The Forgiving Savior
"Father forgive them; for They know not what they do."… Luke 23:34
We come to the most tragic scene in human history. We come to the scene of an innocent man dying on the cross. Not dying for his crimes but for yours and mine.
Calvary "the place of the skull" is the location. Jesus has been led up the trail that will lead to His death. Calvary has been called the place of the curse and the blessing. Curse for Jesus but a blessing for mankind. It is at Calvary that we see the best of God and the worst of man.
Who among us is without sin? What man can say he has never had an evil thought or done an evil act? Romans 3:23 says, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Who crucified Jesus? You and I certainly had our part to play.
As we set our course and take a few weeks to journey to the cross, we will look at the last seven sayings that Christ spoke upon the cross. While every word spoken by Messiah was and is important, the last words reveal to us several important things. When a man is dying, he speaks his heart and not just idle words.
Three of the seven last sayings were directed toward God the Father. (1,2,7)
has been called the Passion Sermon. Notice only one thing here in 23:28 from the words of Jesus, "Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children." The pattern of Jesus’ life and death was unselfishness. He had no cry of pity but only concern for others.
As we look at the first saying of Christ it is translated into ten words in English. These words are spoken very early and some think probably as the thunder of the hammer rang out as the nails were driven into the flesh of Christ. W. Hershel Ford points out, "In the original Greek we read that He kept on saying, ‘Father, forgive them.’ He prayed this prayer not just once, but many times."
Notice the words of the Forgiving Savior with me if you would.
"Exposing the Word"
Jesus Christ, we must never forget, was the incarnate son of God. He now cries out to the Father. He is very aware of His Sonship. This was not just any man being crucified but the God of this universe was buying back the souls of mankind from sin. 2 Cor 5:19 "…God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself…"
He cried to the Father fully knowing and confident that He would be heard. His life had been lived this way. You will recall at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus stated, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always…" John 11:41-42 This word "knew" means that Christ had absolute divine knowledge of the fact that God the Father heard Him.
Also His was a willing submission to the Father’s will. We see this course set in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus cried from the depths of His soul, "Father, if thou be will, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." Luke 22:42 This does not in any way make Jesus less God than God the Father. He was fully God. Col 2:9 declares,
"…in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."
Calvary is where we see the awful depths of human sin but we also see the tremendous heights of God’s love. Paul prayed that the Ephesians concerning the love of God that they would, "be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge…" Eph 3:18-19 It is at Calvary that we see this love on display for the world to see. Reaching up to God, down to man, out to the world.
I remind you though, he is not saying forgive to His friends but those that are crucifying Him. I remind you that the word of God says, "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us…" Rom. 5:8
He cried for God to forgive. This reminds us that only God can forgive sin. This was not just a plea for a pardon like a governor could give, but it is justification.
How can God, who is righteous, ever forgive sin? He could not simply turn His back and pretend that it does not exist. He can forgive sin because of the blood sacrifice of Christ that satisfies the justice of God.
One of the things that becomes apparent is that Jesus is not asking for forgiveness for His sins. He said forgive, "them". 2 Cor 5:21 "…he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
His enemies were crucifying Him. Those who hated Him. He teaches us a lot about forgiveness here. First we see he prayed for his enemies. Second, he forgave those who had wronged him. Jesus had preached this in Matt 5:44, "…Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Jesus taught us to forgive a wrong seventh times seven times. This is without limit. Jesus practiced what He preached on the cross.
is also you and me. This great prayer on the cross certainly was for those who were crucifying Him first. In fact, many think if He had not prayed for them that this would have been unpardonable. Still we realize that the forgiveness of Christ is far greater reaching than just to those few at the foot of the cross. It reaches into the depths of human need to you and I. Father forgive them that will believe the Gospel and repent.
"…for they know not what they do…"
Some have wondered if Jesus had not prayed for them, if God would have killed them instantly for this deed. This act was done as a plot by the Jewish Sanhedrin to do away with what they perceived as a rival to their power. The crowd a few short days before they cried crucify had cried, "Hosanna" (Mark 11:9-10). They had now been carried away by the slight of men.
