Meditation on The Traditional Last Seven Words of Jesus, with scripture references from the Gospel of John
Begins with singing this slowly twice:
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Pilate brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.
How often do human beings break God’s heart? Surely God must weep over the refugee crisis in this world and all the ways and means that human beings turn other people into objects, subhumans, demeaning and diminishing others? God weeps over those who are dying from war, famine, cruelty, greed, genocide. Every day people crucify Jesus. Like this crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head to humiliate, scorn, and devalue him, consider the ways that this is happening in our world today. Strive to recognize how each of us may be complicit in ways known and unknown in daily crucifixions, and aim to live with greater awareness and the desire to respect the dignity of every human being. (Place the crown of thorns on the cross)
Loving God, to whom Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of those who did not know what they were doing, grant that we too may be included in that prayer. Whether we sin out of ignorance or intention, be merciful to us, guide us to change our ways, and bring us peace in the name of Jesus Christ, our suffering Savior. Amen.
“Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two rebels, one on either side, with Jesus between them. One rebel said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “You will be with me in paradise.”
Even as he was dying, Jesus revealed himself as God’s love in the world, a love that seeks to restore hope and dignity, to all human kind. A love that seeks to reconcile the broken and hurting. A love that seeks life not death. A love freely given for all. Like this mallet, used to pound the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet, a common tool intended to build up not destroy, may we be the hands of Christ, building up the body of love in the world. (Place the mallet on the floor at the foot of the cross).
O Lord Jesus Christ, who promised to the repentant the joy of paradise, enable us by the Holy Spirit to repent and to receive your grace in this world and in the world to come. Amen.
“Woman, behold your son. . . . Behold your mother.”
Meanwhile, 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.
Jesus sought to bring all people to the fullness of their humanity, to create equality for women, for people of every race and nation, that all marginalized people may be seen as God’s beloved. These nails, a symbol of the binding together one to another, bound Jesus to the cross and insured his death and humility. May we, instead, have the courage and compassion to bind together love and mercy, hope and grace, in God’s name. (Place the nails on the floor, at the foot of the cross).
O love of God, Jesus Christ, in your hour of greatest suffering you expressed compassion for women through the care of your mother; grant that we who seek to follow your example may show our concern for the needs of others, reaching out to provide for those who suffer in our human family. Hear this our prayer for your mercy’s sake. Amen.
Within Our Darkest Night sung a few times
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
Jesus reveals his full humanity and his full divinity in his dying. He suffers like all human beings suffer. He doubts and cries out in pain. His suffering helps us remember that God is bigger than our doubt and stronger than our fear. God takes our pain, fear, doubt, and gives us the courage to change, to carry on, to face another day, to find hope even when all seems hopeless. The dice were tossed to divide up Jesus’ clothes, a callous act done as if he didn’t exist at all. (Toss the dice on the floor).
O Lord, I call for help by day, and all night long I cry out. O Lord, hear my prayer, for my soul is troubled; I am weak, cut off as if forsaken by all, forgotten and near the pit of death.
Lost and full of despair, I cry out, where are you oh, God? My hands are lifted up to you. Do you work wonders for the dead? Lord, do not hide your face from me. Darkness is my closest friend for I am all alone. Amen.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a cloth full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. This wine soaked cloth broke open the hard hearts of those who stood by and did nothing, a small act of kindness within the brutality of murder and death. Every day people are killed in senseless deaths, guns which are meant to protect are turned into weapons of fear in an unjust world. Who has the courage to stand up to the violence and offer another way? (Place the cloth on the cross).
Any act of kindness, no matter how small, is an act of God’s mercy and grace, an opportunity for God to shine forth, to reveal God’s self, to embrace another in compassion.
O blessed Savior, whose lips were dry and whose throat was parched, grant us the water of life, that we who thirst after righteousness may find it quenched by your love and mercy, leading us to bring this same relief to others. Amen.
“It is finished.”
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Sometimes it seems that death wins and then our grief is deep and our sorrow profound. There is no replacement for the loss of human touch and for the physical presence of the one we love. When it is finished we are left with a huge hole in our heart, which will never be repaired. Although the ragged edges may soften, the love that once was – and it’s gapping hole – will always remain. Each day, in many ways, human beings try to kill God’s love in the world through acts of injustice, greed, and self-entitlement.
O Lord Jesus Christ, you came as God’s Word to change the world, to teach us another way, to show us the fullness of God’s love, and in return human beings killed you and tried to kill God’s love, too. Enable us to live and love so faithfully that we become good news to the world, joining your witness, O Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Oh God, into whose hands Jesus commended his spirit, grant that we may entrust our lives into your faithful hands of love. May we, with God’s help, transform the senseless death of Jesus into new life, and in his name, strive toward the day that no one dies from violence inflicted by other people. Amen.
tape paper onto the cross with words that represent the ways we crucify Jesus in our world today – racism, sexism, LGBTQ, gun violence, etc., invite others to add their words
Meditation inspired by SJCPres