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A book for Easter - Words from the Cross by Ian Hamilton

David Campbell
06 March 2023 20:18

A book for Easter

Words from the Cross by Ian Hamilton                                                                                                   

The Bible tells us that Jesus spoke seven times as he hung on the cross of Calvary. In order, these seven words from the cross are as follows:

To his Father in heaven Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

To the dying criminal who was being crucified beside Jesus and who asked him to remember him when he came into his kingdom, he said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

John tells us that when “Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother’” (John 19:26-27).

Matthew records that “about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Ch.27:46).

After this, “knowing that all was now finished”, Jesus “said (to fulfil the Scripture), ‘I thirst’” (John 19:27), in response to which sour wine was held to his lips.

John then tells us that having “received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished’” (Ch.19:30).

Luke records the seventh and final word: “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last” (Ch.23:46).

Words from the Cross, as the title suggests, is an exposition of these seven remarkable sayings. But it is more than that. “To appreciate the significance of Jesus’ words from the cross”, says Ian Hamilton, “ we must see them in the light of the Old Testament’s foretelling of Jesus’ coming as the long-promised Saviour, the Servant of the Lord who would triumph over Satan and undo the tragedy of Adam’s sin” (p.7). To aid us in this Dr. Hamilton directs our attention in the first part of his book to what are known as Isaiah’s Servant Songs. He says of them, “It is in the prophecy of Isaiah that the portrait of the promised Messiah reaches new heights of clarity. In four passages – four songs or poems celebrating the coming Messiah – God paints us a picture of the one he calls ‘my servant, my chosen one’ (Ch.42:1)” (p.9). A short but illuminating chapter is devoted to each. The book is further enriched by brief meditations on Gethsemane, our Saviour’s arrest and trial, the seven words as a whole, and the miracles that followed Jesus’ death.

Words from the Cross is suitable for reading, of course, at any season of the year but will prove especially helpful as a preparation for Easter. The fact that none of the nineteen chapters are long makes it ideal for daily devotions. 

Here are some quotations to whet your appetite:

From Ch.3, The Saviour’s first song (Is.42:1-4): “The dependent nature of this servant’s life is highlighted: God himself will ‘uphold’ him. God says, ‘I will put my Spirit upon him.’ In his life of service to the Lord, the Servant will not act autonomously. He will live out his life of service upheld by God and enabled by the Spirit of God. It is this truth that lies behind Jesus’ words, ‘I can do nothing by myself’” (p.12).

From Ch.5, The Saviour’s third song (Is.50:4-11): “Morning by morning, day by day, he applied himself to hearing, reading, pondering, memorising the written word of God. There were no supernatural shortcuts to understanding. There was no co-mingling of his humanity and deity…Our Saviour knew from experience that there are ‘No gains without pains’” (p.22-23).

From Ch.11, ‘Oh the depth!’: “As we reflect on the chronologically sequential ‘cross words’ of Jesus, we can recognise a theological and spiritual progression. His words from the cross are not random utterances. They are deeply related, revealing a theology of the cross that marvellously displays the character of God” (p.53).

From Ch.12, Jesus’ first word from the cross (Luke 23:34): “Was the centurion the firstfruit of Jesus’ high priestly, merciful intercession? Seven weeks after this, on the day of Pentecost, three thousand of these people, whom Peter described as the murderers of Christ, repented and believed; and, in the days that followed, thousands more, including ‘a great many of the priests’ (Acts 2:47; 4:4; 6:7). That was a remarkable answer to Jesus’ prayer and it has continued down the centuries” (p.64).

From Ch.15, Jesus’ fourth word from the cross (Matt.27:46): “Jesus’ forsakenness was real. If it were not real that would mean he did not experience as our covenant head the judgment of God that our sins deserved. His forsakenness was not imagined, it was real. Just as our sin is real, not imagined, so the penalty God decreed for our sin is real not imagined. Jesus truly entered into the forsakenness, the God-abandonment, that my sin deserved” (p.90)

From Ch.17, Jesus’ sixth word from the cross (John 19:30):  “In his cry Jesus meant that the awful price of making atonement for sin had been paid. Taking the place of his people he had drunk the cup of God’s wrath and paid in full the ransom needed to redeem them…Nothing more was needed. All had been done, the work of atonement was finished” (p.104-105).