By Olive Tree Staff: David T.
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
John 19:27–30 (NIV)
I struggle to begin, here, at the end of Jesus last breath. I struggle because there is a depth of richness in these few verses. There is so much that I want to share, but if I shared it all, then I would lack a necessary focus for a meaningful a message. I also fear that I could easily over simplify what I want to say to make it more meaningful to us finite beings, and in that simplification misrepresent our Lord and his finished work on the cross.
I would like to go back to the Sunday just prior to this day where Jesus makes his triumphal entry on a donkey and then proceed forward and take a quick snapshot of the days leading up to this moment.
Jesus very deliberately rides into Jerusalem on a donkey to proclaim himself as the King of Israel (Matt 21:1-9). Earlier in Jesus ministry the people tried to force Jesus to become their king but he wouldn’t allow it (John 6:15). I think we can safely say that this would have been an amazing moment for any one of us to experience. The disciples must have been elated at that moment, and were probably thinking ‘this is it, our King is taking his throne’. For Jesus however, we see that instead of rejoicing, he wept over Jerusalem for the people were ultimately still blind (Luke 19:31).
It is easy for us to read these few verses and to miss the point, which is: Jesus wept, an emotion we all have had, but this is the God of the universe weeping as a man. Let that sink in for a moment.
The next day we read that Jesus clears the temple saying that they had turned his Father’s house into a den of robbers (Luke 19:46). Jesus is obviously very angry but his anger is not like our anger, his anger is rooted in righteousness and driven by his love for his people. Despite the fact that his anger was fully justified, consider how emotionally draining that day must have been for Jesus the man.
On Tuesday we read that Jesus was back in the temple but this time he is teaching. As he is teaching he is confronted by the chief priests and elders asking him by what authority he was doing these things. This led to a long dialogue between Jesus and these religious leaders who are trying to trap Jesus with his own words.
Consider how arguments take energy out of us and if you love those you are trying to persuade otherwise those arguments are that much more taxing. Now, try to imagine with me how Jesus must have felt that night after dinner as he sat with his disciples and pondered the conflicts of the day behind him and of the days still ahead of him.
We have no written record of what Jesus was doing on this day. It has become known as the silent Wednesday. Perhaps Jesus and his disciples took the time for some much needed rest.
On Thursday we know that Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples. Jesus knew what was to come in just a few hours and that this would be the longest and most agonizing night of his life. Yet he used the time to teach them about communion and to wash their feet. We also read that they sang a hymn after their meal (Matt 26:30). In the midst of all this Jesus leads his disciples in a hymn? This simply amazes me!
Later that night we find Jesus agonizing in prayer and sweating drops of blood while his closest friends were asleep. Then, as though that wasn’t enough, we find Judas leading a band of soldiers to come and arrest Jesus. Consider what a toll that must have taken on the human side of Jesus.
The night is just beginning.
Jesus is betrayed with a kiss, he is abandoned by his disciples, he is mocked by the soldiers, he is denied, he is flogged, he has the hair of his beard plucked out. Isaiah says that he is marred beyond human recognition (Isa 52:14).
That night he is tried several times. By Annas the high priest, before the Sanhedrin, before the Romans, before Pilate, before Herod, and one last time again before Pilate where he is finally turned over to be crucified.
Jesus is finally nearing the end of his passion. He is tired, he is in pain, In the last few weeks he has experienced the full gamut of human emotion. Each day as the cross grew closer and more into focus, the intensity and frequency of those emotions increased.
So imagine with me for a moment what it must have been like for Jesus to realize that everything he was sent to accomplish had been accomplished. Imagine how he felt as he was just moments away from entering into the joy that had been before him all along. This joy is what the author of Hebrews tells us enabled Jesus to endure the cross and allowed him to despise its shame (Heb 12:2).
What was that joy that was set before Jesus? Could it actually be us, the mockers, the floggers, the ones yelling crucify him? Amazingly, yes!
Consider now the weight and the ultimate outcome that Jesus’ final words represent.
‘It is finished’