I suppose most of us have heard sermons about Jesus’ “Seven Last Words from the Cross.” Those words are moving, meaningful, and helpful. We usually hear them spoken in church on Good Friday.
But now that we are in the 40 days of Easter, the Church draws our attention not to the last words of Jesus but to the first ones.
In St Matthew’s Gospel we are told that the first words of Jesus after he returned from death, were these: “Greetings. All is well. Don’t be afraid.”
Since the dawn of creation humans have been frightened of death.
It is so mysterious. It seems so final. But Jesus dies and returns like an explorer from an unknown continent. And what does he say? He gives words of reassurance: “Greetings. All is well. Don’t be afraid.”
St John tells us something more. In the 20th chapter of John’s gospel, we read that Mary stood outside the tomb crying. She sees Jesus there, but her eyes are so filled with tears she doesn’t realise who He is.
Jesus says, “Why are you crying? Whom do you seek?”
Well, we know why she’s crying. She thinks her best friend is dead and her hopes are gone. She’s crying because her heart is broken.
When Mary realises it is Jesus, she tries to cling to Him. But Jesus says: “Mary, don’t hold on to me.” Don’t just cling to the past.
Easter is about moving on. It’s about victory. Jesus’ victory over the grave. God’s victory over sin. And our victory, too, the victory we share with Christ. That’s the message of Easter we celebrate.
Easter says that because Jesus lives, we will live also. Even in the face of our suffering, God stands with us and calls us by name, saying to us: “Why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? For I am with you.”
Famous first words. Words Jesus speaks to give us peace.
So let’s never forget the “Seven First Words” of Jesus after his death.
(1) He said: “Greetings. All is well. Don’t be afraid.”
(2) He said: “Why are you crying?”
(3) He said: “Don’t hold on to me. Go and tell my brothers that I am returning to my God and to their God”
(4) He said: “I am with you.”
(5) He said: “Because I live, you shall live also.”
(6) He said: “Peace be with you.”
(7) He said: “How happy are those who believe without seeing me.”