Final Words; Final Works

Posted: March 14, 2016 in John, Uncategorized

John 19:25-30, “Final Words; Final Works”

Introduction:
What do you want your last words to be?  Few people probably realize they’re getting the opportunity to speak their last words at the time – most people are probably quite taken by surprise.  General John Sedgwick of the Union army in the American Civil War reportedly said “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance,” just prior to getting shot.  Others know what it is they are about to face, and they do so resolutely.  Such was the case with Todd Beamer, on 9/11 as he & others prepared to rush the Al Qaeda hijackers of Flight 93.  He said, “Are you ready guys? Let’s roll,” and bravely prepared to die.

As for Jesus, He knew the moment of His death, and He spoke last words of His own.  In the process, He pointed to His final work.  The Son of God was about to die, and He was leaving nothing undone.

By this point, Jesus had spent many agonizing hours upon the cross.  That He remained alive at all was something astounding by our modern way of thinking, when we consider all that He had already endured.  His body and mind were spent from exhaustion, having received no sleep the previous night.  He had been bounced around from mock-trial to mock-trial, rejected by His own countrymen, abandoned by His disciples, and abused by the Romans.  He had been beaten with fists, scourged with whips, and finally was forced to carry His own cross to the place of His execution.  There, 5-7 inch spikes were driven through His wrists & feet, and as His cross was placed upright, His bones fell out of joint.  It was while He was in that condition for hours on end that Jesus had to pry Himself up on the spikes just to get a breath of air, and even that was like sucking air through a wet rag.

On top of it all, He was continually mocked by those who looked upon Him from below, and His executioners treated Him as already dead as they gambled away His last remaining possessions.  He had been officially labeled as the King of the Jews by Pilate, and treated as a traitorous criminal by all the world around Him.  These were the people for whom Christ was suffering, and they didn’t have a clue.

Not that it should have been a secret.  The miracles Jesus performed were public, as was His teaching.  There was no lack of evidence that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the King of the Jews, the Son of God.  It’s just that He wasn’t the Messiah the Jews wanted.  They wanted a Messiah on their own terms; not God’s.  And of course it doesn’t work that way.

The Messiah came first not as a warrior, but as a sacrifice – and as a sacrifice, He was absolutely perfect.  He was the Lamb of God, sent to take away the sins of the world, and He did so beautifully.  He completed the work God gave Him to do, and was able to declare “It is finished!”

 

John 19:25–30

  • His familial work (vss. 25-27)

