Seven Words from Calvary

Seven words from Calvary: A devotional exposition of Christ’s Words on the cross is presently in preparation with Day One Publications and scheduled for release in summer, 2015.

Copyright © Timothy J Cross. These excerpts are from a pre-published work. For permission to cite, please contact the author.


‘All who open this book are entering a master class as Timothy opens out the words of the Lord Jesus at Calvary.’
Rev. Ron Keen, Railway Mission chaplain in Wales

‘A valuable study that … encourages believers to understand and value their salvation more fully.’
Rev. W. John Cook B.A., B.D., former lecturer in New Testament studies and currently minister of Barry Evangelical Presbyterian Church, South Wales



  1. A Word of Forgiveness
  2. A Word of Promise
  3. A Word of Compassion
  4. A Cry of Dereliction
  5. A Word of Need
  6. A Shout of Triumph
  7. A Word of Peaceful Trust


Seven words from CalvaryIt was said of the Lord Jesus Christ that ‘No man ever spoke like this man!’ (John 7:45). Jesus’ first recorded words are ‘Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ (Luke 2:49). These were spoken in the Temple at Jerusalem when He was just twelve years old. They reveal that He was aware of His unique, divine son-ship even at that early age. Jesus’ last recorded words however were spoken as He suffered and died to redeem sinners on the cross of Calvary. There were seven of these:-


  1. ‘Father, forgive them …’ (Luke 23:34).
  2. ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:43).
  3. ‘Woman, behold your son!’ ‘Behold your mother!’ (John 19:27).
  4. ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46).
  5. ‘I thirst’ (John 19:28).
  6. ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30).
  7. ‘Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit’ (John 23:46).


If the last words of anyone are especially poignant and solemn, how much more so are the last words of the Lord Jesus Christ – He who is the very Son of God Himself.

The following pages explain, explore and apply these last words of the Saviour. In considering them we are given a special insight into the person and work of Christ and taken into the very heart of the Christian Gospel.


Timothy Cross, Cardiff, Wales



‘Father, forgive them …’ (Luke 23:34).


‘Jesus Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2) lies at the very epicentre of the Christian Faith. Crucifixion was a very cruel form of capital punishment practised by the Romans. It entailed its victim being nailed to a plank of wood and hoisted up to die. When the Roman soldiers crucified Christ, the physical agony He experienced cannot be imagined. Yet Christ responded, not by calling out for vengeance on His enemies, but by praying to God for their forgiveness. Christ actually had ‘more than twelve legions of angels’ (Matthew 26:53) at His disposal. These could have, at His command, meted out the most merciless punishment on both the Roman soldiers who supervised His crucifixion and the Jewish authorities who handed Him over to be crucified. But instead, Christ prayed. His first words from the cross were words of mercy: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34).

In His famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’, Christ enjoined His disciples to ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ (Matthew 5:43). Christ’s first words from Calvary reveal that He practised what He preached. Christ was characterised by non-retaliation. Years later, Peter recalled how ‘when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered He did not threaten; but trusted to Him who judges justly’ (1 Peter 2:23).


The Gospel of Forgiveness


Christ’s first words from the cross therefore were words of forgiveness. ‘Father, forgive …’ His words have an infinitely wider application than their immediate context, because the forgiveness of sins is at the very heart of the heart of the Christian Gospel. Divine forgiveness is central to Christian salvation. The forgiveness of sins ‘music to the sinner’s ear’ indeed – is a blessing known to Christians alone and makes the Christian Gospel the Good News that it is. The Christian Gospel proclaims that, in the eternal plan of God, the Lord Jesus Christ died to procure the believing sinner’s forgiveness:-


He died that we might be forgiven

He died to make us good

That we might go at last to heaven

Saved by His precious blood

(Mrs CF Alexander).


