There seem to be a lot of Christians who know the mind of God much better than I do. That is perfectly fine as far as I am concerned, because I am delighted with what I do know. And if it is true on their part – they do know the Lord well – then I’m sure it is very good for them.
Some claim to understand the death of the Lord Jesus well enough to be very dogmatic about the details. I wish that one of them would tell me why it takes all four gospels to fully describe that death. Why didn’t the Holy Spirit fully describe the Lord’s passing all at once and in one place, or perhaps four times in each of the gospels? That the Spirit didn’t bring all the details into one or two verse surprises me just a little bit. After all, it is so extremely important to our salvation. Furthermore, why does each of the evangelists supply us with just one little additional comment. Even when we add them together, we still are left – I am left – with a great deal of mystery. Mark starts out with the simple statement – “And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.” Matthew adds a single word and then uses one alternative word – “Jesus, when he had cried AGAIN with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.” But then neither Matthew nor Mark tell us what it was Jesus said. John supplies part of that message – Jesus cried, “It is finished, and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” And then Luke tells us just a bit more – “and when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” This was probably the last thing our Saviour uttered before His last breath – but I can’t be sure.
As we consider these words, I hope that the saints among us are properly prepared. This is holy ground – there must not be any pride or self-importance in us, if we hope for the slightest blessing. And I hope that there isn’t any Bethshemeshite curiosity in us this morning. After the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Israel from the Philistines in I Samuel 6 – the Lord “smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD.” There are undoubtedly aspects of the death of Christ which are so intimate that they belong only to the God-head, and we must not try to go there. On the other hand what has been revealed by God ought to become a part of our meditation. There is a fine line between obligation and sinful presumption.
There are some interesting thoughts contained in the details of these texts, which ought to be examined.
For example, verse 46 tells us that “Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” When Jesus “cried out” at that time, the Greek word merely suggests that He shouted. But just before Christ died “He cried out AGAIN” using a different word – the word that Mark also used. It suggests the sound of a crow – He “croaked out” the words, “It is finished.” This is a detail which reminds us of the extent to which the Lord was suffering for our salvation. He was thoroughly parched; His throat and mouth were totally dry. His voice was nearly gone, not from speaking, but from His suffering, exposure and dehydration.
Then three of the four gospels tell us that Christ Jesus cried with “a loud voice” – He croaked out LOUDLY. The reason why the Lord raised His voice is not explained. Was He loud because under the circumstances that was simply the way His voice emerged? You’ve probably noticed that once in a while when you speak the words don’t come out the way that you expected. Sometimes it’s an unintended whisper, or perhaps sounding more harsh than you intended. But then sometimes you intend to be loud. Why do we ever raise our voices? Sometimes it is due to our excitement – but I don’t think this would apply on this occasion. Why does the man of God raise his voice when he preaches? First, there is his excitement about what he has to say. But then sometimes people need to be aroused out of their stupor – or their outright sleep. Was Lord TRYING to be heard? If so, by whom? At least one, if not both of Jesus’ final statements, were directed toward His Heavenly Father. But no one needs to shout in order to be heard by the all-hearing God. Perhaps it was so that the Apostle John would hear – and thus these two statements would be forever enshrined in the Word of God. But the Holy Spirit could have guaranteed the record without the Lord’s loud croak. The truth of the matter is – I don’t know why He shouted.
Following what Jesus said, all four gospels tell us that Jesus “yielded up” or “gave up” the ghost. And of course, the word “ghost” refers to His spirit – in this case His life – He died ! “Christ DIED for our sins according to the scriptures.” “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ DIED for us.” While it is true that Christ died, there is more involved than simply that His life came to its natural end. All four evangelists say that He “yielded up” or “gave up” His spirit in death, and they use three different Greek words to express themselves. Mark and Luke merely say that Jesus breathed out His spirit – which is certainly true. But Matthew uses a word which tells us that He “sent away” His spirit. And John uses the word “paradidomi (par-ad-id’-o-mee) which speaks about “passing something over” into the hands of another. The point of all four gospels is that Jesus willingly RELINQUISHED His spirit to God. Without using the same Greek words as Matthew and John – Luke says, “when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”
So it might be argued that Jesus Christ was not murdered by either the Jews or the Romans. His life was not taken from Him, as Jesus clearly prophesied. John 10 – “I lay down my life for the sheep. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No make 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. This commandment have I received of my Father.” “This commandment have I received of my Father” – this was a part of the covenant between the Father and the Son which resulted in our salvation. Jesus Christ died as a voluntary, vicarious sacrifice for the sins of His elect people. This was the purpose of the incarnation – for this reason a child was born and for this reason the Son of God was given. “He GAVE His life a ransom for many.”
Jesus’ penultimate statement from the cross was – “It is finished.”
In my preparations for this message, I read the comments of several good men about this statement. A.W. Pink has a wonderful little book which I read at least thirty years ago, called, “The Seven Sayings of Christ on the Cross” – he spent a chapter on these three words. Many of the men that I read seem to know exactly what it was which came to an end that day. And certainly there were several things – but to what exactly did our Saviour refer? That is a question I cannot answer with any assurance.
By the way, I have noticed that some commentators make a big thing about the fact that in this Jesus spoke only one word – “teleo” – “finished.” Jesus’ last few statements were brief and to the point – pithy – concise and forcefully expressive. “I thirst” is one word in Greek, and “it is finished” is also one single word. The Greeks use to say that their language is the most precise among all human tongues. One word could express what would take an English sentence and a whole paragraph in some languages. Since it took great effort for Christ to say anything, there must have been purpose in “it is finished.”
