Christ’s Last Thoughts (Luke 23:34)
NB: I expect to resume this weblog soon (with some annotated poems by others, etc.). But until then, a lark of my own, below.
Oh, screw it. Forgive them all—my people,
the priests, the scribes, Pilate, the soldiers,
Judas, whoever. The gentiles, too. And
the Mormons, just for good measure. None
of them knows what the hell they’re doing.
None. Not one. True, my first thought,
when they hoisted me up Golgotha—
because, you know, I’m partly only human—
was to say: “Christ, you frigging assholes.
I ride into town on a donkey, fix the exchange
rates, and this is how you thank me?
You people make Pilate look like a saint.
And as for you, Dad, where the hell are you
when I’m this far up the creek? Holy Mother
of God, I typed it up in Aramaic to make sure
you’d get the tweet: ‘Eli Eli lama sabachthani?’¹
Guess I should’ve tweeted it in Hebrew, too.
And in French, the language on all the airmail.
I’ve got half a mind to take your name in vain.
Has man of virgin born ever been so forsaken
as me, your bastard son?² Listen: you got all three
of us into this mess. Mom won’t even be cleared
of sin till 1854. The malefactor to my left
is railing at me, ‘If thou be Christ, save thyself
and us.’ And us? What a jerk! The malefactor
to my right rails back, ‘Dost not thou fear God?’³
Me? Fear God? Sweet Jesus, give me a break.
Can’t a brother die in peace? And Peter, yes,
I’m talking to you now—I see you down there.
I mean, WTF? Could ye not watch with me
one damned hour? That’s, what, two episodes
of Friends? But no, you sold me out
to a damsel. ‘Thou also wast with Jesus
of Galilee,’ she said. And you denied me.
Then, when you walked out to the porch,
another girl spotted you and said, ‘This fellow
was also with Jesus of Nazareth.’* What is it
with you and these women? You don’t even
want me for a wingman? If that cock hadn’t
crowed, how many more ‘damsels’ would you
have tried to get in good with by denying me?
You’re no kind of ‘rock’ for me to build
my church on.” Then the scales fell from my
eyes. “Oh, what’s the use,” I told myself.
“Stop kvetching. Nobody has a clue. So, yeah,
forgive them all, Dad. Let’s get this thing
over with and strike the set. I could really use,
like, 72 hours of sleep. God knows I’ve got
work to do between now and Judgment Day.”**
¹ Matthew Henry’s Commentary
27:45-50 During the three hours which the darkness continued, Jesus was in agony, wrestling with the powers of darkness, and suffering his Father’s displeasure against the sin of man, for which he was now making his soul an offering. Never were there three such hours since the day God created man upon the earth, never such a dark and awful scene; it was the turning point of that great affair, man’s redemption and salvation. Jesus uttered a complaint from Ps 22:1. Hereby he teaches of what use the word of God is to direct us in prayer, and recommends the use of Scripture expressions in prayer. The believer may have tasted some drops of bitterness, but he can only form a very feeble idea of the greatness of Christ’s sufferings. Yet, hence he learns something of the Saviour’s love to sinners; hence he gets deeper conviction of the vileness and evil of sin, and of what he owes to Christ, who delivers him from the wrath to come. His enemies wickedly ridiculed his complaint. Many of the reproaches cast upon the word of God and the people of God, arise, as here, from gross mistakes. Christ, just before he expired, spake in his full strength, to show that his life was not forced from him, but was freely delivered into his Father’s hands. He had strength to bid defiance to the powers of death: and to show that by the eternal Spirit he offered himself, being the Priest as well as the Sacrifice, he cried with a loud voice. Then he yielded up the ghost. The Son of God upon the cross, did die by the violence of the pain he was put to. His soul was separated from his body, and so his body was left really and truly dead. It was certain that Christ did die, for it was needful that he should die. He had undertaken to make himself an offering for sin, and he did it when he willingly gave up his life.
² See this uncollected poem by Robert Frost (it exists in two versions):
Mary had a little lamb,
His name was Jesus Christ;
Joseph was her legal ram,
But he took it nice.
Mary had a little lamb,
His name was Jesus Christ;
God the Father was the ram,
But Joseph took it nice.
³ Matthew Henry’s Commentary
23:32-43 As soon as Christ was fastened to the cross, he prayed for those who crucified him. The great thing he died to purchase and procure for us, is the forgiveness of sin. This he prays for. Jesus was crucified between two thieves; in them were shown the different effects the cross of Christ would have upon the children of men in the preaching the gospel. One malefactor was hardened to the last. No troubles of themselves will change a wicked heart. The other was softened at the last: he was snatched as a brand out of the burning, and made a monument of Divine mercy. This gives no encouragement to any to put off repentance to their death-beds, or to hope that they shall then find mercy. It is certain that true repentance is never too late; but it is as certain that late repentance is seldom true. None can be sure they shall have time to repent at death, but every man may be sure he cannot have the advantages this penitent thief had. … He owned that he deserved what was done to him. He believed Jesus to have suffered wrongfully. Observe his faith in this prayer. Christ was in the depth of disgrace, suffering as a deceiver, and not delivered by his Father. He made this profession before the wonders were displayed which put honour on Christ’s sufferings, and startled the centurion. … It is a single instance in Scripture; it should teach us to despair of none, and that none should despair of themselves; but lest it should be abused, it is contrasted with the awful state of the other thief, who died hardened in unbelief, though a crucified Saviour was so near him. Be sure that in general men die as they live.
* Matthew Henry’s Commentary
26:69-75 Peter’s sin is truly related, for the Scriptures deal faithfully. Bad company leads to sin: those who needlessly thrust themselves into it, may expect to be tempted and insnared, as Peter. They scarcely can come out of such company without guilt or grief, or both. It is a great fault to be shy of Christ; and to dissemble our knowledge of him, when we are called to own him, is, in effect, to deny him. Peter’s sin was aggravated; but he fell into the sin by surprise, not as Judas, with design. But conscience should be to us as the crowing of the cock, to put us in mind of the sins we had forgotten. Peter was thus left to fall, to abate his self-confidence, and render him more modest, humble, compassionate, and useful to others. The event has taught believers many things ever since, and if infidels, Pharisees, and hypocrites stumble at it or abuse it, it is at their peril. Little do we know how we should act in very difficult situations, if we were left to ourselves. Let him, therefore, that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall; let us all distrust our own hearts, and rely wholly on the Lord. Peter wept bitterly. Sorrow for sin must not be slight, but great and deep. Peter, who wept so bitterly for denying Christ, never denied him again, but confessed him often in the face of danger. True repentance for any sin will be shown by the contrary grace and duty; that is a sign of our sorrowing not only bitterly, but sincerely.
** Matthew Henry’s Commentary
3:5-10 … And let a humble and diligent walking before God, and a frequent judging of yourselves, show a firm belief of the future judgment, though many live as if they were never to give any account at all. This day will come, when men are secure, and have no expectation of the day of the Lord. The stately palaces, and all the desirable things wherein wordly-minded men seek and place their happiness, shall be burned up; all sorts of creatures God has made, and all the works of men, must pass through the fire, which shall be a consuming fire to all that sin has brought into the world, though a refining fire to the works of God’s hand. What will become of us, if we set our affections on this earth, and make it our portion, seeing all these things shall be burned up? Therefore make sure of happiness beyond this visible world.