This article first appeared in the Standard Bearer (vol.43, #12), March 15, 1967.
"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar he said, It is finished, and yielded up his spirit." John 19:30
The darkenss had passed, the light had returned.
What a victory.
Listen, "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice he said, "Father into thy hand I commend my spirit, and having said this he gave up the ghost." Luje 23:46. The words of our text must have preceded these words by only a few moments. The idea is obvious, "Finished, Father, I'm coming home!"
Such a word demands sober and prayerful consideration. It will not do to return to Calvary a spectator. The cross was no drama; it was real. Blood, greedy gambling, fickle fear, vinegar, all mingled together to form the last drop in the vessel of time. The fullness had come. To reflect on such a stupendous moment demands participation, "What think ye, whose son was he?"
Victory seemed the farthest thing from the cross.
A bloodied tear-stained trail led to that bare skull.
Listen to Him speak. "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." The darkness closed in upon the intimate circle; Peter, James and John went to sleep. Jesus went forward a little and fell on the ground and the valley of Kidron echoed, "Abba Father, all things are possible unto thee; remove this cup from me: howbeit not what I will, but what thou wilt." If there ever was a supplicating prayer it was this one, for "being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground."
The blood that stained the earth in the lone hills of Gethsemane was but a smear of that which was about to flow in the hours ahead.
Soon the whine of the flagellum and the splattered sound of torn flesh filled the halls of justice. Seventy less one! Pilate thought that the beaten, mutilated, bloodied body of Jesus would surely evoke some sympathy from the howling mass. The "culture" of depraved man knows no love, therefore they cried out the more saying, "Crucify him, crucify him!"
Another sound! The pounding of nails drawing more blood. With outstretched arms the Lamb placed Himself upon the altar to die. With heaving, sweating, cursing the soldiers lifted up the horizontal beam to be fastened to the vertical already embedded in the rocky soil. More pounding. And there they crucified Him! There He hanged in open shame, nailed to the cross, about to bear the death of the damned. Soon the swelling pain tore through his mortal frame. From parched lips came the cry, "I thirst".
All hell was around Him.
With drunken jest the chief priests pointed to the superscription and defiantly cried, "Let the Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, that we may see and believe." The passersby railed on him, wagging their heads and saying, "Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three days, save thyself; if thou art the Son of God come down from the cross." The malefactor railed on him saying, "Art not thou the Christ? save thyself and us."
From the bowels of hell came the searing cry, "My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me?"
What think ye? Whose son is He? Pity? Oh, vanity! Pity is for a victim, not the victor.
Take another look from a little different perspective.
We're in the garden, the prayer of submission completed. Jesus has returned to His disciples. Together they press on till they come face to face with the "familiar friend." "Whom seek ye?" "Jesus of Nazareth" the reply. "I am He," and immediately they went backward and fell to the ground! "Thinkest thou that I cannot beseech my Father and he shall even now send me more than twelve legions of angels?" A victim? Hardly.
Or listen to Him speak to the judge, "Thou wouldst have no power against me except it were given thee from above; therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath greater sin."
To the daughters of Jerusalem he solemly declared, "Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children."
From the first moment of the cross came the prayer from His lips, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Surely it was true even as He had said, "No man taketh my life, I lay down my life for my sheep." The cross itself was proof, "He cried out with a loud voice, "Father into thy hands I commend my Spirit."
All this is summed up in one word, "Finished." We must be careful to notice that Jesus did not say, "I am finished." If that were so, this sixth cross word would have been that of a dying Christ. We would then imagine that Jesus had just come forth from His suffering the pains of death and hell, and now weary, dehydrated, gasping for his final breath, he sighed, "Finished," it's all over, now I can die. This is not what Jesus said.
In like manner we must carefully note that Jesus did not say, "I finished it." If we would try to force this idea upon this word, we would be guilty of going into the opposite extreme and interpret this as a word of boasting. The I, the Person of Christ, is not on the foreground here; in fact, Christ used the passive voice. He did not intend to say, I finished the work, as the Son of God I have triumphed and come through victoriously; now, Father, take me home. This was true, of course, but that is not the intent of this word. Always He remained the humble obedient servant; here, too.
Rather the emphasis was upon His work. Thus it is always with the servant, that the glory may be unto Him who sent Him to do that work.
