It Is Finished!

John 19:28-30.

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth.

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.

After Jesus took care of His mother, Mary, He knew there was only one thing left for Him to do. Only one act to fulfill all scripture.

The process of execution, including the blood He lost during the scourging, and the sweat of His suffering, drained a lot of fluid from His body. That He could speak, at this point, was in itself an amazing thing. With intense dehydration, the mouth, tongue, and lips are parched and often sealed together. In order to make His last great statement from the cross, He needed some moisture.

In Luke 12:50, Jesus said, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” He was at the beginning of the work He had come to do.

II Cor. 5:21. describes the time when the work was being done: “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

Now, the work was done. Mark 15:23 says, “And they gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but He received it not.” The wine was a cheap, diluted liquid more like vinegar. No luxuries for a condemned man. The myrrh was a kind of anesthetic, offered to the victim before he was nailed to the cross to dull the pain just a little bit. Jesus did not partake of the mixture. He needed to feel the full weight of the sin of all mankind. Once that horror had been accomplished, Jesus stated, “I thirst.”

One of the soldiers soaked a sponge in the sour wine. It contained no myrrh, but is thought to have been there for the soldiers to use as they kept their long vigil. This wine was just plain, cheap, sour wine.

When the sponge was soaked, the soldier put the sponge on hyssop and raised it to Jesus’ mouth.

Hyssop is a small, bushy plant of the mint family. Obviously it had branches long enough to serve the purpose of raising the sponge to Jesus’ mouth, but it is also significant that it was a plant used for cooking, for some medical applications, and for purification. It was used to apply the blood of the passover lamb to the top of the door, and the posts of the door. It was symbolic of the cleansing of the soul.

When Jesus had moistened His lips, tongue and throat, He lifted His head and spoke: “It is finished.” And He bowed His head, and gave up His life.

Near the Cross

John 19:25-27.

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son!

Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

Often, as the mother of three sons, I have thought about what His mother, Mary, suffered as she watched His torture and death. It’s difficult to put myself in her place. I’m sure the experience aged her in a short time, and that she wanted to die with Him. I have also wondered why Jesus gave John the responsibility of her care when she had other sons of her own. Perhaps because John was young, and Jesus loved him especially. He knew Mary would be cherished in John’s household.

Three Mary’s stood near the cross: His mother, whom we can assume had been widowed by this time; His aunt; and Mary Magdalene, whose life had been transformed by Jesus’ ministry. They had watched, it can be assumed, His progress through the trials, insults, beatings, scourging, and finally His crucifixion. All of these were public events back then, done in the open perhaps to warn anyone else what would happen if they stepped across the line of Roman domination.

When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple when He was eight days old, Simeon held Jesus in his arms and recognized Who He was: “Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:35). Mary’s suffering was enough to bring her to her knees, for sure.

It is likely that Mary the wife of Cleophas here was the same as Salome in (Mark 15:40), and that she was ‘the mother of the sons of Zebedee’ (Matthew 27:56). It was this Mary, along with Mary Magdalene, who was among the first to discover that Jesus’ tomb was empty three days later.

In my imagination, I see these three women standing by, weeping, helpless. They must have tried to comfort one another, and especially to comfort His mother, as they watched His life’s blood drip from his body to the ground.

The disciple Jesus loved: John never refers to himself by name, but used this descriptor four times in his gospel: (John 13:2319:2621:721:20).

When Jesus said, “Woman! Behold thy son.” There was no disrespect. In His day, the term was similar to our “Ma’am,” showing great respect. It was clear in His directives to Mary and John that they were to accept the relationship of mother and son. John took Mary home with him that very day, and as far as we know she stayed with him until she died.

Again, the question as to why Jesus designated John to be Mary’s protector, and not one of His own brothers. We have nothing in scripture to clarify, so it is all conjecture. I wonder if it was because His own brothers did not follow Him during His earthly ministry, and did not yet believe in Him. Or perhaps it was because He knew John would certainly outlive His brothers and His mother. We really can’t know for sure, and it’s just as well. What matters is that, in the midst of intense agony, Jesus was thinking not of his own terrible pain. Instead, He was focused on the needs of those He loved. It is quite common for a dying person to turn completely inward in his last hours, focusing on his pain, or on what he has left undone, or whatever memories come to mind at the time. Jesus, though, was consistent in death as He was in life, ministering to those around Him even as He suffered.

Amazing grace.

Gambling as He Suffered

John 19:23-24.

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also His coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted My raiment among them, and for My vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.

