Recently, I was having a discussion with my seven-year old daughter. The conversation centered around her need to have the last word in any argument, disagreement, conversation, etc. The point I was attempting to make to her was that it wasn’t always necessary for her to get the last word in the conversation. “Sometimes,” I told her, “saying nothing at the end is just as powerful as saying something.” I am not sure how much of that she took to heart since we are currently in a disagreement about who should clean up her room and I’ve tried to end the conversation several times and she keeps trying to make a “final” point.
Now that I think about it…maybe I’m the one who needs to understand the power of silence at the end of a conversation.
It’s just so hard however to end a discussion without giving it a final statement, a grand finale, the last thought to exist in the conversation. Last words have so much power in them from any stand point. Whether it’s the last word in an argument, or the last words of a dying person, the last word carries exponential weight and meaning. Let me give you a few…
Famous philosopher, Karl Marx said:
“Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”
Rome’s first Emperor, Augustus Caesar said:
“I found Rome of clay; I leave it to you of marble.”
Creator of the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin said:
“I am not the least afraid to die.”
Inventor and painter, Leonardo da Vinci last said:
“I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”
World renown music artist, Bob Marley said:
“Money can’t buy life.”
And last but certainly not least…from Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy said:
“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.” (LLAP is short for “Live long and prosper.” Those of you who are Star Trek fans will know this saying well.)
Last words have a way of making a moment, situation, conversation final. That’s why we put so much power in the last will and testament of a person who has died. These are their final wishes to close out their time on earth.
When I think about powerful final words, the thought begins and ends with the final words of Jesus. Seven short statements he gave during his final moments on the cross. I want to explore those final moments with you for a bit and see what we can garner from his last words.
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing…”
Luke 23:34 (NLT)
Are you kidding me!?
You read that correctly. I promise you, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Are you kidding me!? That’s exactly how I feel about this verse every time I read it. It blows my mind that after all Jesus had done for these people, all the miracles, all the kind words, here he is, dying on a wooden cross. He’s taking his last breaths at the hands of these people and all he wants to do in this moment is request forgiveness for the people who put him there.
There’s no way I would be able to do what he did in that moment. What I would have actually said to those people with my last dying breaths can’t be written down. Yet, Jesus didn’t have anger or animosity in his heart. He had forgiveness and he wanted the Father to do the same. Jesus offered his life in place of our lives, so it makes sense that he would request forgiveness for those who put him on the cross in his last moments.
For some people, forgiveness comes somewhat easy to them. They can be offended and not think twice about extending grace to the offender. For others, forgiveness takes time, energy is expended swinging back and forth on whether to extend grace and pardon the offender. Forgiveness is a powerful action in which we could all get better at. No wonder Jesus in his dying moments asked for forgiveness from the Father for his offenders. He knew the power it had over the human heart.
Jesus understood that forgiveness had the power to change a person. It could remove every bit of unhealthy emotion from a person’s relation to another. Think with me for a second about that person in your life that really offended you in some form or fashion. Maybe it was a family member, a former friend, current or former spouse that you have yet to extend forgiveness to. Maybe you’ve been harboring these emotions for days, months, or even years. Let me ask you a question, what has it done to your other relationships? How has that one unforgivable moment shaped how you relate to others?
Forgiveness gives you the ability to release that hurt once and for all. It’s power over your heart allows for you to move on and live the kind of life God designed for you without allowing past hurts to rule over you. Not only does it work for people who’ve hurt you, it also work for self forgiveness. Jesus died so that you wouldn’t live a life chained to your mistakes and past regrets. You don’t have to continue to beat yourself up over your mistakes.
Jesus knew and understood all of this.
So instead of exacting justice or begging for the father to let him off the hook. He took it all and in his dying moments, as he breathed his last breaths, asked the father to forgive you and me.