness.
I am writing this on the evening of Good Friday. On the day before, the idea came to me that the seven last words of Jesus are also his special gifts to mankind. I'll use this as the theme, and I'm sure there's a lot more inspiration that God may give you.
On behalf of the heavenly Father, I wish to thank you for taking this time to spend with his son Jesus, at the most difficult time in his life - his suffering and death.
And together, let us gratefully accept each of these royal gifts, and all the gifts God has for those who are his true friends - those who are faithful to the cross, faithful, by God's grace, even to the bitter end.
The First Word of Jesus on the Cross
The First Gift of Jesus to Mankind from the Cross
- Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
- Jesus gives us the gift of merciful forgiveness.
The first word, the middle word, and the last word are direct prayers to God. The first and last begins with "Father!" I mention this in sermons for Fathers Day
Jesus on the cross was constantly in prayer to his heavenly Father, for love of us.
Here Jesus is telling his Father the reason, the excuse, to forgive us. We truly don't know what we are doing .. the trouble we are getting ourselves into ... and especially the horrible, eternal consequences of our sins in hell.
The Second Word of Jesus on the Cross
The Second Gift of Jesus to Mankind from the Cross
- Jesus said to one of the 2 thieves crucified with him, "This day you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
- Jesus gives us the gift of salvation.
No one can say their sins are too great for Jesus to forgive. Even to this criminal, Jesus promises heaven.
This is a good bible study in step-by-step co-operation with God's grace.
The Third Word of Jesus on the Cross
- At first, this criminal was also mocking Jesus, according to one gospel account. (Matthew 27:44)
- Then, he rebukes the other criminal, saying we are guilty, but Jesus is innocent. (Luke 23:40-41) Did Jesus maybe look at him, like he did Peter, after Peter denied him? Maybe it was the patient silence of Jesus. Or maybe it was the first word he had just heard Jesus say. Or maybe all three. We don't know, but this little act of hungering for justice (Matthew 5:6; 6:33) on the thief's part, is rewarded with a yet greater grace.
- The thief now prays, asking Jesus to remember him. (Luke 23:42) No doubt, he feels unworthy of any further favor.
- The thief gets more than he bargains for, the gates of heaven will open to him that day, according to the promise of Jesus. (Luke 23:43) The Holy Spirit will inspire Paul, another criminal converted to apostle, to write that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)
The Third Gift of Jesus to Mankind from the Cross - Family
- Jesus said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son." Then Jesus said to John, his disciple, "Behold your mother." (John 19:26-27)
- Jesus gives us the gift of community - the connection with a community of believers, the family of God.
The main purpose of the redemption is to satisfy the justice of God for sin. Another purpose is, God wants his family back, who have gone astray by sin. This can only happen when sin is fully atoned.
God is a family - the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit of love. When we receive salvation, we have God for our father, Jesus is our brother, and the Holy Spirit of love dwells within us.
Jesus did not want his mother Mary, or John the youngest apostle, to be alone. If this was so important to Jesus for his most faithful followers standing at the foot of the cross, how much more important it is for each one of us.
That is why salvation is less about religion (rituals, words, beliefs, opinions and philosophies) and more about right relationship - or, as I prefer, the right connection
or being connected
- to God and his family.
More on the Third Word - Connection
The word "connection" seems to be much more in line with Jesus' teachings on the vine and branches, and remaining in God's love, which he spoke the evening before. (John 15:1-17)
(In the English language in America, the term "relationship" in family, life, and business has been getting a much poorer connotation over the last several decades.)
Which connection - living and abiding in God, and God living and abiding in us - can only happen by doing it God's way by following the teachings and example of his son Jesus - which is a gift from God we receive into our hearts and souls, then when we're sufficiently instructed we must willingly accept, and then we must with God's help live, so that it is seen - and proven - by our behavior, words and actions.
The 3rd Word - Legal Ramifications
Mary, the mother of Jesus, has the distinction of 5 male protectors.
Don't take a peek ahead, but can you list them in order? I'll give you a hint. Every one of them, their names starts with a "J."
As is still the custom in many eastern countries, a woman must always have a proper male protector from the beginning to the end of her entire life.
This is usually the father, then a husband, or upon their death, the oldest son, or another chosen protector. They are the legal guardians, but also very much physical guardians and protectors. This guardianship was especially necessary in dangerous times and places.
