Behind the Song: “Last Words (Tenebrae)”


“The Seven Last Words of the Cross,” as they’re traditionally known, are the seven phrases Jesus uttered on the cross as recorded in the Gospels.

Countless sermons, musical pieces, and books have been written about them over the centuries. We wanted Resurrection Letters: Prologue to open with a meditative song that not only included each phrase but also mirrored a liturgical Holy Week service called “Tenebrae.” Tenebrae is Latin for “a darkening.”

 In the service, a series of candles is blown out one at a time after readings that reflect the brokenness of the world and the desolation of Christ’s abandonment on the cross. Needless to say, it’s a heavy service—ending with the final candle being extinguished, plunging the room into darkness. The congregants leave in silence, having been reminded of Jesus’s final breath in a quietly devastating way. It has become, for me, a crucial preparation for the joy of Easter Sunday. The Seven Last Words are sung in a round, and then they fade away, like candles being blown out, until Christ commits his spirit into the Father’s hands.

You can pick up Resurrection Letters: Prologue in the Rabbit Room Store and listen to “Last Words (Tenebrae)” here:

Words and music by AP and Ben Shive
Luke 23:34, Luke 23:43, John 19:26, Mark 15:34, John 19:28, John 19:30, Luke 23:46

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do
Forgive them, they know not what they do

Today you will be with me in Paradise
You will be with me today

Behold your son, behold your mother, behold your son

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why have you forsaken me?

I thirst, I thirst

It is finished, it is finished

Father, into your hands, into your hands
I commit my spirit

Andrew Peterson is a singer-songwriter and author. Andrew has released more than ten records over the past twenty years, earning him a reputation for songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. As an author, Andrew’s books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga, released in collectible hardcover editions through Random House in 2020, and his creative memoir, Adorning the Dark, released in 2019 through B&H Publishing.


  1. Matthew Benefiel

    Andrew, if you read this, may God continue to bless your efforts. This prologue is already dear to my heart. I have not been a follower of Lent or Holy Week, just never grew up around people that focus on it, but I can see the lessons it can teach from this album. Personally, I love your focus on this album. If I may say it, it is not the depressing focus on Jesus torment like “The Passion” can feel, the elements are there but in the proper focus of love that motivated our Lord and His Father’s pleasure in His sacrifice. And I love that the focus is less on us and more on the task our Savior took on. And you and Ben completely and perfectly nailed “Well Done, Good and Faithful.” I have never listened to a song that pulls you in so far where all you can do it listen to the words and absorb them. From the lyrics to the background sounds this song is one that I hope will never simply be thrown on a playlist. Finally, the last song is one that while I know the theology of the seventh day and Christ’s burial, I’ve never meditated on this wondrous fulfillment of God’s day of rest. The album is beautiful and ends leaving you hanging, wishing Vol 1 was here already. Anyway, see you at the Homeschool Convention in Cincy Lord willing. Last year my brother-in-law and his wife walked in and just happened upon the Rabbitroom booth where I also happened to be, they thought I was working there.

  2. Dan Postma

    Hello I’m wondering if Tenebrae is available in sheet music for a small group of voices? We’d love to sing this on Good Friday in church. Thanks

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