It is Finished- How Jesus’ Death Completes Our Salvation
John 19:28 – 37 It is Finished – How Jesus’ Death Completes Our Salvation Famous last words … Famous last words, Often someone’s last words, summarise their whole life, don’t they? So Beethoven’s last words in 1827, Friends applaud, the comedy is finished. Or Dominique (bow-ha) Bouhours, a famous French grammar expert. I am about to, or I am going to, die: either expression is correct. Convicted murder James Rogers was executed by firing squad in 1960. When asked if he had any final requests, his last words were, “a bullet-proof vest, please.” Tomorrow, at sunrise, I shall no longer be here.” Spoken by Nostradamus, famous for his predictions! And in this case, he was right! Or these words, You be good. See you tomorrow. I love you. Those were the last words of Alex, an African Grey Parrot who was used in university research. There’s the somewhat predictable, “‘It’s okay, the gun’s not loaded, see?” Tragically, the famous last words of Johnny Ace, an R&B singer from the 50s. Or on a better note, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, turned to his wife and said, “You are wonderful”, and died. For Johnny Ace, his last words were a reflection of his daredevil attitude to life, For Alex the parrot, perhaps an indication of his familiarity with his handler, Dominique the French grammarian, they were a continuation of what he spent his life doing, And Arthur Conan Doyle’s, well, a testament to years of loving marriage to his wife, Jean. Last words tell us something, about life up until that point. And so it’s no mistake that John, who was one of Jesus’ closest friends, records these words spoken by Jesus as he dies. What do we learn about Jesus life and ministry, from these last words and final moments? 1. Jesus’ death completes what’s necessary for salvation (v 28 – 30) Well, firstly we see that Jesus’ death completes what is necessary for salvation. Jesus has been crucified, and now, verse 28, he knew that everything had now been finished, From his understanding of the Scriptures, Jesus knows, that everything necessary for salvation, rescue from sin, has now been completed. That’s not to say, of course, that he could get down off the cross at this point if everything’s done, but that all the necessary steps for what Jesus came to achieve, have been completed. And isn’t it extraordinary, that even in the midst of this excruciating torture, Jesus is conscious of his life fulfilling the Scriptures, our Old Testament. Because he speaks, verse 28, so that Scripture would be fulfilled, That is, in order that what God said would happen centuries earlier would come to pass, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” Perhaps Jesus is mindful of Psalm 22 which we thought about last week. In that Psalm Israel’s King David who was a forerunner of Christ;, he saved God’s people, He led God’s people, He was the anointed ruler, A thousand years before Jesus, he had written My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; 22:15 God’s anointed ruler suffers in thirst. Or maybe it’s another Psalm of David, Psalm 69, which speaks of God’s faithful servant suffering like this:, 19 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies are before you. 20 Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none. 21 They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst. That whole Psalm, is about God’s righteous person suffering at the hands of people who do evil. And Jesus understands his life, his suffering, and now his death, as completing that Psalm, And so he speaks. But John uses an unusual word in verse 28 when he speaks of Scripture being fulfilled, not the regular word that he uses in other places, but a variation of the word he’s already written in the first half of the verse, meaning finished. It’s the same word on Jesus’ lips in verse 30;, it is finished. So part of what had now been finished, is the fulfilment of the scriptures, We’ll come back and think a bit more about that later. But Jesus deliberately speaks, fulfilling the words of the Psalm, and verse 29 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. So Jesus drinks the wine, and then said, verse 30, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. It is finished. Note, that it’s not “I am finished.” Jesus is not just saying, “I’m dying.” It’s a statement about the work he’s been doing. Jesus has been driving all these events. He’s no innocent pawn in someone else’s game. Look at how John describes the scene;, It’s Jesus who knew that everything had now been finished, Jesus who said I am thirsty, Jesus who received the drink, verse 30, Jesus who said it is finished, Even his death is described in terms of what Jesus does, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. I’ve been with, a number of people as they’ve died. And generally, they do very little. Death, you might say, takes them. Not Jesus. He is in control of all of this, driving forward his Father’s plan of salvation. See, all of us, have lived in God’s world with no regard for God. We take all the good gifts God gives us, but we live as if God neither exists nor matters. That’s what the Bible calls sin. And there’s a penalty for