The 3rd Word - Protection from Danger
- When and where Jesus lived, there was much violence, many foreign soldiers, sudden kidnappings and imprisonments, and many revolts.
The history of Good Friday itself shows the need for the proper protection of women. There were dangerous circumstances and dangerous people, such as:
- Barabbas - who in a city revolt committed murder, and was released by popular clamor instead of Jesus in the morning, and would be a danger to anyone on the street.
- The robbers crucified with Jesus. Many people lost their lives and possessions because of highway robbers, who ganged up on innocent, helpless, unarmed, or insufficiently armed travelers.
- The Roman soldiers. Rome was pagan foreign occupation power, that held the Jews and their religion in contempt as "those foreign dogs." While the military power was often used to punish crime, such as the robbers on their crosses, this power was also abused against innocent victims, such as Jesus.
- The Jewish soldiers and leaders. Herod and his soldiers were also guilty of many crimes against the population.
Today, there is no less danger, with the rise of so much kidnapping, human trafficking, wars, crimes and violence of every kind.
The 3rd Word - Legal Protection
The legal protection of a woman was called "under the veil".
Even today, we use the term, a "veil of protection."
Even today, women in some countries cannot go out without wearing a veil on their heads, and even over their faces. They can only remove the veil in the home, in the presence of their family, or for their husband. Some countries are so strict, a woman cannot look directly at any person in public, but only to their husband. Or cannot even smile to other people, except only to their husband.
When God sent Gabriel to ask Mary to be his mother (Luke 1:26 ff), Mary asked how this would happen. The angel answered and said to her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and the Power of the Most High would overshadow her, etc. The word "overshadow" is another way to say that God would "veil" her with the power of his protection, that he would be the principal protector of Mary, and her child.
The 3rd Word - Spiritual Protection
By his death on the cross, Jesus broke the spiritual veil of darkness, the barrier between God and man, taking man out of slavery to the devil to become adopted children of God. And, at his death, the physical veil in the temple was completely torn from top to bottom.
So too, before we can belong to his family, we must be washed and covered by the spiritual veil of God's protection - the blood of Christ.
God also wants us to be in community and under the physical protection, accountability, and protection of his visible representatives on earth, his established church.
The 3rd Word - The 5th Male Protector
John became the 5th male protector of Mary.
(An interesting note - all 5 protectors had names that started with the letter "J". The previous 4 were Joachim her father, Joel - God represented by the priests when Mary lived as a child in the temple, Joseph her husband, and Jesus when Joseph died.)
Why did Jesus not tell John this earlier, like at the Last Supper? John was at the side right next to Jesus. (John 13:23)
Well, maybe he did. John learned many secrets from Jesus, and was very close to Jesus. John calls himself in his gospel, "The disciple whom Jesus loved." (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20)
But John was the youngest. If Jesus had done it publicly at the last supper, the other apostles might have become very angry. They were still fighting over their positions in an earthly kingdom, and a few days before that, they were filled with anger at John and James getting their mother to ask Jesus for special privileges.
Jesus waited until he was dying, to give his precious mother into the care of John, and telling him - and all his true followers - "This is your mother." When a person is dying, the last words they say carry much weight.
The 3rd Word - The Word to Mary
Jesus said to Mary, accept, receive, this is, your son.
From Mary's viewpoint, this just doesn't seem fair.
She was trading:
The 3rd Word - Mary's Sufferings
- The best, most perfect son in the whole world for all times that any mother could ever have
- For a young, inexperienced teenaged young man, who was still pulling boners just in the past week, like getting all the apostles mad when he and his brother James got their mother to make a worldly request of Jesus,
- At the worst possible moment - when her perfect son was dying,
- In the worst possible way - executed by the worst torture known to man, humiliated and publicly shamed at the very crossroads of nations.
No wonder Simeon had foretold to Mary that this child was destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed, and that a sword would pierce her heart (Luke 2:34-35) - no doubt on Good Friday.
Which is why God wants us to think in our hearts of the things that happened on Good Friday, lest we too reject him and fall like many of the stubborn Israelites.
The 3rd Word - The Word to John
Jesus also said to John, accept, receive, this is your mother.
As believers, as brothers in Christ, we share in the privilege of - family - relationship - connection - with all those connected to Christ.