The verb ‘to forgive’ means ‘to pardon, remit, cancel the debt, refrain from inflicting the punishment deserved.’ ‘Forgiveness’ is the resultant state of blessedness from being forgiven. Forgiveness is a synonym for salvation. ‘Forgiven’ may be written on every believer’s grave.

The brightness of the Gospel of forgiveness however makes no sense at all unless it is preached against the dark background of human sin. We need to be forgiven. According to the Bible we are all sinners both by nature and practice. ‘Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins’ (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The Shorter Catechism defines sin as ‘any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God’ (Q. 14). It is when we are enabled to realise that sin is ultimately against Almighty God Himself that we realise both the seriousness and eternal consequences of sin. Sin put us in God’s debt. Sin renders us liable to God’s punishment. Sin, in being rebellion against God, robs Him of His honour and robs us of the fellowship with Him which is our chief end and true joy …

The Good News of the Gospel however proclaims that there is forgiveness for all who put their faith in the crucified Saviour. His first words at Calvary were ‘Father, forgive …’ It is precisely because Jesus died in the sinner’s place at Calvary that Almighty God is able to forgive our sins. He is able to forgive us our sins because Jesus bore them there on the cross. 1 Peter 2:24 states ‘He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree.’ He was punished by God for our sins so that by believing in Him we may know the pardon of God for our sins. On Calvary, He was condemned so we might be acquitted. He suffered the wrath of God for our sins so that we might be saved from the wrath of God for our sins. Jesus – the sinless, son of God – died, not for His own sins, but for the sins of others. His death was substitutionary. His death was propitiatory. ‘Christ died for our sins …’ (1 Corinthians 15:3). ‘Who was put to death for our trespasses’ (Romans 4:25). Some 700 years BC, Isaiah the prophet gave a detailed prophecy concerning the death of Christ at Calvary. He concludes this by saying that Christ  both ‘bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors’ (Isaiah 53:12). The prophecy was most wonderfully fulfilled. Christ did indeed die for the sins of others at Calvary. And Christ did indeed make intercession for sinners at Calvary, when He prayed ‘Father, forgive them …’

The Apostles’ Creed is an early summary of the essential, non-negotiables of the Christian Faith. Notably it includes the line ‘I believe in … the forgiveness of sins.’ The forgiveness of our sins through the shedding of Christ’s blood at Calvary is not a facet of the Gospel. It is actually the very Christian Gospel itself. Paul could write ‘In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace’ (Ephesians 1:7). John the Apostle wrote ‘I am writing to you little children because your sins are forgiven for His sake’ (1 John 2:12).

Thank God then that Christ died for sinners at Calvary. Thank God that He sent His only Son ‘not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him’ (John 3:17). Thank God that Christ’s first words on the cross were a prayer, not for retribution or judgment, but for forgiveness. John Calvin wrote:-


It is on the foundation of the remission of sins that our salvation is built and stands … Christ has Himself purchased the remission of sins and paid for it with the price of His own blood …’ (Truth for all Time, p.46).




‘It is finished’ (John 19:30).


Born to die


The life of Christ was like no other. His teaching, miracles and sinless character were incomparable. Remarkably however, Scripture teaches that Christ accomplished far more by His death than by His life. ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15), and it was by His atoning death for sinners on Calvary’s cross that the sinner’s salvation was actually and eternally procured.

The Lord Jesus Christ was about thirty three years old when He died. Dying at such an early age would normally be viewed as a terrible and sad calamity. Christ’s death however was not a tragedy but a triumph. Christ’s death was no accident but an accomplishment. He was not a victim but a Victor. And this is brought out by Christ’s sixth word from the cross. With a shout of triumph, He proclaimed ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30).

Christ’s parched mouth, due to His raging thirst, made speech difficult. The welcome drink of wine vinegar though moistened His mouth and enabled Him to speak clearly. John the Apostle’s vivid, eye witness account thus records: ‘When Jesus had received the vinegar, He said ‘It is finished’; and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit’ (John 19:30).

