86. “It Is finished”
“It Is finished”……THE soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part: casting lots upon them.
The people that passed by derided him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself!
The soldiers also mocked him, saying, If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself!
Likewise the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save!
One of the two thieves which were crucified with him cast the same in his teeth; but the other rebuked him, saying, Dost thou not fear God? We receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
Jesus said unto him,
Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
¶Now there stood by the cross Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister; Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved: and he saith unto his mother,
Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith he to the disciple,
Behold thy mother!
And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
¶Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. At the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying,
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, saith,
Straightway one of them ran, and filled a sponge with vinegar, put it upon hysop (on a reed), and put it to Jesus’ mouth. When he had received the vinegar, he said,
It is finished.
And when he had cried again with a loud voice, he said,
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!
Having said thus, Jesus bowed his head, and yielded up the ghost.
¶All his acquaintance stood afar off, beholding these things. There were also women looking on: among which was Mary Magdalene; and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses; and Salome the mother of Zebedee’s children; and many other women which came up with Jesus into Jerusalem.
Gospel reading: Matthew 27:32-44
Meditation 1 of 2:
Are you prepared to die well? None of us can avoid the inevitable — our own death. We try to avoid it, to block it from our minds, but the the truth is we will all die sooner or later. Dying is not easy for anyone. It involves mental and physical suffering, loss, and separation. We can choose to live well, and we can choose to die well. Dying well is a life-long spiritual task. Fortunately there is something stronger than death and that is love (Song of Songs 6:8). “For God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus embraced the cross knowing it was the Father’s will and the Father’s way for him to die.
A criminal condemned to death by Roman law was forced to carry his own cross. Soldiers made him carry it to the place of execution usually by the longest route possible. This prolonged the public humiliation and agony of carrying a weight that bowed the head and broke the back into a posture of submission. Jesus fell under the weight of his cross and could go no further. The Roman soldiers compeled another man to carry it for him. Simon had come a long distance from Cyrene (in North Africa, present-day Libya) to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. The last thing he wanted to do was to participate in the public execution of a criminal. But he had no choice since Roman authority could not be challenged without serious consequences. Mark records that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21). Since Mark wrote his gospel for the Christian community at Rome, it is likely that the two sons of Rufus were well-known to the Church there as fellow Christians. Who knows, if Simon had not been compelled to carry Jesus’s cross, he may never have been challenged with the message of the cross and the meaning of the Christian faith which his two sons later embraced. Perhaps Simon became a believer and passed on his faith to his family as well. Do you take up your cross willingly to follow Jesus in his way of love and sacrifice?
The Romans reserved crucifixion for their worst offenders. It was designed to be the most humiliating and excruciatingly painful way they knew for execution. The criminal was stripped and nailed to a cross erected in a public place, usually by a roadside or highway near the town where the criminal could be viewed by everybody who passed that way. A healthy man could live for several days on such a cross before he expired from hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and madness. It was a slow agonizing death, usually as a result of asphyxiation. The victim was hung on the cross in such a fashion that his lungs quickly filled with fluids and he could not breath unless he pulled his chest upward and gasped for breath. Every movement brought nerve-racking pain. Eventual exhaustion led to asphyxiation. If the soldiers wanted to speed the process up, they broke the victim’s legs to prevent ease of breathing.
The place where Jesus was crucified was on a hill just outside of Jerusalem known as Golgatha (Aramaic word for skull). The authorities deliberately executed Jesus besides two known criminals. This was designed to publicly humiliate Jesus before the crowds and to rank him with robbers. When Jesus was nailed to the cross he was already more than half-dead. The scourging alone and the crown of thorns beaten into his skull had nearly killed him. In such a state it is all the more remarkable to see Jesus with a clear sound mind and a tranquil heart. When Jesus was offered some wine mixed with myrrh to ease his pain, he refused it. He willingly embraced suffering and death for our sake because he knew and loved us all when he offered his life as an atoning sacrifice on the cross (Gal. 2:20, Ephes. 5:2,25). Jesus shows us the depths of God’s redeeming love and forgiveness. He loved his own to the end (John 13:1). “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.” (2 Cor. 5:14).