that. We can’t thumb our nose at the Creator God of the universe and think that’s OK! Justice demands otherwise. And the penalty for sin is death and separation from God and his blessings. And Jesus’ offer throughout his life, was that he would pay the price that we deserved. Jesus’ famous last words sum up and conclude what he’s said throughout his life. it is finished. Finished, complete, nothing left to do. The penalty for sin has been paid in full. Everything that Jesus came to do, is complete. The word John records is a Greek word that archaeologists have found word written across receipts in the ruins of ancient cities. When you paid a bill, or a debt, the person you owed, would write this across the receipt. Finished, paid, complete. One of the dictionaries on my bookshelf, says this of the word being used here; The connection between receipts and what Christ accomplished would have been quite clear to John’s Greek-speaking readership; it would be unmistakable that Jesus Christ had died to pay for their sins. It is finished means that in his death, Jesus’ work of salvation is completed. The debt we owe for our rejection of God, has been paid. And if paying the price for sin is at the heart of what Jesus came to do, there’s a whole spectrum of Jesus’ work that, if you like, radiates out from that like a rainbow out of a prism. Jesus has also finished the work of making God known. The letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament tells us that Jesus is the final way of God speaking to us. There’s nothing else we need to know about who God is. Jesus here is also announcing his finished work of defeating Satan and the powers of evil. Paul says in his letter to the Colossians, that Christ triumphed over them by the cross. We don’t watch world history to see who’s going to get the upper hand, Jesus or Satan. It is finished. Jesus’ work of making us holy and blameless, is finished. If you trust in Jesus for forgiveness, then when God looks at you he doesn’t see the stain of your sin and all your failures, he sees the spotless record of his perfect Son applied to your account, alongside your name. Jesus has cancelled the legal demands of the Old Testament law. Again, as Paul says in Colossians, Jesus has canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross And It is finished means Jesus’ work of reconciling us to God has been completed. We have been given access, to the Most Holy Place;, the very presence of God. We could go on and on! Securing for us eternal life, is completed, Freeing us from slavery to sin, is completed, Bringing glory to his Father through his perfect obedience, is completed. The work of Christ completed at the cross is vast and multi-faceted, but it has at it’s heart, the paying of the terrible price for our sin. Here, in this moment that looks like the lowest moment of all, Christ completes the work his Father sent him to do. I don’t know if you’ve ever wondered why the genealogies in the Bible stop once Jesus turns ups. There’s no genealogy after Luke chapter 3, and no genealogy that goes further than Jesus. For lots of people, that’s all the Bible is, genealogies, but if so, why do they go no further? Well, because of this! Because of Jesus’ life and ministry, And soon to be death and resurrection. This is what God’s been working towards since the promise of the gospel was first declared in Genesis 3;, a descendant of the woman, who would defeat Satan and pay for sin. The genealogies remind us of God’s faithfulness to that plan for generation after generation, and here, it is finished. And if it is finished, If the work of salvation has been completed, then it means that there’s nothing left to, Not for me, Not for you. I have a government student loan from my university degree in Australia. But I never earned enough to get me over the threshold where the government makes you start paying it back. Except, as it turns out, if you leave the country, they make you start paying it back! It seems the Australian government is worried that I might like it here and never go back to pay my debt. But imagine I visit Australia, and I feel bad for owing them money for a degree that Australia gets no benefit from, and so I walk into some government office, and I say, “I want to pay my debt.” And they look me up on their computer, and say to me, “Mr Fopp, your debt has already been paid. Someone has paid it for you, completely.” Now, all of us who have ever have a debt are thinking, “That would be amazing, that would never happen, but that would be amazing!” Someone wiping your debt out completely. But imagine I say to the person in the government office, “Well, that’s nice of someone to pay my massive debt, but actually, I still want to pay! Or at the very least, let me make a contribution, That way I can be sure that’s it paid, and I get the feeling of having done something.” Poor government admin person’s not going to know what to do are they? No one’s ever tried to do that. And yet, how easy it is for us to try that when it comes to Christ’s saving work! We know that it’s completed, We can’t miss the fact here in John’s eye-witness account, and yet we often still try, or we act as if we need to, top up, finish off for