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Delbert W. Baker

is vice-chancellor of the Adventist University of Africa near Nairobi, Kenya.

Seven Life Lessons from the Cross

Peter had an close and longstanding relationship with Christ. He deeply loved Him as Savior, and greatly admired Him as mentor. He maintained that Christ is the greatest role model we could ever have. He wrote: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth’” (1 Peter 2:21, 22, see also verses 23, 24).

Peter suggests that the greatest exemplary resource for how to live and die may be found in the life and death of Christ, particularly in His example on the cross. Christ spent approximately six hours on the cross, from around 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with darkness descending on the cross around noon. His last “words” or sayings reveal what was important to Him in life, even as He died for the sins of the world (John 3:16).

Jesus said on the cross what needed to be said. Everything was for our learning and admonition. Each of His last words or phrases is filled with exemplary life-changing truths for managing life, principles for life and leadership in times of calm or crisis. Let’s look at some life lessons Christ’s seven last words convey.

We are challenged to reflect mercy, love, grace, and forgiveness to all we encounter, friends and enemies alike.

LessonOne: Forgiveness

The first thing Christ said on the cross was “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He said these forgiving words about those perpetrators who were causing one of the worst possible deaths imaginable. They did it even though He had done nothing to deserve it. He was gracious, magnanimous, and forgiving to those who were cruel, heartless, and vindictive.

We are challenged to reflect mercy, love, grace, and forgiveness to all we encounter, friends and enemies alike.

Lesson Two: Grace

The second words Jesus spoke on the cross were “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Patiently, lovingly, as He was dying on the cross, Christ focused His attention on the thief’s plaintive appeal: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (verse 42). Because of the thief’s faith in Christ’s merits, Jesus gave him the assurance of eternal life. This is one of the most beautiful and definitive examples of the process, power, and application of the righteousness of Christ.

We are challenged to be selfless, big-spirited, and mission focused.

Lesson Three: Care

The third set of words Christ spoke was to His mother. He said, “Woman, here is your son,” referring to John. To John He said, “Here is your mother,” referring to Mary (John 19:26, 27). In His time of greatest need, He didn’t think of Himself, but of His mother who experienced acute pain and deep grief. Christ’s concern was for her future comfort and care rather than for Himself.

People going through trauma and tragedy should prioritize the good of family and others, home ties, and other’s feelings over their own. This challenges us to exercise family benevolence and responsibility, business to after-care, and create networking and facilitation for the good of others.

Lesson Four: Perseverance

Jesus’ fourth words, spoken during the period of darkness after noon were touching, even heart-rending: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). He realistically and vulnerably makes audible the weight and separating seriousness of the world’s sin. This sin rested on Christ and caused separation between Father and Son. With Him, the sin-bearer, it was inevitable but nonetheless painful, lonely, and unspeakably excruciating. Yet He persevered to the end.

May we be so challenged to courageously admit, submit, and commit to Christ and His cause, even when we experience great pain and discomfort.

Lesson Five: Humility

The fifth words that came from Christ were “I am thirsty” (John 19:28). In the midst of this terrible ordeal we see His persistent and essential human needs. He was in profound pain, abject discomfit, and in need water, one of the most basic human needs. He said it for whoever might be kind enough to respond.

His example affirms the legitimacy of knowing our needs, vulnerably admitting them, and humbly articulating them perchance someone may respond. This is a beautiful and touching characteristic to model.

Lesson Six: Finisher

The sixth phrase from the mouth of Christ on the cross is, “It is finished” (John 19:30). This emphasizes Christ’s clear understanding of His life’s role in terms of its purpose, place, providence, and point in time. His life and death was prophesied. He knew that it was now fulfilled. He recognized that not only was His work on the cross complete, but His entire life’s mission was accomplished.

It will be well that each one of us might be so in touch with God and our life purpose that we, too, at the end of our lives, can say—like Christ and Paul—that we have finished our course, that our life work is done (2 Tim. 4:6-8; Acts 20:24). Let us so arrange our lives that when we come to the end our lives we can say, “It is finished!” Let’s be finishers.

Lesson Seven: Trust

The final statement of Christ on the cross stands out. He cried with “a loud voice,” “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). This statement speaks of hope, trust, and absolute confidence in the divine providence and sovereignty of God. As Christ gave up His life, He knew God the Father would make everything work together for good. Though dying, He was confident that His Father would attend to all that would follow. He had no fear or hesitation. The Father had Jesus’ resurrection, humanity’s salvation, and the entire eternity in mind. Jesus trusted God the Father and left all things in His care.

This is a wonderful example to all believers. May we, too, not fear death or how we die, but trust and cooperate with God with our life purpose, with the completion of our ministry and mission, and with all things pertaining to our lives and our eternal life to come.

The Seven Last Words of Christ on the cross are a blueprint for dealing with issues of life and death. Let this introduction serve as a template to whet your appetite and study this subject deeper.


Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.

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