Seven Words from the Cross – Part VII

Today is Good Friday…and so I thought it a fitting day to post the final sonnet of my “Seven Words from the Cross” series.  This sonnet ties together a few different scripture passages, but the two passages that I am focusing on are John 19:30 (from which the seventh statement is recorded), and Luke 23:45b which speaks of what happened to the curtain that closed off the Holy of Holies in the temple.

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A curtain blocked God’s earthly dwelling place
none but the priest, and he but once a year
could enter into this Most Holy space
for any other, death if they came near

The Life, the Truth, the Way he claimed to be
the one who’d lead us to the throne of God
But now the Christ was hanging on a tree
it seemed for all his claims he was a fraud

The ways of God, though, aren’t the ways of man
The path to life would come only through death
Christ was no fraud! He had a different plan:
one which he’d follow til his final breath

“It is finished” Jesus said: the price was paid
The curtain ripped in two: a way was made

~~

In my Seven Words from the Cross series, I have attempted to show glimpses of what happened at the crucifixion, but there is far too much to fit it all into 7 poems of 14 lines each. Please read the crucifixion accounts from the Gospels to get the whole story…and speaking of the whole story…Christ’s death is certainly not the end of His story!  (It may be Friday now…but Sunday’s on the way!)

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Seven Words from the Cross – Part VI

Before my poem, I would like to briefly discuss the final two words (sayings) of Christ from the cross

The last words of Christ from the cross as recorded in the book of Luke differ from what is recorded in the book of John.  Luke 23:46 says,

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”When he had said this, he breathed his last.

John 19:30 says,

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Why are there two seemingly conflicting reports?  Did Jesus say one, or the other, or both?  The discrepancy can likely be attributed to the fact that each is from a different eye-witness account.  It is probable that Christ made both statements, but which came first is impossible to say with certainty.  I have chosen to use Luke’s account for Part VI of my series, and I will use John’s account for part VII, as I feel that “It is finished” is an appropriate phrase for the conclusion of my series.  And now, here is the poem inspired by Christ’s words:

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He took our guilt upon himself that day
the cross’s pain eclipsed by pain of sin
He wore our shame to take our shame away
a torture greater than his broken skin

He loves us, so was willing to submit
to torment that the world had never known
“Father into your hands I now commit
my Spirit,” he called out with a loud groan

A loving Father’s arms and strong embrace
are where an anguished child longs to be
The death that Christ died that we might know grace:
how could there be a greater agony?

Even in death he kept his eyes above
Upon his Father, trusting in his love.

Seven Words from the Cross – Part V

What god in guise of human flesh would dare
allow his godly strength be stripped away?
What Greek or Roman deity might care
to be a human each and every day?

The One True God alone became a man
with body prone to pain and even death
as part of his redemptive loving plan
to offer humankind eternal breath

“I thirst” he cried out from his cross of wood
no god not truly man would be so frail.
No man not truly God could be so Good!
for through this “weakness”, Hell he would assail!

In strength he chose to give his life to save
he has a mission far beyond the grave…

~~

This statement from Christ can be found in John 19:28. Part of the inspiration for this sonnet came from the poem “Descent” by Malcolm Guite.  Malcolm contrasted the vanity of  the “classic gods of old” with the self-sacrificial humility of Jesus.  I hope I might have captured a touch of that idea in my poem as well.

Seven Words from the Cross – Part IV

Of all the things Christ said from the cross, I think the one that impacts me with the most force is this one. I’ve done what I could to capture the story of those words in a 14 line sonnet, but this poem barely scratches the surface of the meaning and impact of this word. Jesus quotes from Psalm 22 (and if you read all of Psalm 22, you will find other items in that psalm that point directly to the crucifixion too!). This word (saying) can be found in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34.

~~

While God in Heaven turned his face away
the crowds looked on not knowing what they saw:
more than a man was on the cross that day –
the substitute for all who break the law

Though Pilate found him guilty of no crime,
the crown insisted that they murder him
that was the darkest point in all of time
when sinless man bore all of mankind’s sin

Eloi, Eloi lama sabchthani?
In anguished Aramaic Christ cried out
My God, my God, why’ve you forsaken me?
all Heaven must have trembled with that shout!

But for that moment when God hid his face
we could not know the power of his grace

Seven Words from the Cross – Part III

Christ’s 3rd word from the cross is found in John 19:25-27. I believe that this story is included in Scripture to show that even while dying on the cross, Jesus’ love for his family and friends was forefront in his mind. He knew that his mother would need someone to care for her, and so he assigned that task to John.

The first two lines of the poem are a paraphrase of Matthew 8:20

A note on the words Christ said in this story: due to the constraints of the poetry form that I have chosen, I have taken some poetic liberty with the exact wording. Please read the story directly from the Bible to get the complete and accurate story.

~~

A fox might have his den, a bird her nest
but Jesus had no place to lay his head
in worldly goods the Lord did not invest
but into people poured himself instead

About his final testament and will
He only had a few brief things to say
from on his cross upon a skull-shaped hill
Two items only would he give away:

to his disciple John, he said “I give
my mother as your mother from now on”
and then he said to Mary, “while you live
you’ll need a son to care for you – take John”

He lived his life in love with every breath
And love still marked the Savior in his death

Seven Words from the Cross – Part II

Christ’s second “word” (or saying) from the cross is found in Luke 23:43 (the story leading up to the saying starts in verse 39). The following poem is based on that story.

~~

Beside his own, two other crosses stood
one convict on his left, one on his right
one mocked the Savior from his beams of wood:
“If you’re God’s son, then save us with your might!”

But he who hung on Jesus’ other side
acknowledged he deserved this painful fate
and then: “Lord, please remember me”, he cried,
“when you have entered through your kingdom’s gate”

Christ answered him “I speak the truth today
in Paradise the two of us shall meet”
and though the sky was swiftly turning grey
that man had ne’er before heard words so sweet

Like him, we have no hope to earn God’s grace
but we’ll see Mercy if we seek his face

Seven Words from the Cross – Part I

For Lent this year, I want to attempt to write one sonnet for each of the “Seven Words” (or seven sayings) of Jesus that he spoke from the cross.  Here is part one.  This first “word”  can be found in the Gospel of Luke 23:34

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Upon a Roman cross of rough-hewn wood
the one they called The Christ was hung to die
while down below this man, a great crowd stood
to see what sorts of curses he might cry

No crime of his had placed him on that tree
betrayed by one in whom he’d placed his trust
no one had right to anger more than he
this crucifixion truly was unjust

But, “Father, please forgive” is what they heard
and those who watched him saw he was sincere
“they don’t know what they do” was his first word
these weren’t the words the crowd thought they would hear

did any of the crowd who looked above
see in that moment God’s abounding love?