The final words of persons who are about to take their final breath tell us something about their desires, personalities, philosophies, and hope. Those on their deathbed may speak meaningful words or meaningless words. They might say things that are humorous or serious; mysterious or straightforward; predictable or unpredictable.
Here are some of the last sayings of famous people before entering their final rest:
- Nostradamus predicted, “Tomorrow, at sunrise, I shall no longer be here.” He was right.
- Johnny Ace, an R&B singer, died in 1954 while playing with a pistol during a break in his concert set. His last words were, “I’ll show you that it won’t shoot.”
- As Benjamin Franklin lay dying at the age of 84, his daughter told him to change position in bed so he could breathe more easily. Franklin’s last words were, “A dying man can do nothing easy.”
- Murderer James W. Rodgers was put in front of a firing squad in Utah and asked if he had a last request. He replied, “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.”
- Joseph Wright was a linguist who edited the English Dialect Dictionary. His last word? “Dictionary.”
- Composer Jean-Philippe Rameau objected to a song sung at his bedside. He said, “What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? You are out of tune.”
- John Wayne died at age 72 in L.A. He turned to his wife and said, “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”
As intriguing as these saying are, there are some even more memorable last words spoken by Jesus Christ as he was dying on the cross. In fact, they are not only memorable but the most meaningful since they apply to the hope of our eternal salvation:
(1) “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Jesus could have cursed those who had a hand in his death. He could have called ten thousand angels to free him from the cross and avenge his enemies (Matthew 26:53). Instead, he asked his Father to forgive them. He not only lived by what he taught, he set an example for all of us to follow whenever others mistreat us unjustly. Forgiveness clears the slate and sets the pace for leaving the past behind.
(2) “This day you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
These were the words of Jesus to the penitent thief on the cross. The thief spoke to Jesus saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom (v. 42).” From what we find, “this day” is the Day of the Lord when Jesus the Messiah comes into his kingdom to reign upon the earth. On “this day,” all those who’ve believed in him will be resurrected to receive immortality. In the Bible, “paradise” means “garden” or “park.” When man sinned in the Garden of Eden, paradise was lost. In the kingdom, paradise will be restored to its Edenic condition. The earth will be made new when the curse of sin is removed (Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:1; 22:3). This is the day of which Jesus spoke to the thief. It’s our hope to be there, as well.
(3) “Woman, behold your son.” (John 19:26-27)
What better expression of love could one have for his mother than to see that she is provided for when one is no longer around? This act of compassion could also apply to one’s father or any member of the family. Even while dying, Jesus thought of his dear mother and assigned her care and keeping to his most beloved disciple. He was probably speaking of John. She would be like a mother to him and he would be like her son. Jesus’ half brothers and sisters seemed estranged at this time. They didn’t appear sympathetic with what Jesus was doing. The care of our Lord, even while suffering and dying on the cross, demonstrates that the emotional and temporal needs of our family members must be met as we seek to do God’s will.
(4) “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46)
It’s most difficult to understand the emptiness and loneliness Jesus must have felt knowing that his own Father had forsaken him at the cross. Up to that point, Jesus had perfect fellowship with his heavenly Father. But, in keeping with the Holy Scriptures (Psalm 22:1), God turned away from his Son. Why? Because Jesus had to pay the penalty of death for our sin. Jesus was left all alone so that he could suffer the wrath of the Almighty against the curse of sin. Thus our Saviour became sin for us so that we would not have to die the second death but receive eternal life in his Kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:21). Praise be to God for the Sacrifice he gave because he loves us so much (John 3:16)!
(5) “I thirst.” (John 19:28)
God’s Son is also human. This is displayed by his thirst. Here he was: He’d already been beaten and whipped beyond recognition. His body had been battered and bruised. A crown of thorns was jammed on his head. Bloody ribbons of flesh hung from his body. He had to carry a heavy, rugged cross all the way through the city street until his weary, weakened legs buckled from all the stress. He was impaled to the cross with nails pounded into his hands and feet. Each breath he took became harder and harder to take. Gasping for air, his mouth and throat became so dry that he choked each time he tried to swallow. So, did someone offer him even a sip of water? No. Instead, it says he was given sour wine. John points out this was in fulfilment of Scripture (Psalm 69:21; 22:15). Indeed, Jesus experienced thirst which in a way represents our own thirst for truth and justice to be fulfilled.
(6) “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
His work of redemption was now complete. Mission accomplished. This is what he was born to do, to die so that we might live. The goodness of God’s love for us sinners was finished (Romans 5:8). The penalty for our sin had been paid in full. The power of evil had been rendered powerless (Heb. 2:14). The way of the Kingdom had been paved with the blood of the Lamb. Jesus paid the ransom price for our sins with his atoning blood. Forgiveness was now available.
(7) “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Crying with a loud voice, he spoke his very last words. He committed his last breath (spirit; pneuma, Greek) into the hands of his loving Father. It was a commitment of faith. He did not utter a cry of fear or desperation or resentment. Instead, he entrusted himself to his Father’s care and keeping until the time God would return his breath to him and he would live again (1 Peter 2:21-24). It’s the way we also entrust ourselves into God’s care and keeping when we take our final breath. For the next breath we’ll take is when Jesus comes again to wake us up from the sleep of death. By faith, we commit our final breath to him as we look forward to that glorious Day. Until then, we rest with full assurance that just as God received our very last breath, he will return it to us when we are raised from the death and given the breath of eternal life on Resurrection Day.
In memory of the sacrifice of our Saviour, here is a video song, “He Could Have Called Ten Thousand Angels”:
Good News to YOU!