“This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved. Listen to him.”—MATT. 17:5.
SONG 17 “I Want To”
1-2. Describe the setting in which Jesus spoke his final words as a human.
IT IS daytime, Nisan 14, 33 C.E. After being falsely accused and being judged guilty of a crime he did not commit, Jesus is mocked, cruelly tortured, and then nailed to a torture stake. Nails pierce his hands and feet. Every breath he takes, every word he speaks, is painful. But he must speak—he has important things to say.
2 Let us discuss the words Jesus spoke as he was dying on the torture stake and the lessons we can learn from them. In other words, let us “listen to him.”—Matt. 17:5.
“FATHER, FORGIVE THEM”
3. To whom was Jesus likely referring when he said: “Father, forgive them”?
3 What did Jesus say? Upon being nailed to the stake, Jesus prayed: “Father, forgive them.” Forgive whom? We find a clue in the words that follow: “They do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:33, 34) Jesus was likely referring to the Roman soldiers who drove the nails through his hands and feet. They did not know who he really was. He may also have had in mind some in the crowd who had demanded his execution but would later exercise faith in him. (Acts 2:36-38) Jesus refused to allow the injustices he had suffered to make him bitter and resentful. (1 Pet. 2:23) Instead, he asked Jehovah to forgive those putting him to death.
4. What can we learn from Jesus’ willingness to forgive his opposers?
4 What can we learn from Jesus’ words? Like Jesus, we need to be willing to forgive others. (Col. 3:13) Some, including relatives, may oppose us because they do not understand our beliefs and our way of life. They may lie about us, humiliate us in front of others, destroy our literature, or even threaten to cause us physical harm. Rather than harboring resentment, we can ask Jehovah to open the eyes of those who oppose us so that they may one day see the truth. (Matt. 5:44, 45) At times, we may find it hard to forgive, especially if we have experienced gross injustices. But if we allow bitterness and resentment to take root in our heart, we hurt ourselves. One sister explained: “I realize that being forgiving does not mean that I condone offenses or allow others to take advantage of me. It just means that I choose to let go of resentment.” (Ps. 37:8) When we decide to forgive, we are choosing not to let negative experiences make us bitter.—Eph. 4:31, 32.
“YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE”
5. What did Jesus promise one of the criminals being executed alongside him, and why did he make that promise?
5 What did Jesus say? Two criminals were being executed alongside Jesus. At first, the two joined in reproaching him. (Matt. 27:44) But later, one of them had a change of heart. He came to the conclusion that Jesus had done “nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40, 41) What is more, he expressed his belief that Jesus would be resurrected from death and rule as a king someday. He said to the dying Savior: “Jesus, remember me when you get into your Kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) What faith that man showed! In answer, Jesus said to him: “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me [not in the Kingdom, but] in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Notice that Jesus made that promise very personal by referring to “I,” “you,” and “me.” Knowing that his Father is merciful, Jesus spoke words that gave hope to this dying criminal.—Ps. 103:8.
6. What do we learn from Jesus’ words to the criminal?
6 What can we learn from Jesus’ words? Jesus is a perfect reflection of his Father. (Heb. 1:3) Jehovah is eager to forgive us and to show us mercy if we are truly sorry for the bad things we have done in the past and we exercise faith that we can obtain forgiveness of our sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:7) Some may find it difficult to believe that Jehovah could ever forgive them for their past mistakes. If you feel that way at times, consider this: Shortly before he died, Jesus made an expression of mercy to the condemned criminal who was just beginning to show faith. So how much more would Jehovah show mercy to his faithful worshippers, who are doing their best to obey his commandments!—Ps. 51:1; 1 John 2:1, 2.
“SEE! YOUR SON! . . . SEE! YOUR MOTHER!”
7. What did Jesus say to Mary and John, as recorded at John 19:26, 27, and why did he say this?
7 What did Jesus say? (Read John 19:26, 27.) Jesus was concerned about his mother, who was likely a widow. His siblings could perhaps care for her physical and material needs. But who could care for her spiritual needs? There is no indication that his brothers were as yet disciples. However, John was a faithful apostle and one of Jesus’ closest friends. Jesus viewed those who joined him in worshipping Jehovah as his spiritual family. (Matt. 12:46-50) Therefore, moved by love and concern for Mary, Jesus entrusted her care to John, knowing that he would care for her spiritual welfare. To his mother, he said: “See! Your son!” And to John, he said: “See! Your mother!” From that day on, John became like a son to Mary and cared for her as if she were his mother. What love Jesus showed to the precious woman who had tenderly cared for him at his birth and was standing near him at his death!
8. What can we learn from Jesus’ words to Mary and John?
8 What can we learn from Jesus’ words? Our bond with our Christian brothers and sisters can be stronger than our ties to immediate family members. Our relatives may oppose us or even abandon us, but as Jesus promised, by sticking to Jehovah and His organization, we will “get 100 times more” than we have lost. Many will become to us like a loving son, daughter, mother, or father. (Mark 10:29, 30) How do you feel about being part of a spiritual family who are united by faith and love—love for Jehovah and for one another?—Col. 3:14; 1 Pet. 2:17.
“MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”
9. What do Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 27:46 tell us?
9 What did Jesus say? Shortly before his death, Jesus called out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) The Bible does not explain why Jesus said this. Consider, though, what those words tell us. For one thing, by saying these words, Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy found at Psalm 22:1.* Furthermore, the words made it clear that Jehovah was not keeping “a protective hedge around” his Son. (Job 1:10) Jesus understood that his Father had released him fully into the hands of his enemies so that he could be tested to the limit—as no human has ever been tested. In addition, these words confirmed that he was innocent of any crime deserving of death.
