My name is Joachim Dietzel. I’m from Bonn Germany. I also have a Korean name. Many new missionaries who came to Bonn could not pronounce my first-name correctly. Instead of Joachim they say Johakim. So my Korean name became Kim, Jo-Ha. Do you know the meaning of Kim, Jo-Ha?. It means: I like Seaweed.
JESUS SAID, “IT IS FINISHED.”
Key Verse 19:30
“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
The cross is the symbol of Christianity. We can find the cross on every church steeple and on every altar. Young people like to wear silver or gold cross necklaces and young women even like to wear cross earrings. But many, who decorate themselves with crosses, do not know its exact meaning. In the past, the cross used to be a symbol of shame, failure and suffering. But after Jesus’ time, the cross became a symbol of victory, life and glory. Today, let us learn about the true meaning of the cross as we think about Jesus’ crucifixion, especially, his last words “It is finished.”
I. Jesus was crucified as the King of the Jews (16b-27)
In chapter 18, Pilate, the Roman governor, interrogated Jesus, but found no basis for a charge against him. However, in order to please the Jews he compromised and sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion.
Look at verses 16b and 17. “So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).” Usually, the condemned had to carry the cross beam, which weighed about 70 kg, by themselves. Jesus was completely exhausted, hungry and thirsty as a result of the last interrogation. The Roman soldiers had flogged him mercilessly with their whips, which had metal pieces attached to the ends. Jesus’ back was a torn up, bloody mess. When he was at the brink of death, the Centurion stopped their cruel torture. Afterwards, the soldiers mocked him by making him wear a purple robe, they gave him a stick as a sceptre in his hand and pressed a crown of thorns onto his head. “Hail, King of the Jews!”, they said. They spat in his face and struck his head. Finally, they put the heavy beam on his shoulders. On the way to the place of execution, Jesus collapsed several times. The soldiers forced Simon, who stood there watching the scene, to carry Jesus’ cross. When they arrived at Golgotha, they began the crucifixion.
Look at verse 18. “Here, they crucified him.” They tore off Jesus’ clothes and laid him on the cross. A soldier reached out for a heavy hammer and long iron nails. He placed one of those nails above Jesus’ wrists, and with heavy blows, drove it into the cross, straight through Jesus’ wrists. Biting pain filled Jesus’ whole body. Blood gushed out of the wounds. The soldier repeated the process on the other side. Finally, he pressed Jesus’ feet on top of one other and drove a long nail through them into the wood. Then they used ropes to erect the cross. At that moment, indescribable fiery pain and muscle cramps shook Jesus’ body. The torment that Jesus had to endure with every single breath is beyond description. In verse 18b, Jesus was crucified between two criminals. In this way he was regarded as the worst criminal.
Why was Jesus, who was completely innocent, executed in this most shameful and painful manner? Isaiah foretold, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering…. Surely, he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds, we are healed” (Isa 53:3-5). According to Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus was crucified in our place. We deserve to be punished in this most painful and shameful way because of our sins. However, Jesus was despised and rejected, he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows in his body. He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. Thank you Jesus.
What is “sin”? Sin is breaking God’s commandments. Someone who disobeys a public traffic law will be punished. I heard that Switzerland has the strictest list of fines. For example, a person can be fined 10 € for riding a bicycle without a properly functioning bell. ‘Ding, ding, ding..’ “This sound is not o. k. It must be ‘ding dang dong’ You have to pay 10€. God gave us his holy commandments. But who can abide by all of God’s commandments? Sin means to miss the point of one’s life, to live our lives without God, to be ungrateful to God. Sin causes us to exclude God from our lives, so that we strive for self-fulfillment and live according to our lust and desires, seeking personal honour instead of God’s honour. However, many people nowadays are numb towards sin. They think that sin is harmless, even amusing. However, when we look at the crucified Jesus, we realize just how serious sin is. When we look at the crucified Jesus, we realize that the wages of sin is death (Ro 6:23). It’s not 10 €, but death.
