It has seemed to me that the afternoon of Jesus’ crucifixion would have stretched out forever in the minds of those who were present, and in another sense the events of that afternoon stretch to our day as well. We consider the viewpoints of a priest, a thief, Mary, John, Simon, and others and the seven last words they heard from Jesus.
For anyone in Jacksonville tomorrow, a service titled “The Endless Afternoon: Words and Witnesses at the Cross,” at 7:00p at Westside Chapel, 4541 Shirley Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32210, 904 388-5117.
from Fred Holland Day, “The Seven Words” [link]
Rembrandt, Three Crosses (1653) [link]
Narrator It seemed an endless afternoon.
In the crowd, I would suppose, was a priest, one of those who had given approval to the plot against Jesus. Perhaps he was not a bad man, merely ambitious, or jealous, or fearful. He became a witness to forgiveness.
Priest This is a terrible business – why didn’t that fellow Jesus just stay away from the people – he should have known we couldn’t allow him to go on like he was. He just acted like he wasn’t bound by any of the proprieties. Sometimes it seemed like he was speaking the most profound wisdom, then he would turn around and spout nonsense that no one could believe. Yes, it is a filthy business, and the filthy Roman soldiers love their sport.
Narrator And Luke recounts the first word that Jesus spoke from the Cross – a word of forgiveness:
The First Word — Luke 23:32-34: Two other criminals were also led away to be executed with him. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Text from AFB, “The Endless Afternoon” (2009); photo by Fred Holland Day, “Seven Last Words of Christ (First Word)” (1898).
Narrator With Jesus there were two others, we are told, who, like him, were condemned.
These men were not good men. One, at any rate, saw the moral significance of the situation as he hung there beside Jesus. He became a witness to grace.
The Thief [gasping] Can’t breathe. God! The pain! Just . . . to . . . get a breath. God! That other fellow’s looking at me. The far one’s angry – who has strength for anger? This Jesus, though . . . remains serene . . . in . . . agony.
Narrator And Luke 23:39-43 gives us the second word:
The people also stood there watching, but the rulers ridiculed him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the king of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Text from AFB, “The Endless Afternoon” (2009); photo by Fred Holland Day, “Seven Last Words of Christ (Second Word)” (1898).