The second year I preached on the third word: "Woman, behold your son. This is your mother" (John 19:26-27). The choir sang the anthem "Take my mother home," and I had trouble making it through my message.
The third year I preached on the sixth word: "It is finished" (John 19:30).
The fourth year I preached on the fifth word, which is also from John's gospel: "I thirst" (John 19:28).
Somehow it worked out that in the fifth, sixth, and seventh years, I preached on Jesus' words from the cross in Luke. These three sentences tell us about Jesus' priorities and perspective, his identity. They give us a heads-up so we can recognize him when he arrives.
- "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
- "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
- "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46).
Who is the one for whose arrival we prepare? He is One who forgives. He is One who welcomes all, especially sinners, into the arms of God. He is one who, having come from God, entrusts himself to God in a relationship that lasts forever.
This One is both on the way and already here, closer than hands and feet. Surely he is One who can strengthen our faith in the Resurrection when it wavers. Surely he is One who forgives us for all the obstacles of pride and preoccupation we have placed in his path. Surely he is One into whose hands we can commend our whole selves, our whole lives, both now and forever.