Paul exclaimed in 1 Cor 2:8 concerning those who crucified Him, "…none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
Still my friends, ignorance does not excuse sin. This crowd was kept in ignorance by their leaders and in fact, probably thought they were doing God a favor by getting rid of this blasphemer.
Still my friends, ignorance does not excuse sin. This crowd was kept in ignorance by their leaders and in fact, probably thought they were doing God a favor by getting rid of this blasphemer.
Notice now several days later when Peter preaches his great Pentecost sermon recorded in Acts 2:14ff; 2:22-23; 36-37; 41-42. Three thousand of those who were prayed for by Christ on the cross specifically were saved. Christ’s prayer was answered. Praise God for grace!
Now, the greatest question anyone will ever ask you, "What will you do with Jesus?" What is your relationship to the Forgiving Savior? He died that we might live and lives that we may never die. Forgiveness can be had by calling on His name. He will save you if you will come to Him.
A Shining Example of Salvation By Grace
"Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:43
Suspended between heaven and earth on the cross we see our Savior again. The next words from His precious lips will be to one who is also on a cross. Luke 23:33 says, "there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left."
That He would die with these men had been prophesied. Is 53:12 "…he was numbered with the transgressors…" Mark records that this was fulfilled on the cross (see Mark 15:28).
I remind us that we die as we live. Remember that Jesus was accused, and He was guilty, of eating with sinners. He said He came to seek and save the lost.
The Two Thieves … Luke 23:39-42
What we have here is a picture of total humanity. All of us are under the sentence of death. We have death in our flesh. These two thieves, both at one time according to Matthew 27:44, spoke against Christ as the crowd came by and mocked him.
This pictures for us the unregenerate man. All of us before we are saved, my friend, fight against God and godly things.
What did these criminals deserve? They, according to their own words deserved, what they were receiving. Luke 23:41 They deserved death. What does God owe to man? Death is all that God owes us. Death is what we deserve. We see three men here on the cross. One dying for sin, one dying in sin and one dying to sin. We see one cry out to Christ and another reject Him. What a picture of the world on this rugged hillside.
What about the one who cries out? This thief was not a good man, he did not work any works for salvation, he was not baptized nor joined any church. He didn’t do anything except cry to Christ to get saved. "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."
This pictures for us those who turn to Christ. This also shows us the need for personal acceptance of Christ. Both thieves were not saved. Only the one who asked Christ.
It has been said that at Calvary the angels cried and Satan jumped for joy. How could victory come from such an act of cruelty? How could there be any hope when the one who was to give salvation was dying? Pilate, when he sent Jesus to the cross, was only setting in motion the eternal plan of God.
One of the most important verses for us to consider constantly in both our relationship with Christ and as we attempt to lead others to Him is Ephesians 2:8. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."
"Exposing the Word"
Jesus could have given this one who calls him Lord and recognized Him as a King that He was hurting too much to give grace now. He could have said, "shut up you deserve what you get." He could have said that he waited too late to turn because He would not hear death bed professions of faith.
But He did not say anything of the kind. Jesus was dying for this very purpose. He was dying to save those who would turn to Him. He stated before, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
This is a precious promise. If you will come to Christ and ask Him to save you, He will. Notice that the thief only asked to be remembered. Jesus will speak now to our brother, the former thief.
"…Verily…" This is a word that was transliterated from the Hebrew for truth. In the Greek it says, "Amen." What Jesus is saying, I am telling you for certain. There is not any room for doubt about what I am saying. The NKJV translated it "assuredly."
This thief realized that he could not trust his eternal fate to his own devices. So who could he trust? Jesus alone is trustworthy of our eternal fate. Paul states, "for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." 2 Tim 1:12.
Jesus speaks these words which will be the words of life. This is not some cult leader who is misdirected, nor is it some religious leader who has set himself up as God. This is God saying these words.
Jesus speaks to the repentant thief. He speaks very personally to him. Might I say that when Christ calls us from our sins, He speaks very personally to us. He speaks very directly to our heart. He deals with us as individuals. God does not make cookie cutter Christians. He deals with each one of us on an individual basis. We could say, "He said unto me."
Notice it was not after the fires of purgatory (Catholic), not after the period of soul sleep, not after some future resurrection, not after someone has been baptized for you nor called you out of the grave by your new name (Mormons) but "Today." In the Greek it means literally this day. Not some day yet future, but the one you are living in and dying in this very moment.
