NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jon Meacham explores the seven last sayings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, combining rich historical and theological insights to reflect on the true heart of the Christian story.
For Jon Meacham, as for believers worldwide, the events of Good Friday and Easter reveal essential truths about Christianity. A former vestryman of Trinity Church Wall Street and St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, Meacham delves into that intersection of faith and history in this meditation on the seven phrases Jesus spoke from the cross.
Beginning with “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” and ending with “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” Meacham captures for the reader how these words epitomize Jesus’s message of love, not hate; grace, not rage; and, rather than vengeance, extraordinary mercy. For each saying, Meacham composes an essay on the origins of Christianity and how Jesus’s final words created a foundation for oral and written traditions that upended the very order of the world.
Writing in a tone more intimate than any of his previous works, Jon Meacham returns us to the moment that transformed Jesus from a historical figure into the proclaimed Son of God, worshiped by billions.
In this eloquent yet inconsistent work, Pulitzer Prize winning historian Meacham (The Soul of America) shares personal reflections on the seven last sayings of Jesus from the cross. He explores how the sayings come from a combination of gospel accounts, explaining how Good Friday sermons usually began with Jesus's words of absolution ("Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do") and move toward "surrender to the Father." Jesus's dying words can benefit the faithful and faithless alike, Meacham maintains a perspective that gives his commentary a respectful, comforting tone. In a lengthy prologue and epilogue, Meacham argues that, because God did not dictate Scripture but rather men wrote it, readers cannot know which parts are true and which are embellishments. For instance, contrary to Jesus's own words (John 14:6), Jesus is not the only way to God, Meacham claims. Yet he acknowledges both the Trinity and Jesus as the Son of God, which will leave Christians wondering exactly where he stands. Though Meacham succumbs to the vagaries of relativism, his ruminations on Jesus's message of love will appeal to progressive Christians.