ourselves, Christ’s work of salvation. That is to say that fundamentally, we easily disbelieve Jesus’ words. We don’t believe that he’s telling the truth when he says, it is finished And so we think that our forgiveness, depends on us doing enough good things, for God not to count our sin against us. Maybe we fear Satan, not believing that, yes, though he’s real, and like a prowling lion, he is in fact a defeated enemy. A chained lion, if you like, as John Bunyan pictured in A Pilgrim’s Progress. We choose not to believe that it is finished means the written code of the Old Testament Law no longer makes demands of us. We convince ourselves that access to the very throne room of God, or perhaps continued, ongoing access, is contingent upon my state of mind, How I’m feeling in any given moment, Whether I’ve summoned up the right emotions, instead of hearing these words it is finished, and knowing I have been given, access to God. It’s so easy to slip into the trap of wanting to pay the debt myself, to top up what Christ achieved, But not only is it impossible to finish what someone else has completed, even to try, is to disbelieve Jesus’ words, and make him out to be a liar. Jesus’ death completes what is necessary for salvation. Jesus’ death fulfils the Bible’s predictions of salvation (v 31 – 27) The second thing that we can’t help but notice here, is that Jesus’ death fulfils the Bible’s predictions of salvation, or we could say fulfils the Bible’s promises of salvation. There was one example already, wasn’t there, with Jesus being given wine vinegar to drink, in fulfilment of Psalm 69. But there’s lots more in the following verses, especially showing that Jesus’ death was predicted in the Passover. Look at verse 31, 31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. Crucifixion was as much deterrent as it was execution, and so the Romans were usually happy to leave people hanging on the cross for as long as it took them to die. But in the Jewish law, anyone who was hung on a tree, or a bit of wood like a cross, was under God’s curse. Deuteronomy 21. It was a sign that you were facing God’s judgement, and so a body wasn’t to be left up overnight, as it defiled the land and said “here is God’s judgement being poured out.” And even that is a remarkable prediction isn’t it? That way back in Deuteronomy 21, 15 hundred years before Jesus, It was known that to be hung up on a piece of wood was a sign of being punished by God. Which is exactly what we know has happened. Even the apparatus of execution, chosen by these pagan Romans, fulfils God’s Word in the Old Testament. But the religious leaders are worried, as religious leaders tend to be, about rules and external purity. They’re especially worried about defilement because it was special Sabbath, at the Passover, and so they ask Pilate, the Roman Governor, to hurry things up a bit. It’s bitter irony, isn’t it? These very religious people, are so worried about keeping the rules, external purity, but they can’t even see their violent rejection of the very God they think they’re honouring! Imagine being so caught up in religious rule-keeping, that you’re actually rejecting God! When someone’s crucified, they’re hanging, so they need to push up with the legs in order to breathe, and so breaking their legs, along with the shock and loss of blood, makes breathing hard, and they die very quickly. It was brutal and incredibly violent. The legs of the 2 men crucified alongside Jesus, verse 32, are broken like this, but, verse 33, when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. Jesus was dead, and pierced. Various doctors and others have weighed in on what’s going on as blood and water flow from Jesus’ side as the soldiers check that he’s actually dead. It’s almost certainly not miraculous. John doesn’t draw any attention to it the way he does the other miracles, which shape the structure of his book. It might be pericardial fluid from around Jesus’ heart, Or fluid building up around the lungs, and then mixing with blood, so to John, and the others standing there, it’s basically a mixture of blood and water that comes out as Jesus is pierced. Some people have tried to suggest this is a hint towards the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but again, John doesn’t make that connection at all. Certainly it was a real detail, that John considered worth including, perhaps because he thought it would remind people that Jesus had offered living water, everlasting life with no thirsting and seeking. He might have included it because under the Jewish law, if a lamb was to be sacrificed, it’s blood had to flow freely at the moment of death and not be congealed, and the heart of the lamb had to be slit to let the blood out. That is, even by the standards of the people who are killing Jesus, he was a perfectly qualified sacrifice, fulfilling everything that had been written. But also, John is telling us this, because it shows that Jesus really was dead. See, some people have tried to say that Jesus didn’t actually die. The Koran teaches this, for example. Jesus is said to be a prophet in Islam, but the Koran teaches that the Jewish religious leaders “did not kill him, they did not crucify him, but