Might I say this was probably the first person that entered into eternity after the death of Christ? This was the first trophy of grace Jesus presented to the Father. My what a story he could tell us about all the millions who have come since.
Does scripture support the premise that immediately we go into the presence of Christ at death? Yes, it clearly does. Notice in the word of God it says, "Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord…We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." 2 Cor 5:6,8
"…shalt thou be…"
This statement is one in which there again is no room for doubt about the future for the one whom Jesus spoke to.
Who do you want to see when you get home? Is it some long-gone loved one waiting on the other shore? Is it a child or a spouse? Notice that Jesus tells the thief that he would be with Him.
Many have testified that the first one they want to see when they get home is our Savior who purchased them by His blood. Jesus knew that death was not going to hold Him. He knew He would see this man again. If a man dying on the cross can do this how much more can He give us assurance now that He is alive for evermore?
This was not just a promise to the thief that he would live again but that he would live again in a spectacular place. This word is only found three times in the scriptures.
We could get into a deep theological discussion of where Paradise was and is before and after Christ’s death. I choose to not do this now. Simply let me state concerning this that where Christ is will be paradise enough.
This word is of Oriental origin. The Persians used it to refer to a spectacular park of the King. The two other places it is found in scriptures are 2 Cor 12:4 and Rev. 2:7. Paul was caught up into paradise and it is said that there is found the tree of life. Where will you spend eternity?
"Woman, behold thy son! … Behold thy mother!" John 19:26-27
The third word of Christ on the cross can be found recorded by John. The first word was to the Father, the second to the thief, and now the third will be to Mary and John the beloved.
John records for us that Christ was taken to, "The place of the skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha." John 19:17. On the hillside just a short distance north of Jerusalem is a place known as Gordon’s Calvary. It has two caves and a rock sticking out between them that look just like a skull.
This place was outside the city walls. Heb 13:11-13 gives us the background. He was not crucified inside the walls of the city but outside as pictured in the temple sacrifices being burned outside the camp.
"Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews"
was written by Pilate and hanged on the cross in three languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The crimes of those crucified were written and hanged so that those who passed by would know why they were being put to death. Crucifixions were carried out alongside the road so that people would see them as they traveled by. Mark 15:29 says, "And they that passed by rallied on him, wagging their heads …"
The Psalmist had prophesied this. Psalm 22:16-17 "For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me."
This caused a great fury among the Jews. They tried to get Pilate to change the words to only that He claimed to be King of the Jews, but Pilate refused.
"Casting of Lots"
says, "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." It was customary for those Roman soldiers to divide the clothing of those whom they crucified. There were usually four soldiers involved in a crucifixion. John tells us they divided them into four parts but His inner garment was seamless and they decided among themselves to gamble for it. This fulfilled scripture that foretold this would happen.
"Exposing the Word"
From John 19:25-26 tells us there were five people standing nearby. Mary, his mother, her sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene and John the beloved. John was the only one of the disciples of Christ that dared come this far. His love was stronger than his fear.
Just what was the relationship of Mary and Jesus? She was his earthly mother. Luke 2:35
records when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple for circumcision, Simeon gave a prophecy to Mary. "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also." This was literally happening now as she looked at her son hanging on the cross.
is the way Jesus addresses His mother. You will recall that at Cana of Galilee when Jesus was asked by Mary to help out at the wedding, Jesus addressed her as "Woman" there as well (John 2:4). This was not a disrespectful word from Him. He looks down and sees her here and remembers that someone needs to take care of her. I think we need to realize that while she was his mother, Mary’s relationship to Christ was fixing to change. While we do not want to read into this more than is here, I find it striking that He did not address her at any recorded time as mother. There are some that say the way to Jesus is through Mary because He cannot refuse her request.
"Behold thy son!"
Whom is Jesus talking to here? He is talking to John the beloved. This is not His first cousin John the Baptist, but John the Apostle. This John was the brother of James the Apostle, the son of Zebedee (see Matt 10:2-4).