25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

  • As lonely as the suffering on the cross may have been, Jesus was never physically alone while hanging upon it.  His Roman executioners were there, as well as the other two men crucified on either side of Him.  Additionally, the Synoptic Gospels tell us of Jews who taunted our Lord, literally adding insult to injury as He hung in agony.  But beyond His enemies, there were a few there who loved Him – primarily consisting of some of the women who knew Him & believed in Him.  Depending how one reads the account, there were either three or four women identified by John.
    • Jesus’ “mother” Mary.  Decades earlier, when she and her husband Joseph brought the 8 day old baby Jesus to the temple for circumcision, she received a prophecy regarding her Child.  The Babe was “destined for the rise and fall in many in Israel,” and not only would He be opposed, but “a sword would pierce” her own soul as well (Lk 2:34-35).  No doubt that proved true as she witnessed her firstborn suffering as He did.
    • Mary’s “sister.”  Whether or not this woman is named is the question as to whether John names three women or four.  Technically, the words “His mother’s sister” could simply be a description of the next woman, Mary of Clopas.  That said, there are some strong arguments otherwise.  First of all, although family names were commonly passed along from relative to relative, it would be highly unusual for two sisters to share the same first name (Mary & Mary).  Secondly, when comparing John’s account with that of Matthew & Mark, then it’s found that one woman is potentially left out: Salome, or the mother of Zebedee’s sons James & John (Mt 27:52, Mk 15:40).  It seems very possible that the person John describes as “His mother’s sister” is actually Salome, John’s own mother.  If so, perhaps John was following his own pattern of not naming himself (or his brother) within his gospel & thus did not name his mother either.
    • Mary the wife of Clopas.”  Again, a comparison with Matthew & Luke shines a bit more light on her identity.  They each list her as the mother of James (the less – one of the disciples) & Joses.  That being the case, then “Clopas” is likely another name for “Alphaeus,” whom Matthew lists as James’ father (Mt 10:3).
    • Mary Magdalene.” This Mary was unlisted at the foot of the cross by Matthew and Mark, but due to her prevalence throughout Jesus’ ministry, John’s mention of her ought to be no surprise.  This is the woman out of whom Jesus cast 7 demons (Lk 18:2, Mk 16:9).  Contrary to commonly held ideas about her, there is actually no Biblical indication that she was ever a prostitute.  Jesus certainly did forgive and save prostitutes, showering them with the grace of God, but Mary Magdalene was not one of them.  Being freed from demonic torment was enough to cause her to follow Jesus in faith.
    • That’s four women – was that it?  Not necessarily.  Both Matthew and Mark qualify their lists by writing that the named women were “among” the other people at the cross.  There were “many women” present (Mt 28:55).  These were only the ones who were named. 
  • So there is Jesus’ mother, probable relatives of Jesus’ mother, who were themselves mothers of some of the disciples, and a former demoniac and present disciple/follower of Jesus in her own right.  Who’s missing?  The men.  Where are the named apostles of Christ?  Where are the remaining 11? Only one will be mentioned, and obliquely at that.  The rest had scattered during Jesus’ arrest & likely remained hidden.  Peter had followed Jesus for a time, but after his failure in denying Jesus, all Biblical mention of him disappears until Resurrection Sunday morning.
  • What a contrast of faith!  The women are of crucial importance in the crucifixion and resurrection accounts.  The women remained faithful in public at the cross.  The women remained faithful after death at the tomb.  The women were the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus and the first to be commissioned by Jesus to testify of His resurrection to others.  The women serve as true examples to all Christians everywhere of faith and devotion.  People often desire to have the faith that Paul had, or Peter, or John.  We ought to be just as desirous to have the faith of many Mary’s!  When it proved impossible for others to stand firm, they had faith that kept them at the feet of Jesus!
    • The faith of the women also serve as a powerful apologetic to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.  Culturally speaking, the words of women in that day were not as trustworthy as the words of men.  For the resurrection account to be first witnessed by women is something that stands out.  That’s not something the disciples would invent.  They had far more reason to hide the women’s involvement than to invent it if they were lying about Jesus’ resurrection.  The only reason to publicly mention the witness of the women was if it were true.  And it is!
  • So that’s who they were.  Think about what they were doing.  Can you imagine what must have been going through their minds as they watched Jesus on the cross?  The grief would have been incomprehensible as they witnessed the suffering of their son, nephew, friend, Master, Savior.  The worst nightmare for any parent is the death of their child – but for this kind of death?  To watch your child tortured and killed in this way is itself torture.  And on top of all of the human grief is the spiritual agony they endured.  After all, although these women knew Jesus as a human, even having watched him grow from a boy into a man, they also believed Him to be God.  They may not have understood everything of what it meant, but they did believe – they had true faith.  And right then at that moment, God the Son was torturously killed right before their eyes.  As present day believers, we long for the day that we will look into the eyes of Jesus.  Imagine looking into those eyes & seeing life pass from them.  That’s what took place for these women that day.  Thankfully, it will never take place again!  He is risen from the dead, and now we are saved!
  • This is where it all begins – not just for the women, but for all of us.  Salvation starts with the suffering of Christ.  We often tell people that salvation is the free gift of God (and it is!), but even though it is free to us does not mean that it came without cost.  It was purchased with the suffering, blood, and death of Jesus.

26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.