However, death is not the end. We also have to face God’s judgment and eternal condemnation. Many people falsely think that once we die, everything will be over. That’s why many people commit suicide when confronted with difficulties. But the Bible states very clearly that death is not the end of life. Hebrews 9:27 says, ”Just as a man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.“ And then they will be thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur (Rev 21:8). We can already see the consequences of sin in this life: fear, restlessness, a nagging, bad conscience, depression and so on. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe has the world’s highest suicide rate and cases are rising among young people. In Europe about 175 people per million per year commit suicide and the number of attempted suicides is estimated to be 10-15 times higher. People suffer so much under the power of sin. But Jesus took all our sins on his body to free us from eternal punishment.
Look at verse 19. ”Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.“ In those days these notices revealed the crime of the crucified person. But Jesus’ case was different. This verdict was written in three major languages: Hebrew - the mother tongue of the Jews, Latin - the global language, and Greek - the language of the culture. This reveals that Jesus died as the Saviour of the world. What does this notice mean? Jesus grew up in Nazareth, in Galilee. There he began his messianic ministry and performed many miracles. “Jesus of Nazareth” means that Jesus is the good shepherd, who was full of mercy. “Jesus of Nazareth“ was a friend to the lonely tax collector, Levi, and a true husband to a Samaritan woman. ”Jesus of Nazareth“ gave eyesight to the blind and made the lame walk. Jesus is everything to everyone. “The King of the Jews,“ means that Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is the promised Messiah. The King of the Jews rules our hearts with truth, love and peace. The King of the Jews is our one true hope.
When the high priests saw the this notice, they became angry. They protested and said, “Do not write ‘the King of the Jews’ but that this man claimed to be King of the Jews.“ But Pilate replied, “What I have written, I have written. Don’t be rebellious, go away!” Look at verses 23,24. While Jesus hung on the cross, the soldiers divided his clothes and cast lots for his gown. They cruelly used Jesus’ crucifixion for small material gain. They were ruthless, merciless, and greedy. But this happened so that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Jesus’ mother and the other two Marys were also standing under the cross. They cried endlessly. When Jesus saw his mother, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to the disciple who was next to her, “Here is your mother.” How beautiful is Jesus who truly understands the suffering of one person and gives true comfort in the midst of terrible suffering. In this way Jesus revealed his true humanity.
II. Jesus accomplished God’s salvation work (28-37)
Look at verses 28-30. “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’” This short sentence, “I am thirsty.“ reveals how resolutely Jesus struggled to obey God’s will, even to the point of death on the cross. “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” The day Jesus died was the day before the Passover. Therefore the Jews did not want the dead bodies to remain hanging on the cross. So they went to Pilate and asked him to break their legs and take them down. The soldiers broke the criminals’ legs but saw that Jesus had already died. Verse 34 reads, “Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” The blood and water gushing out of Jesus’ body indicate that Jesus’ blood circulation had completely collapsed. John continued, “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.” Some people believe that Jesus’ death was just an illusion or a man-made story. But as an eye witness of this event John testified with clear conviction that Jesus indeed died and that his death on the cross is a historical fact (24,28,36,37). Let’s read verse 30a again. “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’” What does “It is finished” mean?
First, it means that the Scriptures were fulfilled. Through Jesus’ death on the cross the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled down to the last detail. Here the author teaches us that the Bible is the truth of God in which we can place all our trust. Regarding Jesus’ death, John tells us that Jesus’ death was not just a coincidence or fate or the consequence of his sins. Rather, it was God’s plan and the climax of the redemptive work in God’s history.
Second, Jesus finished his mission. Whenever I get home and look around I always find several things unfinished, for example, the washing up, the homeworks of my children or some repairs. Do you know Franz Schubert? He is a famous Austrian composer. But he did not even bother to finish one of his symphonies. So they called it: ‘The Unfinished’. But Jesus was different. Jesus finished his mission. No one, except Jesus, the Son of God, said the words “It is finished.” in the last moments of his life. Most people are full of sadness, bitterness or fear of death in the last moments of their lives. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s last words were, “More light, more light!“ Mark Twain apparently led an enviable life, but on his deathbed, full of regret, said, “If I could live one more time… ” Jesus’ last words, however, were full of victory, because he knew that his mission would be fulfilled with his death. Jesus’ last words reveal that his death was not a failure, but was the victory over the power of sin and death.
