It was breathtaking as we sat in a small gazebo in Jerusalem. Our Holy Land group was at the Garden Tomb, it’s a private park owned by a religious organization in England. We were listening to a British gentleman explain why they believed the Garden Tomb is the actual place where Jesus had been buried. He was telling us it’s because it had to be near Golgotha where Jesus was crucified.
Then, he gestured over our shoulders to our right. We all turned to look through the vine-covered lattice of our gazebo, and for the first time we saw the Place of the Skull in the cliff beside us. It gave us chill bumps to think this might have been the hill where Jesus was crucified between 2 thieves. Everything we had heard and studied about the Crucifixion passed through our minds rapidly as we tried to imagine Jesus dying on the cross for our sins.
That’s the setting for my text today. You follow as I read John 19:17-30.
The translators of the King James Bible used 3 words to translate the 1 Greek word, tetel’estai. In the Greek that one word means simply “finished!” They added the “it is,” but that makes it sound like only one thing was finished. Neither the 1 Greek word nor the 3 English words can adequately translate all the multi-faceted work Jesus completed on the cross. We may never comprehend all that Jesus finished for us, but we can’t go wrong letting the Bible itself point these out to us. Look again at our text, and I’ll show you at least 5 things the text says to me.
I. FINISHED: THE LAVISHNESS OF LOVE, vs. 17-18
At the beginning of my text, verses 17-18 remind me that the lavish display of God’s love was finished at Golgotha. Jesus publicly bore the cross through the streets of Jerusalem for all to see. When they crucified him, he was suspended between heaven and earth to draw all attention to himself. His death was at a crossroads so metropolitan that they had to write his accusation in 3 languages. Do you wonder why he let them humiliate him publicly? Why not just die quietly? It would still pay for our sins. He was showing the whole world how much he loved us!
I remember when we lived in East Ridge, TN; we had to drive through a Missionary Ridge tunnel to get to downtown Chattanooga. Every time they would paint the inside of “the tube,” as they called it, young men in love would spray-paint it the next night with messages of love: “Jeff loves Linda” or “Bobby plus Sally equals true love!” You’ve heard of men renting billboards or hiring an airplane to carry a banner proposing to their sweethearts. People in love do crazy things on the spur of the moment!
God is in love! He’s in love with us, but he never acts on the spur of the moment. He took thousands of years to plan his proposal to us. When he came as Jesus to die for our sins, he finished the greatest display of love the world could ever see. We were on the auction block going to the highest bidder, and Satan was winning. He had promised us to his cohorts, Sin and Death. Then, Jesus made a bid Satan was unwilling to top. Jesus took us down and stepped on that auction block in our place.
The One in whose presence angels cover their faces gave himself to Satan, Sin, and Death for 30 pieces of silver. They ridiculed him, tormented him, spit on him, beat him, nailed him to a cross, killed him, and sealed him in Death’s dark tomb guarded by all the demons of Hell. That’s what they had planned to do to us! But, Jesus took our place, fought off our enemies, and broke out of that tomb so he could come back and never be separated from us again. How’s that for a demonstration of love?
Finished: the lavishness of love. If you ever doubt how much God loves you, just look again at Calvary!
II. FINISHED; THE CROWNING OF CHRIST, v. 19
A second look at verse 19 might remind us that Jesus was crowned King of the Jews when he died. And, I’m not talking about his crown of thorns. It was Roman custom when they crucified someone to post his crimes. This would be a deterrent to keep others from committing those same crimes. Governor Pilate nailed a sign to Jesus’ cross that he was the King of the Jews. The chief priests didn’t like the wording of his sign. It was an offense to them that strangers might think Rome was actually crucifying a Jewish king. They said, “Don’t write ‘King of the Jews’. Write that he said he was King of the Jews.” Pilate decided they were nit-picking, so he refused to change his sign.
I’m glad Pilate didn’t change the sign! Jesus didn’t die because he claimed to be King of the Jews; he died because he is King of the Jews. That’s what the Jewish Messiah would come to do. Throughout the Old Testament God had told the Jews they would recognize their Messiah by his death. Genesis 3:15 said the Seed of the woman would be bruised by the serpent.
When Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac, God showed him that His Ram would one day die in our place. The same picture was repeated every time a priest made a sacrifice for a sin offering.
Psalm 22 graphically described the death of Messiah on the cross 1,000 years before it happened; as did Isaiah 53 later prophesy that “by his stripes we are healed.” Daniel 9:26 says, “After threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off.” Zachariah 12 says, “They shall look upon him whom they pierced.” Even Jesus told the Jews that the only sign they would be given to prove his Messiahship would be the sign of Jonah, which prophesied Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Pilate was right to have the sign read that Jesus was the King of the Jews. His death finished crowning him King. Now, God can say to the Jews, “I told you in advance, I told you myself as Jesus, and I even had Pilate put a sign on my cross that I was your King, but you still rejected me!” Friend, neither will you have an excuse if you reject Jesus as your King.
III. FINISHED: THE ROBE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, vs. 23-24
Third, look at verses 23-24 and you’ll see how the soldiers divided Jesus’ possessions and gambled for his robe. They not only took his life, they took everything on this earth that he owned. They didn’t even give his personal effects to his grieving mother. The soldiers didn’t know it, but they were brushes and colors in God’s hands painting a picture of the benefits we receive from Jesus’ death.
The soldiers fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 22 by dividing his garments among themselves. Isaiah 61 says we receive his robe of righteousness when we trust God. All of our righteousness is as filthy rags compared to the pure and holy righteousness God requires to get into Heaven. We’ll never make it on our own.