10. What lessons can we learn from Jesus’ words to his Father?
10 What can we learn from Jesus’ words? One lesson we can learn is that we must not expect Jehovah to shield us from challenges that test our faith. Just as Jesus was tested to the limit, we too must be prepared to prove faithful to death if necessary. (Matt. 16:24, 25) However, we have the assurance that God will not let us be tested beyond what we can bear. (1 Cor. 10:13) Another lesson we learn is that, like Jesus, we may suffer unjustly. (1 Pet. 2:19, 20) Those who oppose us do so, not because we have done something wrong, but because we are no part of the world and we bear witness to the truth. (John 17:14; 1 Pet. 4:15, 16) Jesus understood why Jehovah allowed him to suffer. Unlike him, however, faithful worshippers under trial have sometimes wondered why Jehovah allowed certain things to happen. (Hab. 1:3) Our merciful and patient God understands that such ones do not lack faith; they need the comfort that only he can provide.—2 Cor. 1:3, 4.
“I AM THIRSTY”
11. Why did Jesus speak the words found at John 19:28?
11 What did Jesus say? (Read John 19:28.) Why did Jesus say: “I am thirsty”? He did so “in order to fulfill the scripture”—that is, the prophecy found at Psalm 22:15, which states: “My strength has dried up like a piece of pottery; my tongue sticks to my gums.” Also, after all that Jesus had suffered, including the agonizing pain on the torture stake, he must have been very thirsty. He needed help to quench his thirst.
12. What can we learn from Jesus’ words “I am thirsty”?
12 What can we learn from Jesus’ words? Jesus did not consider it to be a sign of weakness to express how he felt; nor should we. For much of our life, we may have preferred not to tell others about our needs. But if the time comes when we need help, we should not hesitate to ask others for assistance. For example, if we are older or infirm, we may have to ask a friend to give us a ride to a grocery store or to a doctor’s appointment. If we are downhearted or discouraged, we may need to ask an elder or other mature Christian friend to provide a listening ear or to share “a good word” to cheer us up. (Prov. 12:25) Let us remember that our brothers and sisters love us, and they want to help us in “times of distress.” (Prov. 17:17) But they cannot read our minds. They may not know that we need help unless we take the initiative to say something.
“IT HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED!”
13. What did Jesus accomplish by maintaining his integrity down to death?
13 What did Jesus say? About three o’clock on the afternoon of Nisan 14, Jesus called out: “It has been accomplished!” (John 19:30) With his death just moments away, Jesus had completed all that Jehovah expected him to do. By maintaining his integrity till he died, Jesus accomplished a number of things. First, he proved Satan a liar. Jesus showed that a perfect human could keep perfect integrity in spite of all that Satan could do. Second, Jesus gave his life as a ransom. His sacrificial death made it possible for imperfect humans to have a righteous standing with God, and it gave them the prospect of living forever. Third, Jesus upheld the righteousness of Jehovah’s sovereignty and cleared his Father’s name of reproach.
14. How should we be determined to live each day? Explain.
14 What can we learn from Jesus’ words? We must be determined to maintain our integrity every single day. Consider the comments of Brother Maxwell Friend, who served as an instructor at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. At an international assembly, Brother Friend said in a talk about faithfulness: “Don’t postpone for tomorrow what you can do or say today. Are you sure there will be a tomorrow? Live each day as if it were your last chance to show yourself worthy of living forever.” May we live each day as if it were our last chance to maintain our integrity! Then, even if we should face death, we would be able to say, “Jehovah, I have done my best to keep my integrity, to prove Satan a liar, and to vindicate your name and your sovereignty!”
“INTO YOUR HANDS I ENTRUST MY SPIRIT”
15. According to Luke 23:46, what confidence did Jesus express?
15 What did Jesus say? (Read Luke 23:46.) With complete confidence, Jesus said: “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” Jesus knew that his future depended on Jehovah, and he was certain that his Father would remember him.
16. What do you learn from the experience of a 15-year-old Witness?
16 What can we learn from Jesus’ words? Be willing to put your life in Jehovah’s hands. To do that, you must “trust in Jehovah with all your heart.” (Prov. 3:5) Consider the example of Joshua, a 15-year-old Witness with a terminal illness. He refused to accept medical procedures that violate God’s law. Shortly before he died, he told his mother: “Mom, I’m in Jehovah’s hands. . . . I can tell you this, Mom, with all certainty: I know Jehovah is definitely going to bring me back in the resurrection. He has read my heart, and I truly love him.”* Each of us would do well to ask, ‘If I were to face a life-threatening situation that tests my faith, would I put my life in Jehovah’s hands and trust in him to remember me?’
17-18. What lessons have we learned? (See also the box “What We Learn From Jesus’ Final Words.”)
17 What powerful lessons we can learn from Jesus’ final words! We are reminded of the need to forgive others and to trust that Jehovah will forgive us. We are privileged to have a wonderful spiritual family of brothers and sisters who are ready to help us. But when we need help, we must take the initiative to ask for it. We know that Jehovah will help us endure any trial that comes upon us. And we see the importance of living each day as if it were our last day to prove our integrity, confident that our life is safe in Jehovah’s hands.
18 Truly, the words Jesus spoke as he was dying on the execution stake are filled with meaning! By applying the lessons we have learned, we will be heeding Jehovah’s own words regarding his Son: “Listen to him.”—Matt. 17:5.
SONG 126 Stay Awake, Stand Firm, Grow Mighty
As Matthew 17:5 tells us, Jehovah wants us to listen to his Son. In this article, we will discuss a number of lessons we can learn from the words Jesus spoke when he was dying on the torture stake.
See the article “Joshua’s Faith—A Victory for Children’s Rights” in the January 22, 1995, issue of Awake!