Crucifixions were always supervised by Roman soldiers. This was done to keep the crowds under control, and to confirm that the victim had actually died. It could be a long and boring duty, depending on how long it took for the victim to die, and how interested the people were. So the soldiers commonly gambled over the garments of the dying person. He wasn’t going to need them any more, after all! It is widely believed that the victims were not offered the dignity of even a loin cloth, and hung completely naked and exposed. Quite a comedown for the Man Who came from the halls of heaven, sinless, holy, and pure. That’s how far we are from His perfection. We are naked in His sight, nothing hidden, nothing secret from Him. Sometimes we think we can cover our sin, and often we can do so for the people in our lives. But God sees all of it. The candle of His Spirit exposes every dark corner of our hearts.

So. Each of the four soldiers on duty got something that Jesus had worn. Sandals, under-garments. But when they came to His robe, they decided to cast lots to see who would get it. Why? Because it was unique, having no seams, being woven from the top downward.

We are told in Exodus 28:31-32 that the High Priest’s outer garment was to be all one piece, no seams, woven from the top to the hem. His robe was a reminder of His status as the only High Priest we would ever need.

This is only conjecture on my part, but I read the book, The Robe, by Lloyd C. Douglas, long ago, that described it as the same robe He was wearing when He was anointed from the head down with spikenard, a wonderfully aromatic and expensive oil. The perfume was in His hair, His beard, and dripped down onto His robe. Through all He endured, the aroma of that gift was still around Him–He was surrounded by the love shown to Him in those few moments. (Thinking about that book made me curious to read it again. I just got it for my Kindle 🙂 )

Of course, the soldiers had no idea they were fulfilling scripture. Psalm 22:18 describes what happened: “They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture.” As Jesus died for their sins, those soldiers gambled at His feet over His garments. What a perfect picture of the total unconcern of a lost and dying world.

What would they do with His robe? We don’t know. Whoever won it may have tried to sell it; perhaps he shoved it into a chest of some sort and forgot about it; perhaps he tore it up to sell as souvenirs of the event.

I’m glad we don’t really know what happened to it. If we did, someone would be selling scraps of it as being holy relics, able to cure diseases or perform other miracles. The miracle was not in the robe. It was in the Man Who hung dying for me.

For you.

What I Have Written, I have Written

John 19:20-22.

This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.

Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am King of the Jews.

Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.

It wasn’t enough that Jesus had suffered humiliation, beating, scourging, and crucifixion. The people were now back in Pilate’s presence, demanding that he change the sign above Jesus’ head. It read, “JESUS OF NAZARETH KING OF THE JEWS.” No, no. They couldn’t have that. Someone might actually think He really WAS King of the Jews! They demanded that Pilate have the sign changed to read, “He said, I am king of the Jews.” Much less powerful, and identifying Jesus as a liar, a con man, someone who had fooled the people

Just a couple of things here. The chief priests demanded Pilate to change the sign. Demanded. They had won, in their own estimation, and felt empowered to demand, now, something more from the man who had the power of life and death over them.

It isn’t wise to make demands on those who have such authority. Demand would indicate a right, an entitlement to whatever is being demanded. Pilate could, legally, have them hauled off to prison.

Pilate’s response would seem to indicate that he’d had it with these petty, nit-picking men. His answer? “I have written what I have written.”

They just needed to swallow it. There was nothing more they could do, and Pilate had no obligation to listen to their self-righteous quibbling. He was done with them. What he suffered when he was alone, we can only guess. I think he had a hard time getting a good night’s sleep.

Golgotha

John 19:17-19.

And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:

Where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.

(You can read the other accounts in Mat 27:32–56Mar 15:21–41Luk 23:26–49. John’s account is very different because, again, this gospel was written to present Jesus as the Son of God. There are no contradictions in the gospels; only different perspectives.)

I can’t figure out how to make these images go side-by-side. I’m sure it’s not that hard, and I will figure it out. Just not now. I used the two images together to show clearly, in the top, why it was called The Place of the Skull. In the painting, it’s not as clear.

Pilate had made his final judgment, and Jesus was led away by the Roman soldiers to the place of His crucifixion. The scriptures say that, as was the Roman custom, He carried His cross as He climbed to the top of Golgotha. There is some thinking out there that those who were to be crucified carried only the crossbeam, and not the entire structure. This was perhaps because the victims were already so weakened by the scourging. The soldiers didn’t want their victims to die too quickly, thereby ruining their enjoyment of the agony of those who suffered.

History tells us that the cross was actually first used by the Persians, therefor not original to Rome. However, Rome “improved” the process to make it as miserable as possible. It was not unusual for victims to suffer for up to three days before they finally died. In order to hurry the deaths, it was common to break the legs of the victims so they could not push themselves up to allow the expansion of their lungs as they tried to draw in a breath. The Jewish leaders wanted this execution to come to a hasty conclusion because the Passover feast was drawing nigh. They didn’t want to risk being unclean by having Jesus and the criminals on either side of Him still alive and causing a stir during the Passover.