Jesus had said in his teachings that his brother and sister and mother, are those who do God's will - who hear the word of God, and keep it. (Matthew 12:49-50; Mark 3:34-35)
The 3rd Word - The Obedience of Mary
As difficult as the moment was, the great love of Mary and John is seen by their obedience.
Mary obeyed this last request of her son Jesus.
She submitted herself to the direction of John, her protector on earth.
More importantly, who can understand how seriously she took her obligation to accept John as her own son? How she must have loved him! The disciple whom Jesus loved became the disciple whom Mary loved also.
And, Mary knew that she must be the spiritual Mother of all those who are brothers and sisters in Christ, since she could not exclude any one of them from her love. How she must have prayed and sacrificed for them while on earth!
And like a good mother, even from heaven, she continues to pray to God on behalf of all Christians.
According to tradition, Mary died about 15-20 years after Jesus' death and resurrection.
The 3rd Word - The Obedience of John
John took Mary "into his home" - "under his care" from that hour, that very day. (John 19:27) He provided and cared for her in a home of his own, until she died - as tradition says - some 20 years later.
And obviously, to obey Jesus, to do it as Jesus wanted, he had to take Mary as his own mother, particularly in the spiritual sense.
John was the 5th and last physical protector of Mary on earth. There are traditions that he and Mary lived first in Jerusalem, and when it became dangerous, they moved to Ephesus.
Possibly he and Mary came back to visit the holy places of Jesus birth, life, death, and resurrection, and to encourage the local communities of believers. So whether Mary died in Jerusalem or Ephesus, is not absolutely certain, but there are places in both cities which today claim to be where Mary died.
The 3rd Word - Exiled Until Reunion
John outlived Mary by many years, being the last and possibly oldest apostle to die, around the year 90 or 100 A.D.
John was miraculously saved in Rome while being tortured in burning oil, so the Romans then exiled him to the island of Patmos.
He had much time to reflect on the lives of Jesus and Mary, to whom he was so closely connected. He wrote a Gospel, 3 Epistles, and the last book of the bible, before he was finally re-united with the best family of all, his spiritual family.
It's the greatest family. It's the one that God wishes to give each and every one of us forever in heaven, provided we too accept Jesus and live his teachings, and are faithful to the cross of Jesus.
The 3rd Word - Our Own Exile
Until we reach heaven, we all are exiled. Until we die, only God can be absolutely certain of our salvation.
We are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. We must use every possible means to advance in holiness and be protected from the devil.
Even Paul asked for prayers, lest in preaching to others, he would be rejected.
Just any way of doing it won't work.
We need Christ, his salvation, his church, his family - and our full co-operation - or we will be cast out.
The 3rd Word - The Foolish Way
How foolish to think we can do it on our own! That is exactly what the devil wants us to think, so that he can slaughter and victimize us forever.
How long would you continue to have a job, if you started working hard. But then after some months or years, you kept saying to yourself and telling others, I'm a good worker, but didn't show results? You could even convince yourself to the point of believing it!
There are people who go around saying they are saved. There are some teachers who say that once saved, always saved, and that you cannot lose your salvation.
Never in all of scripture do I see one disciple of Jesus say this, much less Jesus himself.
Against such people, let us put the truth of Jesus himself.
The 3rd Word - God's Way
Jesus says many will come to judgment saying, Lord, we cast out devils in your name, we prophesied in your name, we did mighty deeds in your name, we ate and drank in your company, you taught on the streets, we attended church, we listened to so many sermons, we did so much for the church, etc.
And they will be eternally shocked when Jesus tells them, depart from me, you evil-doers, you workers of iniquity! (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 13, 23-30)
The 3rd Word - Wise and Foolish Choices
Jesus says those who listen to his words and act on them will be like a wise man building his house on rock.
And those who listen to his words and don't act on them will be like a fool who builds his house on sand.
And when bad time comes, we see who lasts and who doesn't. (Matthew 24:27)
The 3rd Word - Truths to Ponder
We must be in a healthy, godly fear that we can lose our first love. (Revelation 2:4)
Jesus also foretells, because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who perseveres (endures) to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:12-13)
Good Friday is an excellent time to meditate, reflect, renew our commitment, and beg for God's continued grace and mercy.