Billy Bob and Jimmy Joe in the hills of West Virginia were talking. Billy Bob asked, “Have you ever eaten polecat meat?” Jimmy Joe replied, “No. Why do you ask?” Billy Bob said, “It’s delicious! Sallie Sue is selling some for $10 a pound.” Jimmy Joe said, “I can’t afford that! Why is it so expensive?” Billy Bob answered, “Have you ever tried to clean one?”
There’s no way we can ever clean ourselves up enough to get into Heaven, so Jesus sanitizes and deodorizes us in his cleansing blood and gives us his robe of righteousness. In God’s sight, our sin debt is settled and we stand righteous before him.
The soldiers also unknowingly painted a picture of what every person without Christ is still trying to do. They’re gambling for that robe of righteousness. They’re trying every other way to earn God’s favor. They’re gambling with their own souls, while the answer hangs right over their heads: Jesus died to give everyone who trusts in him the only robe of righteousness God will accept. You and I need never try anything else to cover our sins. Jesus finished our robe of righteous- ness when he stamped our sin debt “Paid in Full” by his death.
IV. FINISHED: THE FOUNDING OF THE FAMILY, vs. 26-27
Verses 26-27 tell us that while Jesus was suffering on the cross, he was concerned about his mother and his youngest disciple. Both had depended on Jesus so much, his death was a terrible blow to them. So, what did Jesus do? He gave them each other for their mutual comfort. The love they had for him could now be lavished on each other to help them through their grief. He still does that today through his Church where he gives us each member to encourage the others.
But, I believe much more was happening here than we see on the surface. I believe Jesus was founding the family of God. Mary and John were among the first ones in it. You see, a new relationship was made possible when Jesus died. It is stronger and more lasting than any earthly relationships we know here. From that moment on, Mary was no longer the mother of Jesus. She became his sister! That’s why Protestants don’t pray to Mary as the mother of God. John was no longer his cousin and his youngest disciple; he became a brother of Jesus and a joint-heir to the Kingdom of God. Both of these along with millions of others would be in the new family of God.
You see, the Jews didn’t understand that God was their Heavenly Father. He was too high up and too far removed from them to be that familiar. They wouldn’t even pronounce his name; it was too holy! They called Jesus a blasphemer because he dared to refer to God as his Father. In Nazareth they had tried to throw him over a cliff when he claimed to be God’s Son. They said, “We knew his father, and his mother and brothers and sisters are here in Nazareth. He’s not God’s Son!”
But, those who reject Jesus as God’s Son can never know God as their Heavenly Father. Jesus is God’s only begotten, the first-born of the new family he established. Paul wrote in Romans 8 about our new relationship. Everyone who trusts Jesus receives the spirit of adoption so we can now call God “Abba”, which means “Father” or “Daddy.” Flip your Bible over a page to John 20:17 and you’ll see what I’m talking about. We take this for granted, but it was an unknown concept before Jesus died. There, he told the good news to Mary Magdalene that he was ascending to his Father and her Father, to his God and her God. Jesus not only called God his Father; he was now Mary’s Father, also! God can now be your Father, too. Jesus finished everything that was needed to begin the family of God.
V. FINISHED: THE WAY TO THE WATER, v. 28
Fifth, look at John 19:28. I’m told that crucifixion is an agonizing death by suffocation and dehydration. Not only is it difficult to lift your chest and breathe when you’re hanging by your hands, but when your life’s blood is draining out, you feel an intense thirst. This reminds us that Jesus felt every pain. Just because he was God, he didn’t take the easy way out. He cried out, “I thirst!” Physically, the reason he was thirsty was because all his body fluids were draining out. But, spiritually, he was thirsty because he was emptying himself.
Verse 28 is amazing: It fulfills Psalm 67, but it also fulfills Scripture that hadn’t even been written at that time. Turn to Philippians 2:7. In the King James, it says Jesus “made himself of no reputation”, but the Greek literally says, “he emptied himself.” We would do it no harm to coin a new phrase and say “he thirsted himself.” I wish the translators had used the literal phrase, because he was emptying himself of the Water of Life to give it to us. That’s why he was thirsty!
Now, turn to John 7:37. There we read about a time when Jesus attended a feast at the Temple. On the last day of the feast, it was customary for the priest to pour out a cup of water. As he did this, he prayed for God to quench their thirst for God as the water quenched the parched ground. At this, Jesus cried out, “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink!” That’s because, as Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4, for those who trust in him be will cause a well of water to spring up within us unto eternal life.
“I am the Way,” he said in John 14:6. On the cross, Jesus opened the way to the Water of Life. He told the believing thief that very day they would be together in Paradise. Revelation 22:1 says the River of Life that flows through Heaven’s paradise bursts forth from the Throne of God and Jesus. It’s when God is on the throne in our hearts and Jesus is Lord that we have eternal life. When Jesus thirsted on the cross, he was pouring out the Water of Life for us. He finished all that was needed to make that River possible. But, we have to give him the throne of our hearts.
From the cross Jesus shouted, “Tetel’estai!” - “Finished!” You know, of course, that in one sense all these things were finished when Jesus completed the work for us. However, there is another sense in which his work in us has just begun as we personally respond to him. His love for us will never be finished. Neither will his Kingship. Our robe of righteousness, and God’s Family, and the River of Life will never cease. The work to provide them was finished, but our growth in each of these will continue throughout eternity. Our response today should be to say, "Lord, take my life and finish your work in me!"