Summary: A brief look at our Savior's final minutes on the cross taken from the three sayings of Jesus from the cross recorded only be John.
“It Is Finished!”
Text: John 19:17-30
Recently I was talking with one of our members and I conceded that one of the biggest challenges I face is what to preach on each Sunday. While there are some ministers who have their sermons planned out for the entire year, I develop mine week to week – although I may be thinking ahead about a particularly difficult topic. But, one subject that needs to come up frequently is the death of Christ. And I’d like to focus on some aspects of our Savior’s final moments on the cross this morning. In fact, I want to deal with two very human aspects of the crucifixion and then one facet that is a little deeper – theologically speaking. The title is simply: “It Is Finished!” As always, I urge you to open your Bibles to our text this morning that begins in John 19:17 as we study together. And, please, search the scriptures daily this week just like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 to make sure I’m preaching the truth of God’s word.
Since His arrest probably 18 hours earlier, Jesus has been unjustly accused and tried, mocked, spat upon, slapped, scourged and crucified. He has been hanging on the cross between two thieves for nearly six hours struggling to breathe. In John’s account that we’re using, the soldiers have cast lots for His tunic as prophesied in Psalm 22:18. Now we come to an event on the cross recorded only by John so let’s read verses 25-27 together: Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. What a touching scene as these women stood at the foot of the cross with the apostle John. Here we have recorded one of the seven sayings of Jesus on the cross: “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” In the midst of His agony, Jesus saw to the needs of His mother through John. Of the seven sayings from the cross, three are unique to John’s gospel as this one is, three are unique to Luke and one is common to both Matthew and Mark. Based upon the list of women found in Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40, some have conjectured that John led Mary away from the cross so she would not witness His actual death – but this we do not know. What we do know is that there are most probably three women plus Mary the mother of Jesus watching this horrible crucifixion – not to mention the other women found in Mark 15:41. In addition to Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the other two ladies are Jesus’ aunt or Mary’s sister named Salome, the wife of Zebedee and Mary, the wife of Clopas, who is also the mother of James and Joseph. This is James the Less to distinguish him from John’s brother – the son of Zebedee – and is probably the same as James the son of Alphaeus. When Jesus speaks to Mary, He tells her to behold her son – indicating John. And then He reciprocates by telling John to behold his now adopted mother Mary – even though his birth mother Salome is standing there also. This very personal exchange was instigated by Mary’s oldest son Jesus – again indicating Joseph is deceased – to provide for His mother. Even though His brothers are included as believers after our Lord’s ascension back into heaven (Acts 1:14), John 7:5 states that His brothers didn’t believe in Him. They were probably not even present at the crucifixion so Jesus was entrusting the care of His mother to one of His closest disciples and probably His first cousin if the above assessment is correct. John took her into his home and cared for her from that hour. While there are some varying traditions about John’s care for Mary we’ll just accept what the text says. Considering the agony of the moment and the weight of the sins of the world pressing down on Him, this brief account reinforces the human side of our Savior – the son of Joseph and Mary – as He remembers His mother in His dying moments. Another human aspect is found in the next two verses so let’s read them together: After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 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. The redemptive work of Jesus on earth was almost complete – fulfilling so many OT prophecies. There was at least one more awaiting fulfillment so Jesus utters a one-word saying in Greek from the cross – “I thirst!” While His thirst is foreseen in the Messianic Psalm 22:15 as His strength is dried up and His tongue clings to His jaws, Jesus probably said He was thirsty so that the prophecy of Psalm 69:21 could be fulfilled where David wrote, “And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Jesus must have really been dehydrated by this time and was truly thirsty. We’ll see in verse 30 that He accepts the sour wine but you may remember His refusal to drink in Mark 15:23 – Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it. This was just before they nailed Him to the cross and the myrrh mixed with wine was supposed to numb the pain – but Jesus refused this sedation. Now He is thirsty and the soldiers just happen to have a vessel of sour wine handy – probably to slake their own thirst on such a long, hot day. Perhaps this is also a reflection of a little bit of compassion in these soldiers to fill a sponge with this sour wine, place it on a stalk of hyssop and lift it to Jesus’ mouth. Now that we’ve looked at these two very human aspects of Jesus’ final minutes on the cross with two of His seven sayings from the cross, I want us to look a little deeper at the inspired John’s statement about Jesus in verse 28: knowing that all things were now accomplished. There are some interesting things with the Greek of this verse and verse 30 but I want to focus on what was meant by Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished. Time would not allow us to start with the prophecies in Genesis 3:15 and 12:3 and continue through the OT with all the Messianic prophecies and then their fulfillment in the NT. But let’s look at three statements of Jesus recorded by John which point to the work Jesus came to do. First is John 4:34 as Jesus speaks to His disciples after His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar – Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” Jesus was on a mission with a limited time to accomplish it. The second passage is in John 5:36 – “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish – the very works that I do – bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.” The third and final passage I want us to examine is a part of Jesus’ prayer for unity – specifically, John 17:4 – “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” Now in His final minutes on the cross Jesus can truly look back and know He has accomplished what His Father sent Him to do. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane less than 24 hours earlier, Jesus had prayed fervently three times that this cup of suffering and death might pass away from Him. Yet it was the Father’s will that His only begotten Son become the perfect atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. And Jesus submitted to the will of His Father – not only because He was an obedient Son but also because He loved each and every one of us in spite of our sins. And now we come to verse 30 – the final one – of our text from John 19: So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. Now that He had received the prophesied drink of sour wine, all things were accomplished. Interestingly, “were accomplished” in verse 28 is only one word in Greek. But Jesus uses the very same Greek word – same tense and everything – to declare “It is finished!” Can you imagine the exhaustion Jesus is experiencing yet knowing He will arise triumphant from the dead in probably less than 40 hours? John’s record of our Lord’s death is very terse – And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. But it is significant to note that He gave up His spirit. In a sense, we can say that the crucifixion did not kill Jesus. Notice carefully our Lord’s words in John 10:17-18 – “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes 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 command I have received from My Father.” Jesus voluntarily died on the cross – but He controlled His death. He gave up His spirit when He was ready – when He had finished the work His Father sent Him to do. I want us to close by taking note of how the other gospels record the final breath of Jesus on the cross. Matthew 27:50 puts it this way: And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Mark 15:37 simply says: And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Finally, we come to Luke 23:46 – And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last. As God in the flesh, Jesus had willingly died. As we often sing, “He could have called 10,000 angels. But He died alone, for you and me!”