Some teach that Mary and Joseph did not have children. We find recorded in Mark 6:3 that in fact they did have at least four boys and two girls. Why did Jesus not tell them to take care of their mother? Most scholars believe that Joseph was dead. We find that according to John 7:2-5 his brothers did not believe He was Messiah. "…neither did his brethren believe in him." Psalm 69:8 states, "I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children." Jesus’ brothers were probably not even in Jerusalem at this time. Jesus said, "…I came not to send peace, but a sword … a man’s enemies shall be they of his own household." Matt 10:34-36
One author states concerning this:
"Sometimes the cross was a sword that divided relationships, even families, with sharp hostile animosities … The sword which divided even families fell that day at Calvary. Caring for His mother, Jesus commended her to the care of the disciple John … How could they (meaning his brothers), ‘help their mother through the grief of the cross if they viewed His death as resulting from delusions of grandeur?’" (J. Derrill Smith, Proclaim, Jan-Mar 1992, p. 6)
We know that later on they would, in fact, believe and become leaders in the church. James, His brother, wrote the book of James and presided over the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts.
Remember that I stated the relationship between Mary and Jesus was changing. He would cease to become her son and become her Savior. We find Mary, as well as His brethren, in the Upper Room waiting for the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 1:14).
"…Behold thy mother…"
ohn took Mary into his house to care for her needs from this day forward. Jesus is asking John to take His place and continue on with it. He asks us to do the same. His work on Calvary is finished never to be repeated again, but His work on earth continues through us.
Jesus knew John loved him greatly. He had been in what is called the inner circle of Christ. He was the one who leaned on His breast at the Passover when the Lord’s Supper was instituted. Jesus knew how much he loved Him. He knew he could be trusted because of that love with His mother.
Love should be the motive with which we find ourselves serving God as well.
Remembered by the Savior
What application to this have to you and I today? First, we realized that Jesus did not forget those He loved, even while suffering on the cross. Mary was remembered by the Savior as He died for her sins. John 6:37 records Jesus saying, "…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Jesus remembers those whom He loves. When we are cast down or heartbroken and forgotten by the world, we can rest assured that Christ does not forget us. We will be remembered by the Savior. The question is now will you come to the Savior?
"I Thirst"… John 19:28-29
The suffering of the Savior is almost over. He has been hanging on the cross now for several hours. He cries out, "I thirst." This cry was from the human part of His being. These two words are the only time we hear words that indicate His physical suffering.
Some will tell you, wrongly, that Jesus was not thinking clearly and this cry was of a delirious man. This is not so. Jesus was totally aware at all times of the situation.
records that Jesus had refused a drink of vinegar and gall offered before. This was a concoction designed to suppress the senses and deaden the pain of the cross. Jesus refused this drink because He wanted to be in total control.
says, "…the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us …" He would write later in 1 John 1:1 "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life."
There are two sides to Christ’s nature. He was fully God as well as fully man. You may hear Him called the God-Man. He was totally unique from all other men because man is only man and not God. By the same measure God the Father is all God and not man. But Jesus the Christ was both God and man.
He was God from eternity past. He created the universe and set the worlds in order. He created men and angels. He was God (Col. 1:16)
As a human, he felt hunger and pain. He was tempted and felt every emotion that you and I feel. He had all the human senses. He tasted, touched, heard, saw, smelled as you and I. We find that Jesus became wary (Mark 4:38) and slept.
These two words, "I thirst" are evidence of His perfect humanity. Angels do not thirst, God does not thirst, only humans thirst.
Why did He become human? Who can understand us and our hurts more than one who has walked in our shoes? Jesus can be touched by our grief, our pain, our heartaches. I Peter 5:7 says, "Casting all you care upon Him, for He careth for you." Thank God He was fully human.
As we gaze upon the one on the cross, we see He was not suffering for Himself, but for you and me. He was suffering my hell on the cross so that I would not have to.
"Exposing the Word"
"…knowing that all were now accomplished…"
As we have stated before, Jesus was fully awake and mentally aware of all that was going on around him. He was totally aware of all the things that were prophesied about Him as Messiah. There were a great number of details given in the Old Testament concerning Messiah. Not one of the smallest details was neglected to be fulfilled.