The first point in Brother Pink’s article states – “Here we see the accomplished fulfillment of all the prophecies which had been written of Him ere he should die.” No one can fault Pink in this – it is an accurate statement of fact. We have had a message on the dozens of prophecies which were fulfilled in the death of Christ. And all which we know to be about the crucifixion have indeed been fulfilled – or not been fulfilled – such as “not a bone of him was broken.” But was this Jesus’ purpose in using this word? I rather doubt it was Jesus’ intention, because there are a hundred more prophecies yet to be fulfilled by Christ in regard to the Millennium, Israel and our ultimate salvation. Besides, what is the point? The Father certainly knew that everything necessary had been fulfilled.
Another thing which came to an end at this time, was the suffering of Christ. Never would the Lord Jesus hurt again. Is there pain in heaven? Can a glorified body feel physical pain? How about emotional pain? Whether or not God’s saints can suffer after their deaths, I sincerely doubt the Son of God can or does. But throughout His earthly life He endured trials and “was tempted like as we are – yet without sin.” We read the clinical explanation of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, but I doubt that we will ever know the depths of the pain involved in that. And how was Jesus treated by His neighbors – by His brethren – we shall probably never know. Then as I have said many times, Gethsemane is a complete mystery to me. It was so painful to Christ that He sweat as it were great drops of blood. And those initial drops preceded the blood bath inflicted upon Him by Caiaphas, Annas, Herod and Pilate. Then came the crucifixion itself – perhaps the most painful death man has ever devised. Personally, I have felt very little pain during my life, despite broken bones, surgeries, shingles and what not. I cannot begin to imagine what it was that my Saviour suffered for me. But whatever it included all came to an end in the word “finished.”
Some people suggest that what came to an end that day was the power of Satan. That is A.W. Pink’s seventh point, but then he steps back a bit by saying, “see it by faith.” Was Satan looking on the crucifixion rubbing his hands together enjoying great victory? Perhaps so. Whether true or not, little did he realize that this was another step towards his ultimate defeat. Certainly for the saint of God, the Devil is a vanquished enemy. Hebrews tells us that Christ, through death, “has destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” We all used to walk “according to the Prince of the power of the air,” but that is no longer true for saints. I John 3:8 – “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” But was that fully accomplished at Calvary? Aren’t we still afflicted by the evil one? By faith we know that it is the truth, but in the flesh – practically speaking – Satan still plagues us.
Some commentators say, I think rather foolishly, that the law’s authority over us has been finished. One has to be very careful in saying something like this. First, the law still condemns sin, whether it is found in the lost person or the child of God. And death still reigns over us all, BUT is that because of the law or because of the curse. What is the relationship between the law and the curse of sin? Some people think that obedience to the law saved sinners in bygone days, but now salvation is by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Christ. Be careful on this point, because in one sense there is some truth to it. But on the other hand, Old Testament saints were saved in prospect through Christ, the Lamb of God. They were saved by grace through faith in much the same way that people are today. Certainly the law has never saved anyone. And doesn’t the law still teach the man redeemed by the blood of Christ, what is sin and what isn’t? We must still preach the law of God as ministers of the gospel.
In the same way that the Law is not finished, neither is sin finished. Because as long as we remain in our flesh, we are going to be plagued by sin. Even though some say that our sins came to an end, when Jesus said “finished,” my experience tells me otherwise. In prospect – yes. Ultimately – yes. But practically – no. By faith and in the will of God, much came to an end when Jesus said “it is finished,” but we can’t enjoy those blessings just yet.
However, in the death of Christ, all that law taught and prefigured about salvation was thoroughly finished. For hundreds of years, Israelite families had been sacrificing the Passover lamb, taking its blood and applying it to their doorways, then dining on its meat. But now, the ultimate Lamb of God has come and been sacrificed. Jesus has been saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” For hundreds of years the high priest of Israel has been carefully sacrificing the goat of the Atonement. He has been taking its blood behind the veil in the Tabernacle and more lately in the Temple, sprinkling it on the Mercy Seat as a covering for the sins of believing Israel. But in the death of Christ, the new High Priest, Christ Jesus, will be taking His own blood and presenting it to the Father in heaven. Never will the Atonement need to be offered again. No more will these or any other blood sacrifice ever be necessary – they are all “finished.” “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” But with the offering up of the Son of God, the blood of the final sacrifice has been made. As Jesus told us, “For this is my blood of the new Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
Hebrews 9 – “It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”
Out of all the suggested explanations for “It is finished” – this one stands out above them all – salvation from sin is finished. But most Catholic and Protestant churches try to tell their people that such is not the case – salvation is not finished. To what Jesus accomplished must be added some water for baptism or christening. Some will say that if the Lord’s body is not eaten and if His blood is not swallowed on some semi-regular basis, the work of salvation is not finished. The list of human addenda and codicils attached to the testament of the finished work of the Lord is lengthy – church membership, sacrifice, humility, generosity, hospitality, self-denial, priestly confession, poverty…. But Christ Himself said – “It is finished” – “done” – “completed.” To humbly accept by faith what Christ has accomplished, is not a work which we perform in order for God to bestow His salvation grace. Repentant faith is simply the accepting of God’s free gift. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Christ said – “It is finished, and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”
And then Luke adds just one more thing – “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Christ Jesus was in complete control of Himself, as God the Father was in control of the rest of the crucifixion. When everything necessary for the salvation of God’s elect was “finished,” Christ acknowledged it and released His spirit from His body. The circle became complete – the incarnation had accomplished its purpose, and the glorify of the Son of God was returned. Now, as we see in the death of Stephen, the Saviour awaits the arrival of those whom He redeemed through His sacrificial death.
Are YOU prepared for the day when your spirit will be recalled by its Creator? Are you doubly the property of God, purchased by the blood of the crucified one? Is your faith in the finished work of Christ?