This past weekend we celebrated another Easter weekend. For me it was another great experience. Steph and I were able to go back and spend some time with family. I fasted over the weekend and had some time to really spend with God contemplating what the weekend really means. Over the past month, Prairie Lakes Church has been going through the last words that Jesus spoke from the cross. When a person is dying, their last words tend to be the most important words they want to say. It is a window straight from their heart. It was the same with Jesus. As Jesus was dying on the cross, His last words revealed what was in his heart. It is something that each of us should really take the time to consider and understand. I found the season of discovery of these words to be very transformative in my life.
The second from the last statement that Jesus said on the cross before dying was “It is finished.”
Jesus had told His disciples on multiple occasions that he was going to Jerusalem to die. His arrest, torture, and crucifixion were no surprise to Him. He had come to Jerusalem for this purpose. Jesus had chosen this. It was not just some random event that occurred to Jesus. This was not just some cry of defeat. When Jesus spoke these words, He shouted them.
Another word that has an almost identical meaning to the word finished is the word completed. Imagine what Michelangelo might have said while looking up at the Sistine Chapel after he had completed the last brush stroke: “It is finished. It is completed.” Something astounding, amazing, and awesome was finished as Jesus died on the cross. It was a masterpiece of love and redemption.
This leads us to some important questions that we need to ask ourselves.
What exactly was completed on the cross?
What purpose did Jesus’ suffering and death serve?
What did it accomplish?
How did the death of Jesus accomplish these things?
Jesus’ death is often associated with the forgiveness of sins, but is His death only about forgiveness, or is there more? I would say that Jesus was doing far more on the cross than just forgiving our sins. Jesus was doing far more on the cross than any one theory of atonement or metaphor could possibly describe.
One of the great books of the bible to look at to get the idea of what Jesus was trying to accomplish from the cross is the book of John. Over the past month, I have spent a lot of time going through the book of John in my studies and have learned a great many things.
In the beginning of the book of John, John begins his Gospel by calling Jesus “the Word made flesh.” John seems to be saying that in Jesus, God has come to reveal god’s nature and God’s will to the human race. When you look at it from that perspective, it would seem that Jesus’ death is more like a sermon than a transaction.
As you look through the book of John, at least 7 ideas about the significance of Jesus’ death are revealed through the text. John uses several metaphors, including at least five different Old Testament allusions that point toward differing meanings of Jesus’ death.
Here are the 7 ideas or meanings for Jesus’ death I found in the book of John:
- Jesus’ death is an atoning sacrifice to save us from sin.
- Jesus’ death is a substitutionary sacrifice to save us from death.
- Jesus’ death is a demonstration of divine love for humanity.
- Jesus’ death is a model Christians are meant to look to in practicing sacrificial love.
- Jesus’ death is a compelling portrait of Jesus intended to stir the hearts of thousands more to come and follow Him.
- Jesus’ death was a sign of God’s ultimate triumph over death.
- Jesus’ death was a dramatic reversal of the events of Eden following the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
Jesus is our Redeemer, our Savior, our High Priest, our Atoning Lamb. He is our Liberator and the King who is willing to die for His people. Through His death He reveals our sinfulness, the costliness of grace, and the magnitude of God’s mercy. On the cross Jesus shows us what love looks like. In His death and resurrection He identifies with our pain, suffering, and human morality and through His resurrection He proves that He has overcome each of these. Jesus was doing all of this on the cross to redeem, save, and draw humanity to Himself. This is the “it” that was finished as Jesus shouted His dying words.
The cross is not math or science. The cross is poetry lived out in human flesh. The cross is a divine drama in which God through Jesus is revealing the darkness of the human soul and the relentless grace and love of God for the human race.
John describes Jesus as “the Word made flesh.” The cross is the climax of the story. It is the moment of Jesus’ glorification. Jesus is glorified on the cross because the cross is the moment in which god gives Himself, through His Son, to save us, His children. It is the moment in which God convicts us of sin, reveals to us the costliness of grace, takes up the sins of the world, and shows us what love looks like so that we might follow in living lives of sacrificial love.
In Jesus’ death on the cross, God is speaking a profound message to us, and this message of the cross has the power to save us. It saves our relationship with God and with others. Through this death, the world was saved.
Even though I have never had children myself, it makes me think of a parent with their children. When a parent is trying to express to their children how much they love them, the best they could say to show that love would be to say, “I love you so much that I would die for you without even thinking about it. I love you that much!” That is what we see on the cross. We see the sacrificial love of God displayed. Ont he cross we see our brokeness and God’s grace. We see our need to be loved and God’s expression of love. We see a picture of how we’re meant to live our lives from this time forward. Everything we see in the world around us today, we see in the light of the cross.
Paul sums this whole idea up perfectly in one verse found in Romans.
Romans 1:16 (NIV)
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
Do our lives reflect someone who is grateful for what Jesus completed on the cross? This is really something to ponder as we reflect on what was really completed on the cross all those years ago.