"…that the scripture might be fulfilled…" J
esus did not speak these words as simply idle thoughts. He spoke them knowing that one of those by the cross, probably a Roman soldier, would give him this drink and thus fulfilled scripture. Some have even made the absurd statement that Jesus was not the Messiah and only understood what was foretold about what would happen and attempted to fulfill some of these so people would think He was.
Can there be any doubt that He was indeed the Messiah, the promised redeemer of Israel? If you understand the completeness of the prophecy and the minute accuracy with which they were fulfilled you cannot help but realize there is no doubt.
We know well the prophecy of the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18), the place of His birth to be in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1) and His triumphal entry (Zech 9:9; John 12:13-14). How could he, before birth, have brought this to pass? We see also that the thirty pieces of silver Judas got for betraying Him was used to buy a field to bury the dead (Zech 11:12-13; Matthew 26:15-16). The slaughter of the innocent infants associated with His birth was foretold (Jer 31:15; Matthew 2:16).
One of the most amazing things foretold was His suffering (Isaiah 50:6; Isaiah 53:1-12).
Can there be any doubt this is God’s word and that Jesus, the crucified one, was the Messiah? I think not!
By this time, Jesus had been hanging on the cross for almost six hours. Crucifixion was the most painful means of torture and death that man has ever devised. He had suffered great loss of blood and His thirst must have been intense.
When we realize what had transpired in the preceding hours we see that Jesus must have suffered from exhaustion, hunger, fatigue as well as thirst.
Just the night, before he had instituted the Lord’s Supper in the Upper Room with the disciples (Luke 22:14-20). He then went into the Garden of Gethsemane where He passed the hours in agony of prayer just short of death (Luke 22:40-54). Remember the sweat became as drops of blood. As he came out of the Garden, Judas betrayed Him with a kiss. He was taken then, in the middle of the night, to Caiaphas and the High Council (Matthew 26:57-68). Then he was examined and condemned. He was held until there morning without rest. He was then taken to Pilate who sent him to Herod (Luke 23:11) who in turn sent Him back to Pilate where he was scourged and sentenced to death (Matthew 27:26).
Next He is taken to Calvary. On the way, carrying His cross, weak from blood loss and fatigue, He fainted beneath the load and Simon was compelled to carry the cross for Him. They then crucified Him. As we have stated, He had been there for several hours in the hot part of the day. Is it any wonder that He said, "I thirst"? It showed His strength, purpose and resolve to be our Savior that He did not call down the angels as He could have to end the suffering.
Isn’t it ironic when we remember the conversation that Jesus had at the well with the Samaritan woman. When she asked Him to give her a drink of the water of life, He told her, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst…"
The one who quenches the thirst of man’s soul by His suffering says, "I thirst." Have you been to the fountain of life that Jesus offers? Is your soul dry and thirsty for refreshment? Come to the Master today.
"…they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth." Psalm 69:21
"They gave me also gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."
The smallest detail from prophecy is fulfilled. The Savior, the God-Man is close to death for us.
"Eli, Eli, lama sa-bach tha-ni? … My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
What is the worst thing in the world? Is it cancer or the fear of a terminal illness? Is it a heart attack? Is it being locked into an abusive relationship? We all have a need of companionship and acceptance. I submit that if it is not the worst thing in the world, then rejection and isolation are close to it.
You may have heard it said the worst thing about hell will be the eternal separation from a loving God. We know three of the four things of hell will be thirst, which we looked at last week, darkness and separation. Another will be the eternal fire. We see Jesus suffering our hell on the cross because He suffers separation in darkness.
What Caused the Darkness
We see from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness. The Hebrew way of time made this from noon until three in the afternoon. He had been crucified at about nine in the morning. This darkness was supernatural and covered the land. This certainly should have, and probably did, put fear into the hearts of those in Jerusalem. Darkness in the middle of the day. Some will try to say this was only a lunar eclipse or such. I submit it was the handy work of almighty God. It was a supernatural darkness.
Darkness in the scriptures symbolizes sin. Pr 4:19 "The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at which they stumble." Turn to John 3:19-21. Men love darkness because their deeds are evil. Christ said, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
God is said to be light in 1 John 1:5 as well. Still He suffered in darkness. Might I suggest it was because of the darkness of sin of mankind that darkness came. It was also because of God turning His back on the Son.
