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What were Jesus’ last words?

Posted on Apr.29, 2009. Filed in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Average rating: 4.2 / 10 (Rate It).

All four of the gospels describe Jesus last moments on the cross, and have him crying out before he dies. What he cries out, though, varies between the gospels.

Matthew has Jesus shout “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”:

And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ … Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. [Matthew 27:46,50 (NRSV)]

Mark’s account is almost identical:

At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ …┬áThen Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. [Mark 15:34, 37 (NRSV)]

In Luke, though, Jesus’ last words are “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”:

Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. [Luke 23:46 (NRSV)]

John confuses matters further, having Jesus say “It is finished”:

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. [John 19:30 (NRSV)]

So what were Jesus last words?

N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.

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  1. 1
    Amtiskaw

    I guess you say that Jesus actually said “It is finished, Father; into your hands I commit my spirit” or somesuch, and that this was the “loud cry” mentioned by Mark and Matthew.

  2. 2
    WisdomLover

    In addition to Amtiskaw’s harmonization, it seems that there is another possible response here.

    We note, as Amtiskaw implies, that Matthew, Mark and Luke are in no way at odds. Matthew and Mark both tell of a later loud cry. Luke tells us what that loud cry was. No problem.

    The question is how to fit in John’s “It is finished”. Amtiskaw does so by combining Luke’s and John’s final utterances in that final shout.

    The second account notes that Matthew and Mark agree that Jesus gave out a final breath after the last loud cry. Luke agrees that he gave out a final breath after shouting “Father, into thy hands…”

    Perhaps Jesus said “It is finished” with that dying breath. So the order is:

    1. He shouted “My God, My God…”.
    2. He said “I thirst”.
    3. He drank the bitter wine offered to him.
    4. He shouted “Father into thy hands…”.
    5. With his dying breath he said “It is finished”.
    6. He died.

  3. 3
    Amtiskaw

    Still, I think the natural reading of John and Luke would be that we are reading the actual last words of Jesus. Which they can’t both be, of course.

  4. 4
    bjr53

    This one seems fairly straight forward. His last words were “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”. Here’s why…

    Order:
    1) “My God My God…” (his reference to the psalm 22:1:1, the prophecy regarding that very day)
    2) Drank bitter wine…
    3) Said, “it is finished” (which scripture makes no reference to him saying this loudly and probably didn’t)
    4) “Father into your hands…” (the act of giving up his spirit)

    His last words were his giving up of his spirit which is entirely consistent with the biblical idea of power in the spoken word. This was the son of God. What he commanded became reality. His final act, was a commandment, the commandment to end it, to release his spirit from his body.

    How else would he do it? Just will to die? Remember that he was Human but anointed with the power of God. You are human and can you just will yourself dead? No you can’t and neither could he. Perhaps he just died naturally and felt it coming on? If so, that is pretty good timing and pretty unlikely. The ninth hour and his cry of “father father…” were significant in their timing. He had been waiting for that moment to make that particular statement. No, this wasn’t a massive coincidence that he happened to die ‘on time’. He did however die ‘on time’ or in other words ‘on command’. His command! He couldn’t ‘will’ himself to die but he could command himself to die because of the anointing that would respond to his commands.

    So to say he cried loudly “Father I commit…” or to just say he “gave up his spirit” are two different ways of describing the same event. Although he said the final words loudly, john observed his head was bowed which is very significant. Both the bowed head and the volume of his statement are significant.

    THE PURPOSE OF HIS STATEMENTS:

    Jesus’ reference to psalm 22:1:1 was a key statement for the crowd. This is why it was shouted (My Father, my father…). He was addressing the crowd to remind them of the psalm at which point the crowd realised he was the Christ and mourned their actions symbolically by beating their chests.

    The statement “it is finished” wasn’t key for the crowd. At this stage of the game Jesus wasn’t particularly in a position to waste his energy and didn’t shout it and it is not referenced that he did. For this reason I surmise John was close enough to hear him say it.

    Remember that the disciples were keeping a low profile and were probably scattered so as not to be seen as an obvious group. I’m reasonably sure the scripture confirms this anyway. Therefore, each individual would likely have been a different distance from Jesus meaning some would be able to hear more than others. Perhaps John was the closest. “It is finished” is recorded in the bible for our benefit so we can understand why he bailed when he did by making his next statement.

    Then, Jesus gave another shout, but this time not addressing the crowd to teach them a lesson as with the previous shout but to make a command to be released from his burden now that the job was done or “finished”. The reason he shouted it was probably to make a point to all those who stood around. That point was that he died when he was good and ready meaning he had the authority to leave the entire time but only remained by his choice, until the job was done.

    The soldiers who were watching were amazed because nobody died just because they wanted to but Jesus did and this is why the soldier made the statement realising Jesus was indeed the son of god. Crucification went on for ages and was torture in that there was no quick release. Nobody ‘got out of it’ by dying at a time of their choosing. Nobody except Jesus that is! Luckily for us, he didn’t bail until the job was done!

    The four different versions of this event do not conflict but choose to focus on different parts of the same event. The time line and claims are consistent. All the testimonies can fit and the motivations and reasons behind the various elements of this event would seem supportive.

    That’s my theory anyway…

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