Pilate had ordered a sign to be placed on the top of the upright beam, above Jesus’ head. It read, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS in three languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. It was just one more mockery of Jesus. What rightful king would be in such dire straits?

For Rome, it was just another execution. Two criminals were crucified with Him, one on either side of the center cross of Jesus. Some of the soldiers gambled over His garments. Others, I’m sure, wiled away the time with wine and food, oblivious and uncaring of the agony being suffered by their victims.

Crucifixion was nothing new to the Romans. It was rarely used for a Roman citizen, but was reserved for those who were considered unworthy of a less painful and humiliating death:

Crucifixion was so awful and degrading that polite Romans wouldn’t talk about it in public. The Roman statesman Cicero said of crucifixion: “It is a crime to bind a Roman citizen; to scourge him is an act of wickedness; to execute him is almost murder: What shall I say of crucifying him? An act so abominable it is impossible to find any word adequately to express.” The Roman historian Tacitus called crucifixion “A torture fit only for slaves.”

Guzik, Blue Letter Bible

So why did God choose such an ignoble and horrible death for Jesus? It is because He was suffering in our place, we who are slaves to sin until we look to Jesus for forgiveness and redemption. He was lifted up on the cross so that we could look to Him, and be forgiven. He was the only perfect sacrifice to cleanse us from our sin. Wholly God, wholly Man.

What we need to recognize is the UNholiness of our sin.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Last Day of February!

February is on its last legs. Twenty-four hours or less, depending upon when you read this, and it will be March.

I won’t be sad to wave goodbye to February. Lots of snow, and it’s possible we’ll have more in March. These two months tend to be the snow months here. I’m hoping March will come in like a lamb and go out like a lamb. Easter is early this year, April 4, and I just don’t like it if it’s cold and snowy on Easter Sunday! Well, my wanting balmy weather isn’t going to bring it :).

I teach a history class for a homeschool co-op that our church sponsors. Sometimes it’s an English class. I have the freedom to go wherever I’d like :). Right now, we’re talking about the Puritans and their Great Migration during the first half of the 17th century. Their goal was to establish a “city set on a hill”. that would be a refuge for believers who were being persecuted in England and other parts of Europe.

Matthew 5:14 quotes Jesus telling the people that a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. The Puritans truly yearned to establish that God-ruled colony in the New World that would shine the light of the gospel for all to see. Their hearts and hopes were high, and it did indeed seem as if they were doing what God had ordained.

It started well. Sadly, several factors influenced a gradual falling away from the hope of the gospel and turned the people’s interest to more earthly pursuits. It’s a sad story, but not a new one. When we forsake the first zeal, the first joy, the first fire of gratitude at God’s great gift of salvation, we tend to turn to other efforts, such as making a lot of rules for everyone else to follow. And later in their effort for the church to maintain political and civil control over the Massachusetts Bay Colony, they made a compromise that actually weakened the church. It’s called the Halfway Covenant. If you’re interested, you can find it easily online.

Of course, as one who loves our country and the history of it, I can’t help but make comparisons to America then (and it wasn’t America yet!) and America now, and the turning away we are seeing from the truth of the gospel; from the holiness of God, to the secular humanistic belief that man can transcend himself and actual become godlike. This philosophy deifies man and humanizes God.

This philosophy is taking us nowhere good. What America needs, and what we all need to pray for, is a Holy Spirit revival to sweep our land and clear away the cobwebs that have destroyed our understanding of the holiness of God. We need to beg Him to cleanse us and make us whiter than snow.

The Judgment

John 19:15-16.

But they cried out, Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.

Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away.

Pilate had offered the people one more chance. “Look at Him! He has suffered enough!”

But the people kept up a continuous cry: “Take Him away! Crucify! Crucify!”

They even went so far as to claim they had no King but Caesar, renouncing their treasured Messianic hope and repudiating their sacred allegiance to their nation. That’s how a mob acts. They are not reasonable, rational, or willing to hear anything but their own voices.

Pilate was defeated. He was sitting on the judgment seat, but really the judgment was his own admission of his own fears. He knew Jesus was not guilty of anything, yet he caved in to the threats of the people.

In my imagination, at this point he angrily waved his hand, gesturing to the soldiers to take Jesus away and crucify Him. Matthew 27:24 tells us: “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just Person: see ye to it.” It could have been at this point that Pilate symbolically washed his hands, thereby releasing himself from the burden of the death of a wrongly condemned Man.