If any man thinks he stands, let him take heed, lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)
The 3rd Word - The Dignity of True Women
It is of great note that Jesus did not tell John to accept or receive his legal charge, nor to accept 'my' mother, but to "accept 'your' mother."
Jesus had spent his life exalting the role of women, by his teachings and example. Of course, Jesus had the highest regard and respect for his own mother.
Surrounding nations, and many of them even to this day, treat their women as disposable servants, slaves, cattle, or worse. Many have no legal recourse from the abuse of their fathers or husbands or brothers. They cannot own property. They cannot own money. They don't even have the means of escape if they should try.
The Jewish practice was somewhat better, but it many areas it still fell terribly short of God's standard. For example, the woman caught in adultery was about to be stoned. (John 8:3-11) But, in fairness and justice, where was the man?
The guilty man should have first been found before both were stoned - according the Old Law, which Jesus was replacing with the New Law.
The 3rd Word - The Abuse of Women
So basically, it was okay for men to get away with the murder of women while covering up their own crimes, as still happens in many countries even today, and this is certainly a crime that is crying out to God for vengeance.
Even in civilized countries today, many men are guilty of domestic abuse, and think nothing of it! They make hell for their families, and think they have every right to continue their abuse, even while quoting the holy scriptures!
Unfortunately, there are even "Christian" pastors and church members who side with the man in a divorce or family dispute, as if the woman was the cause, (or vice-versa) but often they blind themselves to finding out the true facts, they blind themselves to truthfully hearing fully both sides of the story - if they even have the authority to properly handle the situation.
In many cases, like the Pharisees Jesus cursed, they themselves are hiding some sinful issue, like pornography or hypocrisy or gossip or a critical judgmental spirit, and they render themselves incapable of even wanting to discover the truth.
Jesus said you have to cast out your own beam before you can begin to properly remove the splinter from someone else. (Matthew 7:3-5)
The 3rd Word - The 5 Male Protectors
As I asked above, were you able to list all 5 of Mary's male protectors? The hint was, all their names begin with the letter "J", as follows:
The Fourth Word of Jesus on the Cross
- Joachim. Mary's father was her protector for 3 years. Her mother was Anna. Joachim and Anna have the distinction of being the physical grandparents of Jesus.
- "Joel" (The Lord, the joy of my youth. (Psalm 43:4) The joy of the Lord is our strength - defense - protection. (Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 21:1) Jehovah and Jahweh, are also sacred names of God. God himself was the protector of Mary her whole life, but especially for a period of 10-12 years, when she was living in the temple. Joachim and Anna gave their special daughter Mary to the temple service at the age of 3, under the care of the temple priests and holy women, under whom she lived and studied.
- Joseph. At around 14 or 15 years old, although Mary had vowed to God her virginity and to have no relations with a man, (Luke 1:34) the priests said God wished her to get married. Joseph was chosen. Joseph was a very good protector. He literally saved Mary and Jesus from getting killed. He saved Mary from getting stoned to death, by taking her in marriage, even though Mary was pregnant. (Matthew 1:18-24) He saved Jesus from getting killed by Herod's soldiers. (Matthew 2:13-15)
- Jesus. Joseph died shortly before Jesus public life. Joseph had the honor of dying in the arms of Jesus and Mary, the 2 holiest people ever. Joseph made sure Jesus would be the protector of Mary when he died. Their little family must have been heartbroken. The funeral must have been a very sad one for both Jesus and Mary. During his public life, Jesus made sure that Mary had accommodations with some holy women, some of whom supported Jesus and his followers, as I mention in Should We Tithe.
- John. On Good Friday, when Jesus died, he made sure that John would take care of Mary. From that day, John took Mary into his home. (John 19:27) John was only a teenager. Read more about this story in the God Loves You Teenager stories
The Fourth Gift of Jesus to Mankind from the Cross
- Jesus said, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)
- Jesus gives us the gift of friendship, unity, and relationship with God.
We cannot fully understand the depth of suffering Jesus discloses by these mysterious words, God separated from God, the unity in God broken.
Jesus took our sins upon himself as if he was guilty of them, and then atoned for them, sacrificing his relationship with God for a time, that we might be united in friendship forever.
The Fifth Word of Jesus on the Cross
The Fifth Gift of Jesus to Mankind from the Cross
- Jesus said, "I thirst." (John 19:28)
- Jesus gives us the gift of spiritual life.