it appeared to them, as if they did.” Surah 4:157 Of course, if Jesus has power of life and death, he’s not just a prophet, is he? Or you might have come across what’s called the “swoon theory”, this is the suggestion that Jesus basically passed out on the cross, and then got better! That having been scourged within an inch of his life, Crucified, A spear stuck in his side, all by professional killers, Then laid in a cold tomb for a weekend, at which point he started feeling much better, Rolled away the stone, Defeated squad of soldiers put there to guard it, and went on his merry way! Wikipedia is not always the most reliable source of information, but it does say this about the swoon theory; “This 200-year-old hypothesis is still the subject of debate in popular circles but the scholarly literature considers it uncontroversial that Jesus died during the process of crucifixion” John wants us to be sure of this. There’s no mistake, Jesus’ died. He was pierced. The one who would later rise from the grave was really dead, and so really does offer a deliverance from death, hope in the face of death! Which is good news at any time, but especially in the midst of a global pandemic, isn’t it? And because he was already dead, Jesus’ legs are not broken. Why is this significant? Well, we need to go back to Exodus chapter 12 to find out. This is the account of the Passover, when God judged the sin and wickedness of Egypt and Pharaoh’s hardness of heart, while at the same time rescuing his people from slavery. Each family among God’s people was to take a lamb, and kill it. Some of the blood, they were to put on the top and both sides of the door frame of their house. It was to be a sign, “here are those who are trusting in God’s rescue.” But Exodus says this Passover lamb was to be without defect, chapter 12 verse 5. And we get extra detail in the book of Numbers. When the Israelites celebrated this, which they were doing as Jesus died, none of the bones of the Passover Lamb were to be broken. The lamb that dies, as a sacrifice, standing in the place of those who would otherwise die, The lamb whose blood causes the anger of God at sin to pass over, that lamb was to die without any of its bones being broken. Now, we see why John records the detail. And by the time of King David, 500 years after the Exodus, and a thousand years before Jesus, through David’s words in Psalm 34, God makes a promise about a righteous person, delivered by God through suffering, the Lord protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. (Ps 34:20) Now, King David wasn’t trying to claim for himself, that even if he got hit by a bus, he’d never break a bone, he’s speaking about God’s ultimate protection and deliverance, in language his readers would automatically associate with the Passover lamb, and which came to be the expectation for God’s chosen king, the Messiah. This would be his experience. Exodus 12, Numbers 9, Psalm 34, Is it all just a coincidence? Passover lamb, no broken bones, Jesus, legs aren’t broken. Well, I don’t have broken legs either, does that mean I fulfill the Old Testament?! Well, no, of course not, but how do we know that Jesus does? Well, think for a moment where we are on the Jewish calendar? It’s the Passover. Jesus, who talked about his death, both as a rescue, and as sin being punished, is dying, literally as tens of thousands of Passover Lambs are being slaughtered and eaten across Jerusalem. God’s judgement of sin is being poured out, as we’ve seen, but it is passing over those who believe Jesus’ words that “it is finished”;, the price for sin has been paid in full. Once again the blood of the Passover Lamb is saving those who trust in the rescue from sin that God provides. But this time it’s the true Passover Lamb, whose sacrifice completed the great rescue from slavery, and the punishment of sin;, it is finished. And John’s already given us a hint, and then he tells us outright that Jesus fulfills the Passover. The hint was up in verse 29. The soldiers put that wine vinegar on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. Unless we’re particularly botanically minded, we probably just skim over that detail. But a hyssop plant, looks a bit like parsley;, bushy and leafy on the end, growing off a stalk. And in Exodus 12, when Moses is giving instructions about the Passover, it’s a hyssop plant that is to be used to paint the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts of the house. Here again, outside Jerusalem, a millennium and a half later, a hyssop plant is part of the death of the Passover Lamb as God’s judgment is poured out on sin, and a rescue from slavery and death is achieved. John’s just pointing to these thigns, saying to us “notice these details, Jesus’ death fulfils the Bible’s promises of salvation.” And then in case we’re still not convinced, and we think these are all just coincidences, or something, John tells us straight up; See verse 36, 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” The second quotation there comes from the book of Zechariah, written, 550 years before the death of Jesus. In Zechariah 12 verse 10, God said, They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. Through Zechariah, God