It is from this act of Pilate’s that we get our saying, “I’m washing my hands of this whole situation. I want nothing to do with it.”

So they, the soldiers, took Jesus away. His final hours had begun.

Caesar’s Friend

John 19:12-14.

And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this Man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.

When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.

And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!

To Pilate’s credit, he didn’t give in immediately. As he had said, he did not find any fault at all in Jesus. The Jews, however, were determined. They played on Pilate’s greatest fear: Being called out by Rome for supporting an insurrection. “If you let Him go, you are not Caesar’s friend! Anyone who calls himself King is against Caesar!”

Not that the Jewish leaders care a whit about Caesar. They hated him, and the authority Rome used against them in the name of Caesar. They used the threat of Caesar’s disapproval, though, to their own advantage. The only Roman response to insurrection was death, by scourging and crucifixion. They demanded the most horrific death possible for Jesus.

They didn’t realize that it had been planned before the creation of the worlds.

Remember, Pilate was married to Caesar’s granddaughter. His marriage was the only reason he’d been given the not-so-great posting in Judea. Still, he was terrified of losing his position, and the last thing he needed was to be considered to support the claims of kingship by a Jewish insurrectionist.

Still, he tried again. Ready to make his final judgment, he climbed the steps to the judgment seat, called gabbatha, meaning high, raised up. Perhaps it was the steps that led to the judgement seat that were referred to as the pavement.

There is some controversy, for which I could find no definitive answers, about the time Pilate pronounced final judgment. All we are certain of is that it was sometime in the morning, before noon or not later than noon. Jesus had been up all night, transferred back and forth, held by soldier,s mocked, slapped, punched, His beard ripped out, scourged, spat upon, crowned with thorns, beaten beyond recognition. The fact that He was still standing is a testament to His physical strength and His character.

Pilate presented this tortured Man once more, telling them to Behold their King! Many believe this was said in sarcasm, and was indicative that Pilate had made up his mind. He would give in to the Jews to avoid being held as treasonous against Caesar.

Power is from Above

John 19: 8-11.

When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;

And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art Thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.

Then saith Pilate unto Him, Speakest Thou not unto me? Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?

Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.

Poor Pilate. Such a quandary he was in. He knew Jesus was no criminal. He also knew that if he didn’t give the Jews what they wanted, he would have insurrection on his hands, and Rome would blame him for losing control of the people. He was afraid because he found himself between a rock and a hard place. Matthew 29:17 tells us that Pilate’s wife had warned him against having anything to do with “that just Man.” He was beset by fear because no matter what he did, he would be in trouble.

He tried once again to talk with Jesus. “Where are You from?” When Jesus remained silent, Pilate blew up at Him. “How dare You refuse to answer me! Don’t You know that I have the power to crucify You or to release You? What are You thinking?”

Pilate was not accustomed to having accused people brought before him who remained calm, even after the horrors of scourging, and refused to be intimidated by his power. I believe, also, that Pilate was desperate to find a way to release Jesus that would not leave him in poor standing with Rome.

Jesus’ answer was calm, respectful, but to the point. “You would have no power over Me at all unless it is given to you by the. Father. Those who delivered me to you have the greater sin, because they have the truth but choose to ignore it!” (My own words)

Crucify! Crucify!

John 19:6-7.

When the chief priests therefore and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye Him, and crucify Him: for I find no fault in Him.

The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.

The religious leaders of the Jews had whipped the people into a bloodthirsty frenzy. How could it be that the same people who had welcomed Him with palm branches and joy now screamed for His death?

The answer to that is clear, if you know the history. They thought He had come as Messiah, to overthrow Rome and free them from the merciless authority of Roman law. When they realized that wasn’t going to happen, they demanded (with encouragement from the priests and Pharisees) that He be executed in the most gruesome possible way.

In my Bible, words that have been added by the translators for clarity are printed in italics. They were not in the original manuscripts. Therefore, the people were yelling, “Crucify! Crucify!” perhaps like a chant as protesting mobs like to do.

Pilate had hoped, it would seem, that by presenting Jesus humiliated, bloodied and beaten beyond recognition, He would gain the sympathy of the crowd. It was enough, and they would be satisfied. He knew that the San Hedrin, ruling body of the Jews, did not have the authority for crucifixion. That particular horror was reserved to Roman authority. So when the people screamed, “Crucify!” Pilate rather sarcastically told them to take Jesus, then, and see to it. He, himself, found no fault in Jesus.

So the priests and Pharisees played their trump card: “By our Law, He deserves to die! He has made Himself out to be God!”