It is striking to remember that even in His intense suffering, Jesus was mindful that the work He was doing had been laid out for Him in the eternal plan of His Father. It was brought before His consciousness in the form of the prophetic word of the Old Testament. John, in reflection upon the mystery of the cross, makes mention of this. "After this Jesus knowing that all things are now finished, that the Scripture might be accomplished, saith, I thirst." Thus it must be explained here also. Jesus knew the Word of God in the Old Testament described His suffering and death. He understood that from the beginning of history, the expectation of the people of God centered in His suffering. Trembling Adam had been calmed by this prospect, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel," Gen. 3:15. Likewise David spoke of that suffering, "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels . . . for dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet . . .but be not thou farf rom me, O Lord; O my strength, haste thee to help me." Ps. 22:14-20. Like a powerful wave this thought sweeps throughout the whole Old Testament and reaches a mighty crest in the words of Jeremiah, a lone captive in the midst of Jerusalem, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce wrath." Lamentations 1:12.
Yes, what God had said of the suffering of Christ throughout the whole of the Scriptures was now fulfilled, it was completed. And Christ was conscious of this, "Finished."
Well may we ask the question, to whom did Christ address this word? In answering this question we will be able to fathom a little of the depth of its meaning.
Quite apparently and foremost, this word was addressed to His Father. It was the word of the servant to the Sovereign.
Jesus knew all too well that His suffering on the cross was not the suffering for His own sins. The burden of sin that He bore was of them whom the Father had given Him. He had expressed that most beautifully in His intercessory prayer, "Father the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee even as thou gavest him authority over all flesh, that whatsoever thou hast given him, to them he should give eternal life." These words Jesus had prayed on the door-step of Gethsemane.
Now as He was coming out of the intense suffering, He knew that the sentence of death that His righteous Father had imposed upon Him in behalf of His elect was now satisfied, for He had suffered the pangs of death and hell in their place.
Triumphantly he cried out, "Finished."
This indicates to us that Jesus understood that He was victorious, or he could never have said to His Father, Finished! There were a number of things that pointed out to Him this truth. He realized a diminishing of the suffering. Normally when one dies the suffering is greatest at the moment of death. With Jesus this was different. His decension into hell was the moment of greatest suffering both for body and soul. During the three hours of darkness the gates of hell were open and the flood of God's divine wrath poured over Him. All He could cry in that moment of terror was, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" As soon as that intense suffering somewhat abated, His attention was immediately drawn to His bodily suffering for then He cried, "I thirst." It was at this moment that Jesus realized that He had drunk the cup, the dregs of hellish wrath for the sins of His people had been drained, and therefore He cried, Finished!
Besides this, His heavenly Father afforded Him other proof. The hell that He bore was objectively manifested in the darkness. That darkness which surrounded the cross was the same as the darkness God revealed in Egypt; it was a symbol of God's absolute wrath. In the midst of the darkness Jesus suffered silently. For three hours He bore in perfect love our sentence of death. He bore everlasting death in three hours of time. Christ realized that He did carry it away, for the light returned to the scene of the cross. How else could the soldiers have seen the sponge and wine? Light had returned. That was God's proof to His Son that the burden of wrath was carried away and the work of the obedient servant was acceptable in His sight.
Triumphantly Christ responded, Finished!
That word is also spoken to us. Recorded for us in the Divine Scriptures, this word echoes through the ages as a cry of victory for us to hear. What more need we hear when the burden of guilt presses sorely upon us? Time and again we gaze with tear-filled eyes at the horror of our sin and reflect upon the curse that is due to us for them. Oh, blessed gospel, finished! The burden has been carried, the tears, the suffering, the anguish, the pains of hell and judgment, they are all gone, for Jesus carried them away once for all. This is the gospel of "Finished" for us.
As we hear this word, our exalted Christ assures us that our sins are forgiven, we are righteous before God and heirs of everlasting life.
What think ye of the Christ, whose Son is He?
Well may we smite our breasts and say, "Surely this was the Son of God." Yea more, "My Lord and my God."
Rev Jason Kortering (Wife: Jeannette)
Ordained: September 1960
Pastorates: Hull, IA - 1960; Hope, Walker, MI - 1966; Hull, IA - 1970; Hope, Redlands, CA - 1976; Loveland, CO - 1979; Grandville, MI - 1984; Minister-on-Loan (Hope PRC, Walker, MI), Singapore - 1992
Emeritus: 2002Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Rev._Jason_Kortering
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