We’ve all seen that dramatic scene in a movie when a condemned criminal is asked for his final wish before facing execution. Typically they request their favourite meal, or a chance to make one final proclamation of their innocence, or maybe to confront their accusers.
While I’m obviously not a criminal on death row, it did get me thinking. When my time comes to step into eternity, if I’m given the opportunity, what will be my final wish?
It’s not something I necessarily like to ponder too much, but my final wish will be to have my family around me – one last opportunity to be comforted by their presence. I’d also like to have some of my favourite scripture read and hear a few favourite hymns.
While these are all good things to focus on, they will primarily serve to make me feel better. I dare say, the attention will mostly be on my needs, not the needs of others.
This was not the case for Jesus. In His final moments of earthly life, His personal needs were the furthest thing from His mind.
Let’s take a fresh look at Jesus’ dying wishes. What did He focus on during his final agonising moments while He hung on that Roman cross?
In His final moments, Jesus prayed for the spiritually lost.
“And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there (the Roman soldiers) crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments.” (Luke 23:33-34)
Jesus was unjustly condemned. He lived the perfect life (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 1 John 3:5). He had every reason and right to speak out and to fight back. Rather than seek justice for Himself, however, Jesus pleaded with His Father to forgive those who carried out the execution. What an example of love and grace! Not to minimise the cruelty and callousness of their actions, but from Jesus’ divine perspective, the Roman soldiers acted out of ignorance – they were simply following orders. Those who were to bear the brunt of God’s wrath were Governor Pilot and the Jewish leadership who knowingly ordered the crucifixion of an innocent man, not the ‘little guys’ who were forced to do their dirty work.
And Jesus’ prayer was effective:
“When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"” (Matt. 27:54)
In His final moments, Jesus saved a spiritual seeker.
“One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And He said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise." (Luke 23:39-43)
Having participated in the taunts and mocking of Jesus just moments earlier, one of the two criminals hanging nearby had a change of heart. He was deeply impacted by Jesus’ compassion, purity and grace. The contrast with his own sin-filled heart was stark. He was deeply convicted and a small seed of faith took root. He called out to the only One who could save him. Jesus did the rest, confirming that no one is ever beyond hope.
Jesus Showed Compassion
In His final moments, Jesus provided for the needs of His family.
“... but standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:25-27)
No parent should ever have to watch their child die. Mary was experiencing grief that few could possibly understand. Jesus knew this. It wasn’t necessarily her physical needs that concerned Him. Mary had many sons and daughters who could feed, clothe and house her (cf. Mark 6:1-3). At this point in the Gospel, however, they weren’t Believers (cf. John 7:3-5). During the difficult days that lay ahead, Jesus wanted His mother’s spiritual and emotional needs to be met, and the Apostle John, the one whom Jesus loved, was the best person for the job. So while He was about to breathe His last, Jesus lovingly provided for Mary. No doubt, this met a need in John’s life as well – to be trusted with the care of his Master’s mother would have given him comfort too.
So whether you consider yourself a spiritually lost ‘soldier’ who’s just a victim of your circumstances, or maybe a spiritual seeker who is looking for answers to a life that seems hopeless, or perhaps you’re already part of Jesus’ family who is in need of spiritual comfort and care, Jesus can and will pray for you, save you and provide for your every need. All you have to do is respond to His dying wish and follow Him.
”Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Heb. 12:1-3)