The last words you have in conversation with someone tend to take up residency in the reservoir of your thoughts. They float to the surface at different times and act as buoys to guide you. Some of what was said was serious or emotional, and some was funny, but each serves as an arrow pointing toward something specific we shared. My Dad’s last words to me were gratitude for my choice to walk with Christ. Through the fog of dementia, my mom and I spoke of memories from our past. Aunt Jane spoke of the love we shared to the end, and Robert promised there would be ‘no shenanigans’ till the next time we were together… that reunion will be a little further down life’s path than we intended! Having come to the edge of my own passing in a heart attack, I inevitably try to end a conversation with ‘I love you’ with those I hold dear, not knowing when my last words will be spoken. Last words are important. They act as monuments at the spot our journey took on a new facet, the place where we had to press on without someone important by our side.
Jesus’ last words to Mary Magdalene were, “stop holding on to me, but go and tell the others I am going to the Father.” (John 20:17) Jesus was not rejecting an embrace from a dear friend but telling her how things will be as she presses on without Him present. Until this juncture, their journey was physically together, but from this point on, she will walk with Him by faith, empowered by the Spirit who will come to them who obey His word. This is the emphasis the feast of unleavened bread has on our spiritual journey; it tells how the Passover lamb had purchased Israel’s freedom, leaving behind their captivity, and entered into a walk of faith with God. Paul emphasizes this truth when telling the Corinthians to remove those who were willfully sinning among them; he states, “Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8 NLT) This is so important to Paul that he tells the Philippians, “Brothers, I, for my part, do not think of myself as having yet gotten hold of Christ-like faith; but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind me and straining forward toward what lies ahead, I keep pursuing Christ-like faith in order to win the prize offered by God’s upward calling in the Messiah Yeshua.” (Phil 3:13-14 CJB) By God’s grace by which we are saved, we can leave behind the captivity of our sin and walk with Christ by faith through the gates of Heaven and into the throne room of our Heavenly Father.
Jesus’ last words to His friends and disciples were, “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT) These are some amazing words; they give purpose to their journey, and as with Mary, even though He physically won’t be there, He is sending the Spirit to empower them to do even more to change lives and build His church than when He was physically with them. These words embolden us to keep going, leaving behind the sins that so easily captivate us like fear, anger, frustration, and anxiety, “And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. He endured the cross because of the joy awaiting Him, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” (Hebrews 12:1-3 NLT)
The last words of those who invested in me infiltrate many of my thoughts; they help me remember how they lived and their impact on my life. Those words encourage me to press on in the journey we started together. But Jesus’ last words take my life so much further in that He bolstered His last words with the giving of the Spirit. So, even though we press on by faith, now considering everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ and his standard of faith, we are never without Him because He lives on through His Spirit, who takes up residence in us as living tabernacles.
Written by David Brown: David Brown is a husband, father, grandfather, Pastor with a Masters of Religious Studies and a Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Religions. Dave is the Associate Pastor of Pemberton’s First Baptist Church. He is the author of two devotional books, “From a Chair by the Window.” And “#PrayerWinsThe Day”.
Think About This: “The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us. ” ―