  • Although several women were present at the cross, one in particular stood out to Jesus: His mother Mary.  She had been with Jesus from (literally) the very beginning of His earthly ministry.  Not only had she given birth to Him & raised Him, but she was present from His very first miracle at the wedding in Cana.  In fact, she was the one to ask for it to take place (Jn 2).  Her husband Joseph was likely long-dead by this point.  He is absent from all four of the gospel accounts past any recollection of Jesus’ childhood.  As the firstborn, Jesus had the responsibility to care for His widowed mother, and He apparently did so with excellence.  Now He needed to care for her one last time, and He does so with John – “the disciple whom He loved.
  • Why John?  (1) He was there.  Apparently no other disciple was present, and if they were, all four gospel accounts are silent about them.  Any disciple would have been considered a brother of the Lord & would have been willing to do it if asked, but they needed to be there to be asked.  Jesus did have biological brothers and sisters, but they weren’t there either.  Most likely they remained in Galilee (far north of where Jesus and Mary were in Jerusalem), and they didn’t believe in Jesus anyway.  Jesus needed someone to care for His mother who not only cared for her as a person, but who shared her faith.  John made an excellent candidate.  (2) John himself may have been family.  If Mary’s sister was indeed Salome, then that made James & John cousins with Jesus (as well as being relatives with John the Baptist).  Thus it would make perfect sense for Jesus to charge not only His disciple, but His cousin, with the responsibility of caring for His mother.
  • John obviously agreed & took Mary into his home “from that hour.”  For John, there was no question of obedience, or any internal debate about possible inconveniences.  Jesus asked him to do something, and John did it.  (That all of us would be so quick to obey!)
  • Question #1: Why was all of this necessary?  Yes, Jesus was dying upon the cross, but it isn’t as if He was going to stay dead.  If Jesus was going on a three-day road trip, He may have arranged a place for Mary to stay, but He wouldn’t have permanently transferred custody.  Even if no one else understood, Jesus knew that He would rise in three days, so why do this?  Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, but He didn’t remain much with His disciples even after His resurrection.  His ministry among the disciples drastically changed after rising from the grave, and only a few weeks would pass before He physically ascended to His Father in heaven.  So yes, Jesus still needed to provide for His mother because He ministry among them would never be the same.
  • Question #2: Why is this even in the Bible?  It’s such a minor detail recorded only by John, unmentioned by any other gospel writer.  (1) Why wouldn’t John record it?  It’s his book, after all.  This is something that Jesus personally entrusted to him.  (2) It is minor.  It’s human.  At some point, all of us will do something like this in caring for our parents – it’s just part of the human experience.  And Jesus did it.  This whole event emphasizes His humanity.  When God the Son came to earth, He didn’t simply materialize out of thin air (like something out of Star Trek).  He came as all of us did: as a baby, born of a mother.  Thus Jesus had to care for His surviving parents, just like all of us.  God the Son shared the human experience because He came as a true Man.
    • This is all part of His Incarnation.  Jesus wasn’t partly human or even mostly human.  Jesus is all human, while being all God at the same time.  As a real man, Jesus can relate to whatever it is you & I face as real people.  He endured the same temptations & hardships & sufferings.  He went through everything: the minor irritations, the joys, and the major pains.  We try to put ourselves in other people’s shoes; Jesus actually did it!  Jesus became a human because humans needed saving.
  • His sacrificial work (vss. 28-30)

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, …

  • After providing for His mother, Jesus’ full attention was once more upon the task at hand.  Not that His attention ever left.  On the cross, it was impossible to do otherwise.  The experience was the very definition of “excruciating.”  (The word literally means “out of the cross.”)  It was pure undiluted agony.  Every breath required painful effort, not to mention what it took to form that breath into words.  Each and every word spoken from the cross was pregnant with pain.  If it did not absolutely require to be spoken, it wasn’t.  Yet all of the pain had a purpose: this was the wrath of God, poured out upon Jesus.  Sin requires punishment in order to be rectified, and Jesus did what was necessary to make things right.  He hung on the cross in our place, substituting Himself for our punishment.  And through it all, He knew something: “all things were now accomplished.”  What did He know?  It was almost over.  He had finished the work, faithful to fulfill it all, leaving nothing undone.
  • Although it is not apparent in English, there is an unmistakable statement made here in Greek.  What Jesus knows in vs. 28 is what He verbally declares in vs. 30.  When John writes that all things “were accomplished,” he uses the exact word (verb, tense, voice, and mood) that Jesus used when He said, “It is finished.” Τετελεσται.  One word in Greek, meaning that something is brought to its perfect completion.  And Jesus had done it.  Before even drawing His final breath, He knew that His labor had been sufficient.  He had fully endured the entire wrath of God that was owed to sin.  He had done everything His Father had given Him to do – up to & including caring for His earthly mother.  Only one thing remained: His death, and that was imminent.
  • Be careful not to take the obedience of the Son for granted.  If Jesus had not been fully obedient, we would all be lost.  If Jesus had committed one single sin – engaged & dwelt upon one lustful thought – if He had been anything less than fully perfect, then we would not have a sacrifice.  Jesus would have had to die for His own sin & not out own.  Yet He was perfect!  He was tempted in all ways as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15).  Because He was perfect, He finished the work.  Because He finished the work, now we can be made the sons and daughters of God.  Hallelujah!
  • Although the end was in sight, there was yet one more prophecy to be fulfilled, which directly tied into His crucifixion.  Look again at vs. 28…

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.