‘It is finished.’ The words take us to the very heart of the Christian Gospel and the sure foundation of the Christian’s eternal salvation, for they take us to ‘the finished work of Christ on the cross’:-


‘Tis finished! The Messiah dies

Cut off for sins, but not His own

Accomplished is the sacrifice

The great redeeming work is done

‘Tis finished! All the debt is paid

Justice divine is satisfied

The great and full atonement made

Christ for a guilty world hath died

(Charles Wesley 1707-88).


A Perfect Work


‘It is finished.’ These three words are actually just one word in the original Greek of the Bible. The word is ‘Tetelestai.’ The verb employed by the Holy Spirit is in the perfect tense. The perfect tense refers to a present state resulting from a past action – or an action in the past with abiding consequences in the present. Christ’s death therefore was no ordinary death. The sacrifice of the eternal Son of God has eternal, abiding, saving consequences. We could paraphrase Christ’s shout of triumph in the following ways:-

‘I have accomplished the eternal salvation of God’s people!’ ‘I have paid the debt of my people’s sin in full.’ ‘I have fulfilled all the types, shadows and prophecies of the coming Redeemer foretold in Scripture.’ ‘I have wrought the forgiveness of my people’s sins so that they will remain eternally forgiven.’ ‘I have made full atonement for my people.’ ‘My sacrifice has put an end to all sacrifice, and rendered the sacrificial priesthood redundant.’ ‘I have completed the work which my Father sent me to do in His eternal plan.’ Or, to employ Christ’s own words: ‘I glorified Thee on earth having accomplished the work which Thou gavest me to do’ (John 17:4).


The heart of our faith


Christ’s words ‘It is finished’ lie at the very heart of the Christian Faith. They draw our attention to His perfect work of redemption at Calvary. Perfection, by its nature can neither be improved upon nor diminished. Nothing can add to or subtract from what Christ achieved at Calvary. From Calvary’s cross the believer’s eternal salvation flows. ‘When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins He sat down at the right hand of God’ (Hebrews 10:12). The secret of Christian assurance is surely to look away from ourselves and focus our attention on the all-prevailing sufficiency of the finished work of Christ. It is His great work that saves us – nothing more, nothing less and nothing else. Jesus is the eternal Son of God. His blood has power to atone. His perfect sacrifice is able to save us eternally. He is our all-sufficient Saviour who has averted the wrath of God from us. Salvation depends on His work, not our works.




The ‘finished work of Christ’ exposes the folly of salvation by human works and endeavour. ‘Salvation by works’ seeks to add to, but actually detracts from the perfection of what Christ has done. There were those in Paul’s day who, by their religious works, tarnished and detracted from Christ’s cross-work – just as there are today. Paul’s rejoiner then is just as applicable today: ‘I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose’ (Galatians 2:21).

The ‘Finished work of Christ’ is a needed reminder that it is His great work – and His alone – that can save a lost sinner. The aim of Christian evangelism is therefore, under God, to get sinners to the foot of the cross. Faith in the crucified Saviour is the Gospel imperative, as Scripture states that there is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12). Salvation rests solely on the finished work of Christ. It is wholly and solely ‘of the Lord.’ It is not a matter of ‘do’ but of what Christ has already done. Praise God, ‘It is finished!’


Nothing, either great or small

Nothing, sinner no

Jesus did it, did it all

Long, long ago


When He from His lofty throne

Stooped to do and die

Everything was fully done

Hearken to His cry


Till to Jesus Christ you cling

By a simple faith

Doing is a deadly thing

Doing ends in death


Cast your deadly doing down

Down at Jesus’ feet

Stand in Him, in Him alone

Gloriously complete


‘It is finished!’ yes indeed

Finished every jot

Sinner, this is all you need

Tell me is it not?

(James Proctor 19th cent.).


Copyright © Timothy J Cross. These excerpts are from a pre-published work. For permission to cite, please contact the author.