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It Is Finished!

It Is Finished!

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Sermon on John 19:17-30 for Good Friday, Midday, March 30, 2018

  1. “Carrying his own cross, [Jesus] went out to the what is called the Place of the Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.” That may sound matter-of-fact that Jesus carried his own cross. It probably wasn’t the whole cross but the crossbar, the horizontal piece, about four inches by eight inches by six or seven feet long—about 130 pounds[1]. He’s carrying this 130 pound beam after being kept awake all night, after being beaten and whipped—the whipping would have caused some blood loss. In Matthew, Mark and Luke we read that the Romans forced Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross for some of the distance to Golgotha.
  2. “There they crucified him with two others, one on each side, and Jesus in the middle.” No, Jesus wasn’t the only one crucified. The Romans crucified many. It was their punishment for people in the territories they had conquered who weren’t Roman citizens. The Romans ruled with brutality and fear—and that was why they used crucifixion for execution. The Kirk Douglas movie Spartacus, depicted a slave rebellion in 71 B.C., and at the end of the movie, thousands of slaves were crucified along the roads near Rome. It was meant to be painful, shameful, and horrible. People usually didn’t die from blood loss but from exhaustion because having your arms stretched upward makes breathing very difficult, especially when it is hard to support yourself.
  3. 19Pilate also had a notice written and fastened on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.” 20Many of the Jews read this notice, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. 21So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that ‘this man said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” A written notice was also part of the shame. Imagine being marched to your death with a sign carried before you that said “This is a thief.” “This is a rebel.” Only Jesus’ title isn’t shameful—“This is the King of the Jews.” Pilate didn’t necessarily want to shame Jesus, but the people who brought Jesus to him. During the trial he asked, “Shall I crucify your king?” He didn’t think Jesus was any kind of king or any kind of threat to Rome. He was angry because the Jewish leaders woke him up early in the morning and shamed him into sending Jesus to his death. “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12). So he put up the sign to irritate the Jewish leaders—and the sign did irritate them.
  4. “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier. They also took his tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it. Instead, let’s cast lots to see who gets it.” This was so that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. So the soldiers did these things.” For Jesus, his garments, his clothing, was all he had. He didn’t own any property. He said “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). Dividing up all he had there, at the foot of the cross, was part of the shame. The soldiers didn’t have the good manners to do it later or do it out of sight. No. “Your life is over. You won’t even need your clothing. Here, let’s make a game of it to see who will get it!”
  5. “Jesus’ mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene were standing near the cross. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son!” 27Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother!” And from that time this disciple took her into his own home.” When you are sick, or you have some physical ailment or problem—a sprained ankle or a broken arm, what consumes your thoughts? Your problem. Your pain. Your need for help. But look at Jesus. Not Jesus. Tonight we will hear his words from the cross, and in three of them, his thoughts were about others. “Father, forgive them.” “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” “Woman, here is your son! Son, here is your mother!” Even in pain and suffering, Jesus kept the commandment, “Honor your father and mother.” Jesus fulfilled the commands of God in our place—even when suffering and dying. Jesus kept the commandment “You shall not murder,” which we have learned also means being aware or our neighbors’ bodily needs. He provided for his mother’s needs. Here on the cross, we see our Savior, perfect in his obedience, perfect in his love.
  6. “After this, knowing that everything had now been finished, and to fulfill the Scripture, Jesus said, “I thirst.” 29A jar full of sour wine was sitting there. So they put a sponge soaked in sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.” In the Nicene Creed we confess “He became fully human.” And here we see his humanity. God doesn’t need to be thirsty. He’s God—spirit, above and beyond any need. But in human form—fully human, he is thirsty. This tells us something about Jesus’ suffering. It wasn’t easier because of his divine nature. It wasn’t just the appearance of suffering, but real pain, real thirst, real anguish. And he felt it all—along with abandonment by his Father—as the Lamb of God, bearing the wages of sin for the whole world—taking what we deserved for our rebellion, our sins, known and unknown, willing and unwilling, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.”
  7. “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished!” Then, bowing his head, he gave up his spirit.” “It is finished.” What is finished? Everything. The suffering, the work of salvation, the reconciliation—everything. Finished. In the original Greek of the New Testament, “It is finished” is one word. Some scholars have found it on ancient bills or loan statements. It’s what the merchant or banker would write on the statement to mean “Paid in full.” “Finished” means nothing more needs to be done. It’s all complete. Our minds have a problem with that. Sometimes we’re misled by the popular idea of karma, that life is a great balancing act. You do bad things, you have to do good things to balance them out. The problem with that is that you never know when you’ve done enough, or if you did the right thing to balance out the wrong. But what does Jesus say? “It is finished.” It is enough! He has taken away the sin of the world. Sometimes guilt simply overwhelms us.  Deep down, we know “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). That’s something that we know from our conscience (See  Romans 1:32). But Jesus has the answer. “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). He says, “It is finished.” He did it all. St. Paul explained “It is finished” when he said, “So then, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Indeed, what the law was unable to do, because it was weakened by the flesh, God did, when he sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to deal with sin. God condemned sin in his flesh, so that the righteous decree of the law would be fully satisfied in us who are not walking according to the flesh, but according to the spirit” (Romans 8:1-2). With us, with all that we know, all that we feel, and all that we do, there is nothing but doubt. With that word, “finished,” there can be no doubts. With the one who said it, Jesus, there can be no doubts. Let that short sentence, “It is finished,” be the comfort for conscience, the comfort in trouble, the comfort when we face the end of life.

Amen.

John 19:17-30

Carrying his own cross, he went out to what is called the Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him with two others, one on each side, and Jesus in the middle. 19Pilate also had a notice written and fastened on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.” 20Many of the Jews read this notice, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. 21So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that ‘this man said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” 23When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier. They also took his tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it. Instead, let’s cast lots to see who gets it.” This was so that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. So the soldiers did these things. 25Jesus’ mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene were standing near the cross. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son!” 27Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother!” And from that time this disciple took her into his own home. 28After this, knowing that everything had now been finished, and to fulfill the Scripture, Jesus said, “I thirst.” 29A jar full of sour wine was sitting there. So they put a sponge soaked in sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished!” Then, bowing his head, he gave up his spirit. (EHV)

[1]http://www.woodweb.com/cgi-bin/calculators/calc.pl calculated with dogwood, which some traditions claim was the type of wood used for the cross.

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