  • So Jesus knew that all things were accomplished, but He also know of one final prophetic Scripture.  He purposefully called attention to it when He spoke of His thirst.  Remember that every word spoken from the cross took immense effort and caused much pain.  Those who were crucified didn’t waste words.  What was it He said? “I thirst.”  That in itself was not unusual.  One of the expected tortures that accompanied crucifixion was extreme thirst.  Yet remember who spoke it: Jesus.  By this point, Jesus knew that He was mere moments away from death.  He knew that He fulfilled everything that the Father had given Him to do.  This was not the case of someone who didn’t know when they would die, or who expected to hang several more hours upon their cross.  This was Jesus.  Even with His incredible thirst (which was no doubt real), He had no reason to say anything about it, because His ordeal was almost over & He knew it.  Thus Jesus had a specific reason to speak, even in His agony: the Scripture needed to be fulfilled, and Jesus left nothing undone. (Even that which caused Him pain.)
  • What was the prophecy?  John does not tell us directly, and several suggestions have been proposed.  Probably the best candidate is: Psalm 69:21, "They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."  Earlier that day, part of this was fulfilled when the executioners attempted to give Jesus myrrh/gall as a way of deadening His pain, but Jesus refused.  Now, the second part of this is fulfilled as the soldiers gave Him unmixed wine vinegar.  No doubt this was the same drink on hand for the soldiers themselves.  It wasn’t expensive, nor was it tasty, but it did the job.  When Jesus spoke up, those who stood by soaked a sponge in the vinegar, put it on a plant reed & lifted it up to Jesus for Him to drink.  Apparently even this most basic act of human kindness caused controversy.  Some standing by called for the reed to be put away, wanting to see if Elijah would come down from heaven to save the Man on the cross (Mt 27:49).  Of course not only was their superstition wrong, their theology was totally backwards.  It wasn’t Elijah who would save Jesus; it was Jesus who was providing for the salvation of Elijah & every other saint of God!
  • But the point is that the Scripture was fulfilled.  The prophecy was done.  Every single thing given Jesus to do, He did – even to the most minor aspect of how His dying thirst was quenched.  Prophecy plays an incredibly important role in the ministry of Jesus, and is one of the God-given ways of identifying Jesus as the true Messiah (the hope of Israel & hope for the world).  Think of it this way: if you were told to expect a gift from a friend & that he was sending it via FedEx, then you’d likely ignore the postal service or UPS or any other delivery driver except FedEx.  You were told what to expect, and that’s what you were looking for.  That’s how prophecy works with Jesus, except to a far greater degree.  According to some estimates, there are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that speak of Jesus, ranging from His family tree to specific actions surrounding His birth, life, and death.  To take a mere handful of these prophecies and find them fulfilled in one single man in all of history is to accept a staggering small chance of probability.  To fulfill all 300 is to accept a statistical impossibility. Yet Jesus did it.  He did it all.  God told His people (and all the world) exactly what to expect regarding the Messiah, and Jesus did it.  Every single prophecy fulfilled by Jesus is one more testimony to His identity.  There ought to be no question who Jesus is, because He left nothing undone.  He even drank the right drink in the right way at the right time.
  • John describes the plant used for the reed as “hyssop.”  What the Bible often describes as hyssop is known today as Syrian Oregano, but scholars are unsure of the actual plant mentioned by John (18 different plants have been suggested by various people).  If it was the Syrian Oregano/Biblical hyssop, then it does grow stalks, but there is some question if a single stalk would support the weight of a soaked-through sponge.  Whatever the modern botanical classification, John described it as hyssop, and for good reason.  Hyssop was used in ceremonial cleansing from leprosy (Lev 14:4), and thus also from sin (Ps 51:7), of which leprosy is often a picture.  Even more specific to the events surrounding the cross, hyssop played a key role in the original Passover (Pesach פסח ), being the plant prescribed by Moses for the Hebrews to use in spreading the lambs’ blood on their doorposts. Exodus 12:21–23, "(21) Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. (22) And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. (23) For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you."  In Egypt, the Jews used hyssop to lift up the blood of the sacrifice over their doorposts, in order that the wrath of God might pass over them.  At the cross, hyssop was once again used in conjunction with the Passover Lamb, this time lifting up drink to the Lamb Himself, who was causing the wrath of God to pass over everyone who believes.  Jesus IS the true Passover Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn 1:29)