"Exposing the Word"
At about three in the afternoon when all is quiet except for an occasional moan of those on the cross, we hear some piercing words. We hear a cry from the soul of the Messiah. We hear the words recorded in
"…my God, my God…"
In spite of all the suffering we see He did not waver in His faith. Jesus told the disciples that even though they would forsake Him, the Father was always with Him.
"…why hast thou…"
Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane asked the cup of suffering to pass from Him if it were possible. The cup may have been the rejection of God the Father that would come.
The full impact of this can only be realized when we understand God the Father and God the Son had never been separated before from eternity past. They had always had fellowship together. Now in the midst of the darkest suffering God the Father has forsaken the Son.
How could He and why did He? Habakkuk 1:13 "thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity." God’s pure eyes cannot look upon sin. Christ had become the embodiment of sin. 2 Cor 5:21 "For he hath made Him to be sin, who knew no sin." While He did not have personal sin, He became sin for me. God the Father turned His back during these hours of darkness.
Painting the Picture
What does this teach us about God, sin and life? Notice several things with me if you would.
First, it shows the awfulness of sin. We live in a time when if we mention men and women are sinners, we are branded a religious fanatic. Does popular opinion make sin go away? Does it lessen the depravity of man? NO! A thousand times NO! The word of God clearly teaches man is a sinful creature and not one of us has escaped its influence.
Just how awful sin is clearly is shown on the cross. God thought it was awful enough to die an awful death at the hands of sinful mankind. We can sugar coat it, alibi it, sweep it under the rug, lie to cover it up, but sin will not go away with its ugliness.
Second, we see the depth of Christ’s anguish. Think of all the sins of the world gathered together in one pile. Al the murders, adultery, dishonesty, rape, drugs, lying, jealous, wrath, backbiting, gossip, etc. were placed on the back of the Savior. The physical suffering was certainly horrible, but the spiritual suffering was even more. God, as we have seen, turned His back on Him, all the blackness and heaviness of sin was placed on Him. How deep must have been the anguish of soul for Messiah.
Third, we see the love of Christ. John 15:13 says, "…Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends…"
Roman 5:7-8 "For when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradverture for a good man some would dare to die. But God commandeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Has there ever been anyone who loved like Jesus? We can only begin to fathom the depth of His love for us. Praise God!
While we see that God turned His back on Christ, it resulted in the promise that He will never turn His back on us. Read Rom 8:35-39.
Fourth, it shows sin still separates. Repentance is still in fashion in God’s kingdom even though modern man has trouble admitting he is wrong. Just as sin separated the Son and the Father, it separates us from the fellowship with God. I remind us Christ was still His Son and this did not change only the fellowship. In Is 59:2 God said to Israel, "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear."
Fifth, it shows sin must be punished. Why did God allow Christ to be hung on this cross? What was He doing? He was punishing sin. We see this was a pattern of a holy and righteous God. The world of Noah, you will recall, was destroyed because of sin. Fire and brimstone destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, the armies of Pharaoh were drowned in the Red Sea to punish sin. Israel was taken into captivity. Sin must be punished. God is a God of love but He is also a God of wrath. Turn to Heb 2:1-3. We see sin must be punished.
Questions to Answer
The question to the lost man is will you accept the sacrifice of Christ for your sin or will you pay for it in an eternal hell? Christian friend, the question to you is will we continue in sin and allow the broken fellowship with God to continue?
"…It is finished…"
Jesus has spoken to the thief, to His mother and John, to the Father, to those who were near, and now we hear Him cry out it is finished. This is His cry of completion. He has completed the task at hand. His purpose of coming is now complete. Jesus had stated on two different occasions that His intent was to complete the course.
John is the only gospel that records the sixth word. However, the other three gospels record He gave a great shout and then gave up His spirit.
John 4:34 r
ecords on the occasion of the Samaritan woman at the well when the disciples wondered if someone had given Him something to eat that Jesus stated,
"My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish the work."
He prayed to the Father on the night of Passover, just a few short hours before He was crucified, as He talked with the disciples as He instituted the Lord’s Supper, "I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." John 17:4
We need not wonder if, as the Moonies claim, Jesus completed the job God sent Him to do. We know it was completed.