Jesus as God and Creator provides food and drink for the physical life of men.
But far more important, he longs and thirsts for the souls of men. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that if she knew the gift of God, she would ask for, and be given, living water. (John 4:10-11)
One day in the temple, Jesus announced that anyone who was spiritually thirsty, to come and drink. And that he who believes in him, as the scriptures have said, from him shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38)
He said this referring to the Holy Spirit. The reference is to the River of Life found in several bible passages, particularly Ezekiel (47:1-12). I explain this further in sermons on the Holy Spirit
Jesus also knew that by saying "I thirst" he would be giving something bitter to drink, which would fulfill yet another prophecy, so everyone could recognize him as the life-giving Messiah.
Jesus said he is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)
The Sixth Word of Jesus on the Cross
The Sixth Gift of Jesus to Mankind from the Cross
- Jesus said, "It is finished." (John 19:30)
- Jesus gives us the gift of completion, fulfillment, and true success.
One of the biggest problems with our lives here on earth, is that we're always a work in progress. We have so much to do, and what we do finish, there are other things needing attention. We always have more to do, and sometimes it seems we fail more than succeed, that maybe we're even going backward more than forward.
Especially, we always have something to work on in our spiritual life.
In Christ, we are truly fulfilled. How many times, seeing the worldly success of sinners, we want to complain like David. It seems success is so elusive.
But as Jesus dies, he shows that he has lived a full life, doing the will of his Father even to the last details of the prophecies. Now he can enter the kingdom of his father without a single regret, having lived life to it's fullest purpose and meaning.
Because of our fallen human nature, we cannot reach the true meaning and purpose in life by ourselves. But we can, with the help and grace of God, through his son Jesus.
The Seventh Word of Jesus on the Cross
The Sixth Gift of Jesus to Mankind from the Cross
- Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46)
- Jesus gives us the gift of His own life, in a final prayer.
Jesus has given all he can. He has come down from heaven to earth. He was a man of sorrows, (Isaiah 53:3) gave us his teaching and example, gave us his body and blood to eat, he shed all his blood for us, suffered the most painful death of all, and now gives his life into the hands of his father for our salvation.
The Moment Jesus Dies
Whenever you read the gospel account of Jesus death, it is an appropriate custom to stop, kneel down, and pray in silence for a little while.
While Jesus body is hanging dead on the cross, what was going on?
We really don't know. Some say Jesus descended into Hell, and either suffered torment sin deserves, if he already didn't suffer it on the cross, or, more definitely, entered as victorious king to humiliate the devils. Some say he also went to Limbo, a place the souls ready for heaven were waiting, because the gates of heaven were closed until Jesus' death and atonement of sin could open them.
After Jesus Dies, No Words, But Another Gift
Jesus keeps on giving, even after death, because he is really God.
Sometimes, after someone dies, we find out that he leaves an inheritance to be given to others.
Jesus left us a greater gift.
To prove that he was dead, a soldier pierced his side, and blood and water came out.
His heart was opened wide, so that he might give us the living water, that would flow from the temple (His Body), as Ezekiel the prophet was shown. (Ezekiel 47:1-13)
Our thirsty souls now have a way to be fully satisfied.
A Reflection on Our Own Death
All of us will die. Death is a punishment for sin. Adam and Eve, and all of us
But to those who believe Jesus, and follow his example and teaching, Jesus took away the sting and victory of death. "O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:55)
We may have to suffer as we die. Let us be consoled that Jesus also suffered far more than us, that he will be faithful to comfort and strengthen us to the end, and will pray for us, commending our soul to his father.
An older pastor in an orthodox rite one time showed me that in their icon paintings of death, Jesus is shown taking a baby to the judgment of God, who is seated on a throne, surrounded by angels. The baby represents the soul. It makes sense too, because Jesus said that unless you become (or receive the kingdom of God) as a little child, you cannot get into the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God. (Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17)
What's Your Word?
After all these gifts from God, what will you say? What are you doing in return?
What's Your Gift?
We ought to give our life, our work, our best - our heart, mind, soul and strength - into the service of the Lord. He deserves our deepest gratitude and appreciation for what he did for us all his life, but especially on the day of his death.
Having received so many gifts, we ought to at least begin with a very heartfelt thank you. We ought to do it every day, but especially every year on Good Friday. That's what Good Friday is for.
Thank your stars.
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