Years ago, I had a much older friend, a long-retired teacher in his late seventies who took pride in his mastery of the English language. Every morning at breakfast, he perused the morning paper circling random spelling errors and typos with glee between spoonfuls of oatmeal.
This proof-reading was a warm up of sorts for what awaited him on the final page: the daily crossword puzzle. On most mornings, it was child’s play, and he hastily filled its blanks while sipping warm coffee. In no time, he downed the last cold inch of brew, plunked the cup to the table as if it were an empty shot glass in some old-west saloon, and he rose victorious from his seat, ready to face the hazards of his day.
On rare occasions, however, he drew a blank on a crossword answer and felt trapped at the table. It was only a puzzle, but in the order of his world and sequence of his day, leaving the breakfast table without conquering the word-grid was tantamount to losing his keys before stepping out of his parked car, a embarrassment he had suffered increasingly with age.
Years later, I was a pallbearer at his funeral, and these memories brought a faint smile even as the weight of his casket strained my grip.
have been on my mind during this season of Lent—but not in the sense that I have thus far shared. I have been meditating on the brief bits of dialogue in the gospels from the day of Christ’s crucifixion, particularly the stark contrast between the
words Christ heard that day and the meek words Christ spoke from the cross.
Christ endured in the hours before his death, followed by the words he spoke from the CROSS.
Cross Words Christ Endured That Day:
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”
“He is worthy of death,” they answered.
Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”
"They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again".
“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
“Crucify him!” they shouted.
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified
Luke 23:1-5 and 18-20
Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.” But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”
But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
Words Spoken from The Cross That Day
Using the accounts from all four of the Gospels, there are traditionally seven short utterances
spoken by Christ from the cross. It is assumed that they are short because of the difficulty of breathing while being crusified.
Traditionally, these seven sayings are called words of 1. Forgiveness, 2. Salvation, 3. Relationship, 4. Abandonment, 5. Distress, 6. Triumph and 7. Reunion.
Then Jesus said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do".
This first saying of Jesus on the cross is traditionally called "The Word of Forgiveness".
And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise".
This saying is traditionally called "The Word of Salvation". According to Luke's Gospel, Jesus was crucified between two thieves, one of whom supports Jesus' innocence and asks him to remember him when he comes into his kingdom.
Jesus saw his own mother, and the disciple standing near whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son". Then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother". And from that hour, he took his mother into his family.
This statement is traditionally called "The Word of Relationship" and in it Jesus entrusts Mary, his mother, into the care of a disciple.
Around the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, saying "Eli Eli lama sabachthani?" which is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" see also Mark 15:34.
This saying is traditionally called "The Word of Abandonment" and is the only saying that appears in more than one Gospel. This saying is given in Aramaic with a translation (originally in Greek) after it. This phrase is the opening line of Psalm 22.
He said, "I thirst".
This statement is traditionally called "The Word of Distress" and is sometimes compared and contrasted with the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan Woman at the Well in John 4:4-26
Jesus said, "It is finished".
This statement is traditionally called "The Word of Triumph" and is theologically interpreted as the announcement of the end of the earthly life of Jesus, in anticipation for the Resurrection.
And speaking in a loud voice, Jesus said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit".
This saying, which is an announcement and not a request, is traditionally called "The Word of Reunion."
I trust whenever you hear the term "crossword" again, you think not only of a puzzle but of the most puzzling truth since the beginning of time: that Christ endured the wrath of God and man for us and even in those hours when spit and hate and cross words were being hurled at him, only love was spoken from the cross in return as the worthy lamb was slain.
But that was Friday. Today is Sunday. He is risen! He is risen indeed!