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The magnitude of the gift of Jesus’ death on the cross can be difficult to put into words. But as with all things, Jesus shows us the way. The Seven Last Words—the phrases spoken by our savior and recorded in the Gospels—provide powerful messages for us to ponder and relate to our daily lives. To deepen your experience of Holy Week and more fully enjoy the Easter celebration, spend some time writing about the words spoken by Jesus and their meaning to you.

1. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Even as he is wrongfully accused, convicted and tortured, Jesus asks God to grant mercy unto his persecutors.

Are there people in your life to whom you need to offer forgiveness? Are there people from whom you need to seek forgiveness? How can you find it in your heart to get past injustice and cruelty you might have suffered? Think about how forgiveness could free your heart and help you move forward.

2. “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Here, Jesus speaks words of salvation to one of the thieves also being crucified. That man believes in Jesus’ innocence and asks Jesus to remember him when Jesus comes into his kingdom. Jesus, of course, provides us all with salvation through his death and resurrection.

How would you describe your relationship with Jesus? Do you see him as an unknowable being or a friend who’s close at hand? Recall times in your life when someone has saved you in some way.

3. “Woman, behold, your son. … Behold, your mother.” (John 19:26–27)

Preparing to leave the earthly realm, Jesus entrusts his mother, Mary, to “the disciple whom he loved.” Even as he was dying, Jesus was thinking of his mother and how she would go on after her son’s death.

What role does Mary play in your life? How is your relationship with your parents and other family members? What could you do to grow closer to them? Think about friends who feel like family, like the beloved disciple. Write about their importance to you and how you can show them how you feel.

4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34)

Jesus, at his most human, calls out in anguish from the cross. He is in profound pain, abandoned by most of his friends and suffering physically and emotionally.

How do you perceive Jesus’ cry of abandonment? Do you believe God had abandoned his son? Why or why not? When have you felt abandoned by family, friends or even God? In what ways can you relate to Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person?

5. “I thirst.” (John 19:28)

In what is known as “The Word of Distress,” Jesus once again expresses a human need. To quench his thirst, Jesus is offered a sponge soaked in sour wine.

For what are you thirsting? How can you strengthen your faith life to quench that thirst? When have you felt distressed and cried out for what you needed? Who came to your aid? Where was God during your suffering?

6. “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

With three simple words, Jesus changes the course of human history, declaring victory over sin and death—the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people. On earth, Jesus has finished his work.

When have you felt triumphant? How did God play a role in that experience? As Christians, we know Jesus’ life and death had special purpose. How would you describe your life’s purpose? If you’re still searching, how might you discover who God is calling you to be?

7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

Called “The Word of Reunion,” Jesus proclaims that he will join God in heaven. His journey is at once complete and only just beginning.

What do you think heaven will be like? What does it mean to you to be united with God? Do you see death as an ending, a beginning or both?

Having examined each of Jesus’ final statements individually, reflect on how the messages all work together to create a prayer. Just as he was a model for us in life, so Jesus was in death, teaching us how to pray through our darkest hours and reminding us that God is always listening. Fortified by the knowledge of God’s unfailing mercy, we have the strength we need to go forward as God’s Easter people.