Six year-olds dress in cute little suits and dresses for church at Easter. Their outfits que factories to produce over 90 billion chocolate bunnies and 120 million pounds of candy for the holiday, as the Easter bunny dry cleans his suit before the big day. These images are accessible for nearly every american, but the traditions of Easter are redeemed in Stu Epperson’s The Last Words of Jesus. Readers receive a deeper purpose and significance for faith in reading Epperson’s take on Jesus’ last words.
Epperson gives readers an insightful look at the cross. He starts with Jesus brutally nailed to the tree. The first phrase Epperson camps out in is, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Epperson calls readers to a profound instruction that will likely cause many to fold the page and stare out the window as the direction takes hold.
Epperson illuminates an extreme example of how Christians should live their lives. Specifically zeroing in on Luke’s Gospel, Epperson shows how Jesus calls Christians to bless persecutors (5:11), forgive debtors (6:12), bless those who curse (5:44), and forgive seventy times seventy times (18:21-22). The call of the first chapter sets the stage for a grace-filled view of Jesus, who undeservedly hangs on a cross next to thieves.
Life and death, along with Heaven and Hell, are exposed to the two thieves on either side of the Middle Man. Jesus gives a word of pardon to the second thief who recognized his sin and repented by saying, “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Epperson states, “To know Jesus is to know peace.” A thief, subject to his deserved punishment, is reborn and transformed. A pause in the second chapter leads readers to see the incredible reality of what happens when believers truly know Christ.
Through the book Epperson reveals the truly human nature of Jesus, highlighting Good Friday as a time where Jesus takes care of business in a truly otherwordly way.
In the final chapter Epperson places the final strokes on the Good Friday picture of perfection, when Jesus said, “It is finished.” Epperson does something unique in his final pages, comparing Jesus’ saying to man’s constant striving for achievement. Epperson leads reader to see that Jesus secures peace with his perfection through the Cross. Epperson asks a provoking question in the shadow of Jesus. “Today, will you stop fighting the war and let His perfect peace conquer your soul?”
Through reading Epperson’s book, the reader notices how Jesus’ last words redirect our attention to the meaning of Easter. There is a new level of importance that is revealed through Epperson’s writing and honest questions. Readers see Easter as more than the bunnies and candy. Easter is the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection for the sins of all mankind.
A dying man’s final words cut to the heart of hope or hopelessness. In essence, they command more respect than any other words spoken. Jesus’ final words leave Christians in awe, and as Epperson artfully says, “[Jesus last words] won’t appear on his tombstone because Jesus’ last words were not His final words. The stone was rolled away!”
Epperson prays his book will lead readers to strive towards reading the Bible daily, investing their relationship with God, and ultimately hear Him speak to them and be changed forever. It is also the desire of the man who died on the Cross to live again. Epperson shows the heart of Jesus is to open a way for believers to know God, have confidence in Jesus' death, and live renewed in the work of the cross and resurrection from the grave.