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Two Reflections for Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of Christ”

March 27, 2018

Last night, Grace was privileged to host a performance of Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of Christ,” expertly offered by the Kontras Quartet. Along with a handful of gifted colleagues, I was given the opportunity to offer narration and commentary. Here are my pieces, for the first and the last words of Christ from the cross. Blessings to you as you journey through Holy Week, to the cross and beyond.

Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.

Really? It seems to me, Jesus, that they know exactly what they are doing –

Twisting thorns and flogging flesh,

Until, by expert hand, the hammer falls – once, twice, a third time – in an executioner’s long-since perfected swing.

Oh, they know full well what they’re doing. And so do we, we who continue to prefer our well-crafted sinfulness to Jesus’ bizarre belief that grace will change the world.

They know what they’re doing, but they do not know, too.

They do not know what it means.

But Jesus knows what he’s doing, hanging there, placed perfect upon the cross by this world’s assembly line of death.

Jesus knows what he’s doing, because it’s what he’s been doing all along – freely flinging the Father’s forgiveness upon them all.

On you and me, too.

They did not know, could not know, that their well-honed duty to death’s demand would be offered up by the Son to the Father as just one more thing to redeem, repurpose, in God’s Kingdom of life.

Jesus knows what he’s doing. He is giving himself that we would be forgiven. He’s forgiving us even as he dies. He’s forgiving us, as he has been all along.

That is why the Father sent him down.


Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Long before these last words, this self-commendation of the trusting Son into his loving Father’s hands, Jesus said this: “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.”

Betrayed into human hands. This is where Jesus has been, handled roughly and then rejected, cast aside.

That’s what it was all about, after all. The giving of the Son of Man into the hands of sinners so that those same sinners would be saved. He’s been in our hands, and look what we have done.

But God’s not done. God’s not done with Jesus. The Father takes hold of the Son with arms of love; not even this death that we have wrought, inflicted, can keep these two apart. The Father, by the Spirit, receives the spirit of the Son – and in his undoing are sin and death undone.

For now, with the work of our hands complete, Jesus is silent. But only for now. For just as the Father’s hands receive Jesus in death, so will the Father give him back to us in life – again and again, in water and Word, in bread and wine. Into the hands of sinners once more.

But that’s for another day. For now, he speaks these words and breathes his last. Jesus may be silent, but this quiet, too, is held holy in the Father’s hands. As he is silent, let us be silent, and commend ourselves in faith to the mercy of our God.

From → Lent/Easter

  1. Bill Shoup permalink

    Thanks you

    Bill Shoup

    TEL: 843.237.3583

    Cell: 843.833.3578

  2. Scott Schwar permalink

    Thanks to you and Pastor Costello for this special meditation with the thoughtful pastoral/poet commentaries and the moving Kontras Quartet performance of Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ.. It is was a very meaningful addition and start to Holy Week.

    Thank You..


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