We will explore what was meant by these words. We cannot be certain what exactly He was saying because we do not know who He addressed, what was the inflection of His voice, etc.
Some have suggested He was only saying that Him being rejected was over, or that He might have simply said His dream of Him being Messiah was over. Some have suggested He was saying the drudgery and agony of human life was finally over. These should be rejected quickly. There are much deeper meanings than just His suffering relieved.
"Exposing the Word"
Jesus spoke only one word Tetelestai, even though it takes three English words to translate it. This word has been called, "The Greatest Word Ever Spoken on Earth." (Oliver B. Greene, The Gospel According to John, p. 294).
This word was a very common word used in the days of Jesus. When a servant completed a task he would use it to inform the master he had finished the task. It was also used for business transactions when something was "paid in full."
We will explore the "it" in just a few moments as we see the things that were finished.
This is a cry of victory and triumph. It is not a cry of resolution or despair. It is complete, all is accomplished, all is finished.
What Was Finished?
One: All the law is fulfilled. Matt 5:17 "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." Jesus can now say the law is fulfilled. I remind us the law condemned mankind and shows us that we are sinners. Paul stated in
Rom 7:7 "…I had not known sin, but by the law…" The NIV says, "Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law…"
Understand that just the fact that Jesus lived according to the law a perfect life as a man brings greater weight of sin upon all of us. He proved it could be done and showed how far from the mark we hit.
Two: All the prophecies concerning Him are now complete. We have discussed this before, how that every small detail that had been prophesied was not left undone. We see however, in addition to prophecy concerning His first coming, we have many concerning His Second Coming. The very fact that all the prophecies were completed and finished give assurance that all the ones concerning His second coming are sure as well. Jesus stated concerning the word of God as well in
Matt 5:18, "…Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
Three: The sacrifice for sin is complete. For us to understand the full impact and significance of the sacrifice ending we need to attempt to understand the sheer millions of animals that were sacrificed. We see that according to Hebrews 10:4 "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins."
Turning to Heb 10:11-14 we see the end of sacrifice for sin was accomplished on the cross. The sacrifices have ended for sin. Notice it says in Heb 9:25-28 the sacrifice is compete.
Four: The defeat of Satan is finished. The greatest victory ever won is seen here. Lucifer, or the devil, was cast out of heaven according to Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezek 28:11-15. He has waged war against God and the godly since.
After creation of mankind he tempted Adam and Eve and they fell into sin. God said, "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." He set about to destroy the seed of the woman through which the promised Messiah would come. The result was that Cain slew Abel, men became so vile that God destroyed all but Noah’s family. He attempted to corrupt the seed after this. Noah got drunk, Abraham lied, Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, He destroyed all the lineage but one little boy at one time and he was hidden till he became King. (Read 2 Chronicles 22:10-23:11). He tried to kill Christ at His birth.
And now, the final attempt to destroy the promise has in fact been used of God to bring redemption. Satan is defeated. He is still active today but he is a defeated foe. It is only a matter of time before he is cast into the eternal lake of fire. (Rev. 20:10)
Five: The salvation plan is finished. What had begun in the mind of God in eternity past has now come to pass -- the sacrifice of the Lamb for salvation. Redemption’s plan is complete.
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and my there be which go in there at: Because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be the find it."
My friends, we have many designer religions today that say you can come to God any old way. This is a lie. God has completed his plan of salvation and we must not delay nor neglect it.
There is also nothing we can add to the plan. It is complete in the sacrifice at Calvary.
Paid in full you will recall was one of the meanings of the word Tetelestai. What was paid in full? The debt to sin I owed, He marked in big red letters, PAID IN FULL.
says, "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross."
states, "There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus …"
John 3:18 "He that believeth on him
is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already."
"…Father, into thy Hands I commend my spirit…"… Luke 23:44-49
As we watch the figure on the cross who has spoken six times before, we are set to hear His final word. This will be the seventh time He has spoken. In biblical numbers, seven is the number of God. On the seventh day, He rested, as you will recall. The number six is the number of man. With the seventh saying all is complete.