is saying, “a day is coming when the people will kill someone, and in doing so, they will have pierced me”, God himself. Which is exactly what happens, when the soldier pierces Jesus, isn’t it? They have pierced, God. And of course, Jesus was also, a firstborn son. That’s language used of him elsewhere in the Bible. Jesus’ crucifixion happened, as it did, in order that the scripture would be fulfilled, John says, in order to fulfil, Exodus 12, Numbers 9, Zechariah 12. Jesus’ death fulfils the Bible’s predictions of salvation. This is how God promised in advance, that salvation would come to his people, This is how sin would be punished, and a rescue provided. But if we were to think that this is just all too convenient, that it can’t really have all happened like this, fulling predictions made 500, a thousand, 1500 years earlier, John says we can believe, because he was an eye-witness. That’s verse 35, The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. We can believe, because the eye-witness testimony lays out for us, how Jesus’ death was predicted in the Old Testament. John’s whole purpose in writing his gospel, he tells us in the next chapter, is that by believing in Jesus, we may have life in his name. But we don’t kind of take a leap of faith in the dark, we believe on the basis of the eye-witness testimony, that Jesus fulfils the Old Testament promises of salvation. So until Jesus death, the Old Testament events were incomplete Which, if all of that is true, means that until Jesus’ death, the Old Testament events were incomplete;, we only had half the story. Remember earlier, we saw John choosing that unusual word for “fulfilled” in verse 28;, the word he usually uses to mean “completed” or finished;, So he said Scripture would be, completed. Those events and promises in the Old Testament, were in-complete. They were promises and predictions that looked forward to Jesus. God had said this would be the experience of his righteous servant. His holy Messiah, the chosen king would suffer in these ways. The Passover was a great rescue, but it’s greater goal was to point forward to what Jesus would achieve on the cross. You don’t fulfil or complete something that is already complete and in its entirety, do you?! Perhaps you’re giving someone a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas, a thousand pieces, and just to make sure, you count them all. “yep, a thousand!” It’s complete So you don’t throw in a few extra pieces to make it complete do you? Or when the puzzle’s finished, you don’t go over to your friend’s house with a pocketful of puzzle pieces, and try and squeeze them in. You don’t complete something that’s already finished, Which is to say that since Jesus’ death fulfils and completes the Scriptures, they obviously weren’t yet finished, They still needed the final piece put in. Without Jesus’ death, The Passover, The promises in the Psalms, The promises in Zechariah and everywhere else were incomplete. Jesus’ death is the event that the Passover pointed forward to all along. And without it, the Passover is only half the story, and those other predictions that John teaches us are fulfilled here, they would all be incomplete. Now, that’s a big claim The Passover and the Exodus were the biggest rescue in the nations’ history. Something akin to the Battle of Britain, or the Normandy landings. And yet they pointed forward to something even greater. Which means, to read of these events and promises in the Old Testament, and not see them as pointing forward to Jesus and fulfilled in him, is to misread and misunderstand the Old Testament. Do we see that? There’s various bits of IKEA furniture around the office here that we’re going to be using for our Christmas events. If you’ve ever put IKEA furniture together, you know that the instructions come with a picture of your furniture on the front. That’s the promise of what it’s going to look like, but then you have to complete it. What you don’t do, is cut out that picture of a bed, and sleep on it! You don’t stick the 2 dimensional promise of a bookshelf on your wall, and try to stack your books on it. And you don’t look to the promise of salvation in the Old Testament, and think, that’s all there is, Or that’s all that needs to be done, We go to where it’s completed, finished, and because we have the eye-witness testimony, we can believe. It is finished Famous last words, But these are not actually Jesus’ last words, at all, are they? They’re the last words John records of Jesus before he dies, But they’re not Jesus’ last words. Because just as he fulfils Old Testament promises in his death, so God also promised that his faithful servant would be raised to life, and as he lives, he speaks to us today through his Word. Our loving Father, we thank you that Jesus completes everything that’s necessary for our salvation, And that his death fulfils your promises throughout history, to save, to forgive, to judge sin, and to make a people for yourself. Help us to believe that it is finished, there is no work left for us to come to you, you simply call us to believe those eye-witnesses like John who you commissioned as your witnesses. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.