Thursday, April 10, 2008

It Is Finished - John 19:30 (CITC Exegesis Class)

Famous last words. It has been said that you can tell a lot about a person by their last words. Some famous examples include Oscar Wilde – ‘either that wallpaper goes, or I do.’ Or what about the General killed during the US Civil War whose last words were: ‘They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…’

As we look at the last words of Jesus, then, what do they tell us about how Jesus dies? In verse 30, we read: ‘When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished”, and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.’

It is finished. Was this a cry of defeat, of frustration? Was Jesus saying merely, that his earthly life was over, ending in defeat? Remember that he was dying as a condemned man, on the cruel Roman cross, deserted by most of his followers and friends.

Just a week before, he had entered Jerusalem to the shouts of the crowd, welcoming him with cries of Hosanna. Now, he dies to the cries of crucify, crucify. Was it all a failure? I’m always struck by the sense of hopelessness and defeat in the words of the disciples on the road to Emmaus – ‘But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.’ (Luke 24:21) did Jesus cry out in despair as he died on the cross?

By no means! When Jesus said ‘It is finished’, this was his shout of triumph, the first proclamation of the gospel. The shout of Jesus is good news, because of why he dies, for you and me.

The hours of darkness had finished, Jesus had borne our sins in his body on the cross; he had suffered for our sins. And that suffering was over, complete, finished. You see, because he has taken the burden of our sins, because he was pierced for our iniquities, then we cannot suffer for them ourselves, if we trust in him.

In some of the shops in Dromore, there is a nail that sits on the counter. When you take your bill to the counter, and pay for your goods, then the manager of the shop takes the invoice and puts it on the nail. Once it is on the nail, he is in effect saying, this has been paid; you won’t have to pay again for this.

In a similar way, Jesus paid for our sins, and took the punishment we deserved, held by the nails of Calvary, so that we can go free, and not have to pay for our sins ourselves.

I remember a chorus from holiday Bible Clubs when I was growing up which says this:

He paid a debt He did not owe;
I owed a debt I could not pay.
I needed someone to wash my sins away;
And now I sing a brand new song.

Amazing Grace the whole day long
For Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.’

As Don Carson says, “‘It is finished’ captures only part of the meaning (of the Greek word tetelestai), the part that focuses on completion. Jesus’ work was done. But this is no cry of defeat. It refers to fulfilling one’s religious obligations. And so, on the brink of death, Jesus cries out, ‘It is accomplished!’"

Jesus’ shout was one of triumph. So let’s pray that we all will know God’s forgiveness, and the joy of sins forgiven, because Jesus has borne them in his body on the cross, and it is finished!

In Exegesis Class today, we were filmed preaching a short sermon, then in the next class we will watch it back to see what we look like!

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