Third, God’s salvation work was completed. With Jesus’ death on the cross God’s salvation plan was completed. In the time of the Old Testament the priest had to atone not only for his own sins but also for the sins of the people with the blood of numerous slaughtered animals. This atonement lasted only for a moment and this process had to be repeated, as soon as someone sinned again. However, Jesus Christ offered himself, shedding his blood as a ransom sacrifice for our sins. Jesus died for our sins and the effect of his forgiveness for our sins is eternal, because Jesus is sinless and he is alive eternally through his resurrection. When Jesus said, “It is finished”, the original text uses the present perfect tense. According to the Encyclopedia the present perfect tense is used to express action that has been completed with respect to the present. That means that Jesus’ sacrificial atonement is still valid in the present. His atonement offering has the power to save not only people who lived 2000 years ago, but also you and me who are living today.
With his death on the cross, Jesus completed God’s plan for our salvation 100%, not 99%, or 99.9% but 100%. Jesus paid the full price for our sins in order to save us. If Jesus had paid just 99% of the price, we still would have to pay 1% by our own efforts. But this doesn’t work, because we are completely depraved. We would not be able to pay back even 1% of our guilt. Even if we gave all our money or our whole lives and died as martyrs for God, this would be nothing, because our own blood is unholy and sick with sin. It is only by God’s grace that we are saved. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” On the cross, God’s love is fully revealed to mankind. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have eternal life”. Everyone who comes to Jesus by faith can receive God’s love of forgiveness. All we have to do is accept God’s precious gift, Jesus, who died for our sins as the lamb of God.
When Martin Luther was still a law student, he was caught in a heavy thunderstorm. He feared being hurt by lightening and promised that he would become a monk if God saved his life. As a monk he tried to please God by praying daily, fasting, and working hard in order to overcome his sin. He even undertook a long journey to Rome, where he went on the “Holy Steps” and prayed earnestly at every step from the bottom to the top. But when he reached the last step he only had wounded knees but didn’t receive God’s peace in his heart. The more he tried to fight against his sin, the more he despaired. Finally, he came to know the true meaning of the Cross of Jesus by meditating on Romans 1:17, which says, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Luther realized that Jesus already paid the price for his sins and that he only had to accept God’s grace of forgiveness by faith. When he did so, God’s peace entered his heart. Moreover, God changed his life and worked through his life mightily, using him preciously for the reformation of the corrupt church in his time.
I was full of pride and self-glory and strived for my own honour. I wanted to please people and receive their attention with my jokes and their recognition through my good achievements at the university. I became very adaptable to please everybody. However, through this I was caught in a web of lies. In addition, I was always afraid of being rejected by people. It was not possible for me to speak in front of a large crowd without sweat attacks and becoming red in the face. So when I was invited to 1:1 Bible study by Msn. Mary Shin, I was very surprised that she spoke so easily in her specific German to me and invited me out of the blue. But through 1:1 God touched my heart. On the cross, Jesus gave himself to me in order to atone for my selfish pride and my wrong desires of seeking my own honour. When God revealed his perfect love of redemption to me through Jesus’ victorious words on the cross, “It is finished.” I accepted it by faith. Then God gave me assurance that all my sins were forgiven and that I was saved by grace. God’s love filled my heart and freed me from my dependence and fear of men. God gave me true joy and peace. His love also set me free to go and invite people to 1:1 Bible study and to our Sunday worship services. The Cross of Jesus changed me from an unworthy and hopeless sinner to God’s chosen instrument for world campus mission. Praise Jesus!
Europe is a wonderful continent. But there is one main problem: more and more sin is being relativized. The consequences are an increase in corruption, violence, and constant acts of desperation, like suicides and massacres. Loneliness, lack of personal relationships, sexual immorality and false teachings like occultism and idol worship are also increasing. The economic and political union cannot be Europe’s true hope, as long as Europe is being destroyed inwardly by the bad influence of sin. God’s only hope for Europe is the Cross of Jesus. The Cross of Jesus changes sorrow into joy and shame into glory. The Cross of Jesus changes defeat into glorious victory. In the Cross of Jesus there is power by which our personal sin problem will be solved completely. At this hour let us hear and accept Jesus’ victorious last words on the cross, “It is finished.” by faith. May the Cross of Jesus change Europe into a blessing and a missionary sending continent.
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