Pilate publicly heralded Jesus “The King of the Jews” as he died upon the cross, no doubt to irritate and annoy the chief priests and Pharisees. Jesus was crucified for his claim to be King. The Jews understood that the Messiah would come as king to establish God’s reign for them. They wanted a king who would free them from tyranny and foreign domination. Many had high hopes that Jesus would be the Messianic king. Little did they understand what kind of kingship Jesus claimed to have. Jesus came to conquer hearts and souls for an imperishable kingdom, rather than to conquer perishable lands and entitlements. As Jesus was dying on the cross, he was mocked for his claim to kingship. Nonetheless, he died not only as King of the Jews, but King of the nations as well. His victory over the power of sin, Satan, and the world was accomplished through his death on the cross and his resurrection. Jesus exchanged a throne of glory for a cross of shame to restore us to glory with God as his adopted sons and daughters. “He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is oabove every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:8-11) In the Book of Revelations Jesus is called King of kings and Lord and lords (Rev. 19:16). Do you recognize Jesus Christ as your King and Lord and do you exalt his name as holy?
“Lord Jesus, you laid down your life for me that I might walk in the freedom of your love and mercy. Free me from love of the world and from attachment to sin and hurtful desires, that I might love whole-heartedly and sincerely what you love and reject whatever is false and contrary to the gospel.”
Gospel reading: Matthew 27:45-56
Meditation 2 of 2:
The cross brings us face to face with Jesus’ suffering. He was alone — all his disciples had deserted him except for his mother and three women along with John, the beloved disciple. And his death was agonizing and humiliating. Normally a crucified man could last for several days on a cross. Jesus’ had already been scourged, beaten with rods, and a crown of thorns pressed into his skull. It is no wonder that he died mid-afternoon. Mark graphically describes the end as a “darkness over the whole land” (15:33). This was Satan’s hour as he saw the Son of God dying on the cross. But that death was also his undoing. Through his obedience unto death, Jesus reversed the curse of Adam’s disobedience and won freedom and pardon for us. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).
One of the great consequences of sin is that it separates us from God. Since Jesus bore the weight of our sins upon himself, he experienced in his agony on the cross what that separation was like. That is why he prayed out the words of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, what have you forsaken me?” This is a Messianic psalm which foretells the suffering which Jesus underwent: “they have pierced my hands and feet — I can count all my bones — they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them” (22:16-18). And it ends on a note of triumph and vindication: “Posterity shall serve him; men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and roclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, that he has wrought it” (22:31).
As Jesus expired he cried out a “loud shout”. Both Matthew and Luke mention this shout (Matt. 27:50 and Luke 23:46). John tells us that Jesus died with these words on his lips, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (John 19:30). These parting words express triumph rather than defeat. Jesus bowed his head and gave up his spirit knowing that the strife was now over and the battle was won. Even on the cross Jesus knew the joy of victory. What the Father sent him into the world to do has now been accomplished. Christ offered himself without blemish to God and he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself(see Hebrews 9:24-26). We can find no greater proof of God’s love for us than the willing sacrifice of his Son on the cross. “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:55-57)
Augustine, the great 5th century church father, urges us to contemplate the love of God incarnate on the cross: “As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs. We see his blood as he dies. We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection. He bows his head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you. His whole body is displayed for your redemption. Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind: as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you, so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul.” [GMI 248]
In the cross of Christ we see the triumph of Jesus over his enemies — sin, Satan, and death. Christian writers down through the centuries have sung the praises of the Cross of Christ. Paul the Apostle exclaimed, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). “A few drops of blood renew the whole world!” Hear what Gregory Nazianzen, a 6th century church father, has to say: “Many indeed are the wondrous happenings of that time: God hanging from a cross, the sun made dark and again flaming out; for it was fitting that creation should mourn with its creator. The temple veil rent, blood and water flowing from his side: the one as from a man, the other as from what was above man; the earth shaken, the rocks shattered because of the rock; the dead risen to bear witness to the final and universal resurrection of the dead. The happenings at the sepulcher and after the sepulcher, who can fittingly recount them? Yet no one of them can be compared to the miracle of my salvation. A few drops of blood renew the whole world, and do for all men what the rennet does for the milk: joining us and binding us together. [On the Holy Pasch, Oration 45.1] of Deutz, wrote in the early 12th century: “The cross of Christ is the door to heaven, the key to paradise, the downfall of the devil, the uplifting of mankind, the consolation of our imprisonment, the prize for our freedom.” The Cross of Christ is the safeguard of our faith, the assurance of our hope, and the throne of love. It is also the sign of God’s mercy and the proof of forgiveness. By his cross Jesus has redeemed our sin and atoned for our punishment. The way to peace, joy, and righteousness in the kingdom of God and the way to victory over sin, despair, and death is through the cross of Jesus Christ. Do you willingly follow Jesus in his way of the cross with joy, hope, and confidence?
“Lord Jesus Christ, by your death on the cross you have won pardon for us and freedom from the tyranny of sin and death. May I live in the joy and freedom of your victory over sin and death.”