Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why There Really Ought to be 10 Last Words, Not Just 7

How would you feel if Holy Week went by without you attending a 7 Last Words service? Honestly, would you feel guilty? Most people would--Roman Catholics, protestants, and born again Christians. And frankly, I don't know why.

The last words of Jesus before he was crucified were just that--last words. They need not be magnified, elaborated or made into sermons one must listen to when commemorating his death or feel guilty about if you miss them. They're quite self-explanatory like John 3:16 is. No need to fuss over them like a lot of ministers and theologians do, often using them to attack corruption in government, which is out of context.

Jesus never meant his last words to attack corruption in government.

In fact, there are other equally meaningful words Jesus said hours before he died, like:
  • Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children 
    [Luke 23.28]
  • My kingdom is not of this world [John 18.36]
  • You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above [John 19]
To me, there ought to be 10 Last Words, or even more. But why only seven? Perhaps, the Catholic theologians who invented this idea thought 7 was God's "lucky" number. Or maybe because the world was created in 7 days--or other religious (or superstitious?) stuff like that. Then, the protestants and born-agains followed suit. They just carried over the tradition, probably in an attempt to lure over Catholics to their side. Seeing how Catholics by the millions were attracted to the so-called Holy Week and its rituals, they copied everything in hopes of winning over some of them.

It's nothing but a second-rate, trying-hard, copy-cat human tradition.

You never read anywhere in the bible Jesus saying, "Thou shalt observe my 7 last words and have a whole worship service on it." In fact, there's nothing said about observing Holy Week but a simple recollection of his death through The Lord's Supper. And when the bible talks about recalling the Lord's Supper, it doesn't mean the ritual every church does today--eating that round white cracker (another carry-over from the Catholic church) and drinking artificial grape juice. 

Jesus didn't use Tang or 8 O'clock in the last supper. He used wine.

When I was yet a religious born-again, I was often asked to speak about a word or two of the 7 Last Words on Holy Friday, if not all 7. It felt funny then (but I had to do it) that I had to give a lot of meanings to what "I thirst" actually meant. Frankly, I knew that all it meant was that Jesus felt thirsty. Nothing more. And who wouldn't? After walking a long way under the hot sun and without eating breakfast and lunch, he must have felt not just terrible thirst but hunger.

But you see, church tradition said you should look for other meanings to it. So we hear a lot of weird versions about the verse, even political attacks against the government, or how God is thirsty for our surrendered lives or for our sincere repentance. God does want us to repent from sins, but that was not why Jesus said,"I thirst." He said it because he was thirsty. Period.

Then there's "Woman behold your son, son behold your mother." So what happens is, you hear a lot of stories about God prioritizing the family or how he values mothers and lift up the name of Mary in the process.  I even heard a sermon on birth control and abortion. Born-agains have it differently. They emphasize how children should love and obey their moms, and how moms should raise their kids in the Lord, then perhaps end it all with reference to the importance of Mother's Day.

Jesus really meant all that when he said his third last words? Wow!

And here's another favorite--"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" There are a thousand and one versions given to this verse that listening to all of them feels like circus. The favorite version is how God understands we are only human and we're not meant to be perfect. And this is often smartly interwoven with our tendency to sin and how God understands and overlooks even this through his grace and mercy given to born-agains--and the very reason why Jesus died on the cross, they say. "We don't need to be perfect because Jesus already died for us so we can be acceptable to God," they add.

But what Jesus said was just a cry of plain desperation. Jesus was in the worst condition ever--nailed on the cross and dying--and his human nature felt desperate. Period. He later made up for this by shouting his total trust and surrender to the Father--"Into your hands I commit my spirit!"  Nothing more, nothing less. I myself often cry thus in my mind--"Please God, don't leave me like this!" Then later I realize how God is in control of everything, so I add, "Okay God, you know what's best!"

You don't need Holy Week or 7-Last-Words rituals to remember what Jesus did for you on the cross. You just need God's Word daily in your heart.

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