The First Word
Luke 23.26, 32-34
As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus… Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’
‘Father, forgive them;
for they do not know what they are doing.’
Is that the end, then? Are we there already? Is it time to leave? Father, forgive… Is that how it happens? We’re forgiven, and that’s it?
On the cross, Jesus forgives his enemies. Their slate is wiped clean. I can’t leave the cross just yet; I don’t know how to forgive my friends, my family—let alone my enemies.
Forgive me, Lord, that I may forgive others.
The Second Word
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
‘Truly I tell you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.’
Jesus is dying, but the kingdom is still coming. It will not delay.
What did the thief say to him? ‘Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.’ This are dying thief may have spoken the greatest words of faith in the whole Bible; this dying man looks upon another dying man, and believes that this man will bring in God’s kingdom.
If that is faith, do I believe yet? Lord, I believe—help my unbelief.
Forgive me, Lord, and increase my faith.
The Third Word
Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
‘Woman, here is your son.’
If I were in your place, Lord, I doubt I’d be thinking of others. Every little pain and discomfort directs my attention inward. Yet on the cross, you see your mother and you see to her welfare. You know the pain she feels and will always feel, and you provide for her.
Forgive me, Lord, and show me how to care for others.
The Fourth Word
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
I cannot fathom what it meant for you to say those words, Lord, what agony of spirit you were going through, what it was like to be separated from the Father when you had never before known such separation.
I know what it is like to feel cut off from God. But I made that choice. I turned away from God and went my own way. Yet you too made a choice, Lord—you chose to endure being cut off from your Father so that I too might know the Father’s love.
Forgive me, Lord, and turn my face towards my Father God.
The Fifth Word
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.
‘I am thirsty.’
We sometimes think you are above these things, Lord. Thirst. Hunger. Tiredness. When a child says ‘I’m thirsty’, we know what to do. We get a glass of water. But you, Lord—you are the one who gives us the Living Water! Yet you thirst.
What difference does it make if we help you? You’re going to die anyway. How can we make a difference? And when people die of cholera in Zimbabwe because of lack of clean water, or where women walk for hours just to draw water, what can we do?
Yet you said it, Lord: ‘Anyone who gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because they are disciples of mine, will certainly not go unrewarded.’ (Matthew 10.42 REB alt.)
And you said it, Lord: Anything you did, or failed to do, for one of these, however insignificant, you did—or failed to do—for me. (Matthew 25.31-46)
Forgive me, Lord, and turn my face towards those in need.
The Sixth Word
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
‘It is finished.’
Lord, you didn’t say, ‘I am finished.’
‘It is finished.’ The work you had come to do was done. You had returned to the Father, the awful pain of being cut off was gone. You were victorious; you had done what you set out to do. You remained faithful to death, you loved your own unto the very end.
You promised that those servants who keep your word will one day hear the words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ First and foremost, these words are for you.
Lord, forgive me, and keep me faithful to you.
The Seventh Word
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
‘Father, into your hands
I commend my spirit.’
Having done all, you take your last breath, and entrust yourself to your Father.
So often, Lord, I stand at a distance from you. I avoid obeying you if it might cost me; I fear that I do not possess a commendable spirit.
You said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ You were pure in heart; that promise is for you.
Forgive me, Lord, and purify my heart, that the promise may be mine too.