As we stand at the foot of the cross and listen to see what is happening, we realize this is not just an ordinary death. This was a willfully giving up of life. 22:47 tells us the centurion realized this and said, "Surely this was a righteous man." Matthew records his words as "Truly this was the Son of God." Matt 27:54
How can we be sure that His life was not just finished and that He could not have held on any longer? Notice the words of Christ in John 10:17-18 "…doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again …" (My underline for emphasis).
Jesus had taught this in the presence of the Pharisee after He healed the man blind from birth. After He tells them He is the good shepherd who would give His life for the sheep, he tells them that in the future He would willingly lay down His life.
Stepping Back Into Glory!
These words have been called "his entrance-greeting to Heaven." Jesus, who had been with the Father in Glory from eternity past, is going to step back into glory. John 17:5 "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." In Micah’s writing we see the place of His birth and then the statement about Christ, "…whose going forth have been of from of old, from everlasting." Mic 5:2. And you will remember the storm of controversy when Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am."
Jesus, the eternal one, who stepped out of glory to be clothed with the flesh of humanity for a few short years, is going to step back into eternity.
"Exposing the Word"
Lets now look at the words spoken and lessons we can discern from them.
ust as Jesus had began with the first saying on the cross with Father, He begins the last one this way as well.
Jesus taught us how to pray. The Jewish children were taught to pray, "Into thy hand I commit my spirit" as they pray. This is a quote of Ps 31:5. Jesus, however, adds the very personal "Father."
his was how Jesus had taught the disciples to pray when they asked Him to teach them. We know it as the Lord’s Prayer. "Our Father, which art in Heaven…" Prayer is simply communication with our Heavenly Father.
"Into Thy Hands"
As we have already stated, this death was different. Different from the thieves who were dying beside Him, different than all before or since. This was the Son of God dying for our sins. 13:46 says, "…Jesus cried with a loud voice …" This certainly was not the normal thing that happened to one dying of crucifixion. They would at times hang on the cross for days before death. John records the Jews requested the legs to be broken of those that were on the cross because the Sabbath was coming. But, Jesus was already dead. (John 19:31-33)
Jesus taught us how to die! He had lived fully trusting God, and now He dies fully trusting God. This cry vindicated and authenticated the relationship of Christ and the Father. Our death can and will vindicate and authenticate our faith as well. 1 Cor 5:1-8, Phil 1:21-23 shows we too can have confidence even in dying and say, "into thy hands I commit my spirit."
We have talked before about Jesus laying down His life. I just want us to notice one more time it was Jesus, as evidenced by the "I" here, which laid down His life.
The meaning of this word is to deposit as a trust, or for protection. Paul said, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." II Tim 1:12
That which belongs to God will return from where it came at death. Jesus committing His spirit back to God teaches us the eternal fate of the soul. The soul exists apart from the body. The body may go to the grave, as Christ’s body did, but the spirit will go to God.
The Faith Train Pulls Out!
I don’t mean to be cute or witty here, but friends the train of faith pulled out of the station at Christ’s death and has been headed for heaven since. It has made a lot of stops along the way and many have gotten onboard and it keeps rumbling toward glory.
The centurion was the officer in charge of those who did the crucifying. There were probably about twelve men under his command. Four for each one crucified was the normal detachment. He, cried out this was the Son of God. This is the first recorded cry of faith, and it was by a Gentile, after the death.
This reminds us of the statement that Christ made in John 12:32 "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." John said this signified, "…what death he should die." 12:33
All the things that happened, the earthquakes, the darkness, the way He suffered, lead this centurion to faith. His death accomplished what His life had not, it broken the hard hearts of men.
Notice the reaction of the others as well. Luke 23:48 says, "…all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned." After seeing Him die, many realized He was innocent. The smiting of their breasts was a sign of repentance. Remember the publican and the sinner recorded in Luke 18:13 when the publican,
"standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner."
What happened to these men and women? We look in the book of Acts fifty some days later as Peter preached about Jesus and see, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." Acts 2:41
"…and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:47. Acts 4:4
gives us a record of five thousand men converted. They boarded the faith train.
My question now to you is have you seen the Savior dying for your sins? Are you ready to accept the sacrifice offered by Him for you? Do you see it was for your sins He died? Will you come to the Savior?