30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

  • With nothing left undone, Jesus declares the fact.  With one final word (τετελεσται), Jesus declares His final work complete & He dies.  It’s been observed that this single word was sometimes written over ancient invoices, or bills of debt.  When the word τετελεσται was written, it meant that the debt had been paid off – paid in full.  When Jesus fulfilled the work given to Him by God, He did more than simply obeyed to the utmost (as if that weren’t enough), He also fully paid off our debt against God.  Because of our sin, we owed God an infinite death, and Jesus paid it in a day!  What we could not do, Jesus did & He did it completely.  “It is finished!
  • Is there any word greater than this?  Τετελεσται, “It is finished!”  It is done – it is complete!  All of the sin of the past, τετελεσται, “It is finished!”  All of the sin of the future, τετελεσται, “It is finished!”  All of the wrath of God, τετελεσται.  All of the punishment that we deserved, τετελεσται.  What accusation can Satan now bring against us?  What argument can the devil throw at us that the work and declaration of Christ does not counter? Τετελεσται!  It is done!  There is nothing that we can do to justify ourselves, and there is nothing more that needs doing.  Jesus has done it ALL.  It is finished!
    • Charles Spurgeon said it in the way only he can: “The debt was now, to the last farthing, all discharged. The atonement and propitiation were made once for all, and forever, by the one offering made in Jesus’ body on the tree. There was the cup; hell was in it; the Savior drank it—not a sip, and then a pause; not a draught, and then a ceasing; but He drained it till there is not a dreg left for any of His people! The great ten-thronged whip of the law was worn out upon His back; there is no lash left with which to smite one for whom Jesus died! The great bombardment of God’s justice has exhausted all its ammunition; there is nothing left to be hurled against a child of God! Sheathed is your sword, O justice! Silenced is your thunder, O law! There remains nothing now of all the griefs, and pains, and agonies which chosen sinners ought to have suffered for their sins, for Christ has endured all for His own beloved, and “It is finished.”” (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit #421, Dec 1, 1861)  Amen!
    • Christian – is there anything in your life for which you cannot forgive yourself?  What more torment do you believe you can inflict upon your heart and mind that Jesus has not already endured?  What can we possibly add to the cross?  He has done it all!  It is finished!  It is finished with God, so let it be finished with you.  As long as your faith and trust is in Christ Jesus the Lord, then God has no condemnation against you.  Stop beating yourself up with the sins of the past, for they have been washed clean with the blood of our Savior.  Let go of your guilt, for you have already been forgiven by God.  2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."  You are brand-new because of the finished work of Jesus.  You’ve been given a new start, without any sword hanging over your head – without any threat from God based off what you used to be.  You’re not that person any longer!  And even when we sin as believing Christians, we still have no reason to hang onto guilt.  Dare we think that the work of Christ is insufficient to cover our sins of the present?  Obviously, we have no excuse to wallow in depravity, but when Jesus finished the work, it was truly finished!  Our present sins still find their atonement in Christ, because He work was enough.  If we but confess our sins & ask for forgiveness, we find it abundantly in Jesus (1 Jn 1:9).
  • After His declaration, Jesus did one but one final thing: He died.  But please don’t miss how it was done.  Others when crucified would strain their heads at the last moment, struggling to get one final breath, and slump over in death.  Not so with Jesus.  Jesus bowed His own head down, and willingly “gave up His spirit.”  Jesus was certainly killed when He died upon the cross, but His life was not taken from Him.  He chose to give it, and He did so at precisely the right time appointed Him by God.  This was not a slump of defeat; this was a restful slide into victory.  The world saw a death-blow to a would-be king; God saw the death-blow to death itself – delivered by the true King of kings.  The last breath of Christ was simultaneously the most tragic and most wonderful event to ever take place in history. With it, the price was paid & the love of God displayed.  With that final breath, we were redeemed – purchased from death & made the children of God.  1 Peter 1:18–19, "(18) knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."

Conclusion:
At that moment, the work of Jesus was complete.  He left nothing undone.  Be it from a human perspective in providing for His mother, or from a heavenly perspective in providing for us…Jesus did it all.  He kept every promise, fulfilled every prophecy, paid every debt.  “It is finished” – hallelujah!

Have you trusted in the final words and work of Jesus?  Have you trusted in Jesus Himself?  God made Himself man and put Himself in our place upon the cross.  He shared every aspect of humanity with us, apart from sin, and then He made Himself a sin sacrifice on our account.  He IS the Passover sacrifice, and His work is enough.  When He declares it is finished, it is!  Nothing more needs to be done.  Jesus paid it all, and His payment is enough.

Beloved, as a Christian, stop trying to add to the work of Christ.  Some cannot forgive themselves, but their forgiveness is finished.  Some try to set hard rules of legalistic righteousness, but the law is finished.  Find your rest in Christ!  Jesus has already paid your debt, and you couldn’t add to His work if you wanted to.  Stop trying!  Obviously, that doesn’t mean we aren’t to do anything.  Yes, we are to live for Jesus & for His glory by the power of the Holy Spirit, but we do so out of love & joy; not out of obligation.  We get to live for Jesus; that is a privilege granted to us – it’s not something we have to earn.  So rest in Him & in His finished work.

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