The First Word:“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Gracious Lord Jesus, it’s easy for me to speak of your forgiveness, even to ask for it and to thank you for it. But do I really believe I’m forgiven? Do I experience the freedom that comes from the assurance that you have cleansed me from my sins? Or do I live as if I’m “semi-forgiven”? Even though I’ve put my faith in you and confessed my sins, do I live as sin still has power over me? Do I try to prove myself to you, as if I might be able to earn more forgiveness?
Dear Lord, though I believe at one level that you have forgiven me, this amazing truth needs to penetrate my heart in new ways. Help me to know with fresh conviction that I am fully and finally forgiven, not because of anything I have done, but because of what you have done for me.
May I live today as a forgiven person, opening my heart to you, choosing not to sin because the power of sin has been broken by your salvation.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, for your matchless forgiveness! Amen.
The Second Word: “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”(Luke 23:43)
Dear Lord Jesus, how I wonder at your grace and mercy! When we cry out to you, you hear us. When we ask you to remember us when you come into your kingdom, you offer the promise of paradise. Your mercy, dear Lord, exceeds anything we might imagine. It embraces us, encourages us, heals us.
O Lord, though my situation is so different from the criminal who cried out to you, I am nevertheless quite like him. Today I live, trusting you and you alone. My life, but now and in the world to come, is in your hands. And so I pray:
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom! Jesus, remember me today as I seek to live within your kingdom! Amen.
The Third Word: “Dear woman, here is your son.”(John 19:26)
Lord Jesus, the presence of your mother at the cross engages my heart. You are no longer only the Savior dying for the sins of the world. You are also a fully human man, a son with a mother.
O Lord, how can I begin to thank you for what you suffered? My words fall short. My thoughts seem superficial and vague. Nevertheless, I offer my sincere gratitude for your suffering. Thank you for bearing my sin on the cross. I give you my praise, my love, my heart . . . all that I am, because you have given me all that you are.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, fully God and fully human, Savior of the world . . . my Savior! Amen.
The Fourth Word: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”(Mark 15:34)
O Lord Jesus, though I will never fully grasp the wonder and horror of your abandonment by the Father, every time I read this “word,” I am overwhelmed with gratitude. How can I ever thank you for what you suffered for me? What can I do but to offer myself to you in gratitude and praise? Thank you, dear Lord, for what you suffered. Thank you for taking my place. Thank you for being forsaken by the Father so that I might never be.
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
[“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts (1707)]
The Fifth Word: “I am thirsty.”(John 19:28)
O Lord, once again I thank you for what you suffered on the cross. Besides extraordinary pain, you also experienced extreme thirst. All of this was part and parcel of your taking on our humanity so that you might take away our sin.
Dear Lord, in your words “I am thirsty” I hear the cry of my own heart. I too am thirsty, Lord, not for physical drink. I don’t need sour wine. Rather, I need the new wine of your kingdom to flood my soul. I need to be refreshed by your living water. I yearn for your Spirit to fill me once again.
I am thirsty, Lord, for you. Amen.
The Sixth Word: “It is finished!”(John 19:30)
How can I ever find words to express my gratitude to you, dear Lord Jesus? You did it. You finished that for which you had been sent, faithful in life, faithful in death. You accomplished that which no other person could do, taking the sin of the world upon your sinless shoulders . . . taking my sin so that I might receive your forgiveness and new life.
All praise be to you, gracious Lord, for finishing the work of salvation. All praise be to you, dear Jesus, for saving me! Alleluia! Amen.
The Seventh Word: “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”(Luke 24:46)
Gracious Lord, even as you once entrusted your spirit into the hands of the Father, so I give my life to you. I trust you, and you alone to be my Savior. I submit to your sovereignty over my life, and seek to live for your glory alone. Here I am, Lord, available to you, both now and in the future.
How good it is to know, dear Lord, that the cross was not the end for you. As you entrusted your spirit into the Father’s hands, you did so in anticipation of what was to come. So we reflect upon your death, not in despair, but in hope. With Good Friday behind us, Easter Sunday is on the horizon. Amen.