This sermon finishes the Lent sermon series “The Way to the Cross” but has not been preached in North Springfield Baptist Church (yet)
Over the past month we have been following Jesus over the last 24 hours of his earthly life from Gethsemane to the cross. All the way to the cross JESUS was choosing to give up His own life.
John 10:11, 17-18 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 18 No-one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.
We began by recognising the depths of Jesus’s love and His obedience there in the Garden – “not my will but yours be done”. And we saw that it was at least as hard for Jesus Christ the Son of God to lay down his life for us as it would be for any of us to lay down our lives to save somebody that we loved.
And we saw Jesus facing all the injustice of this unfair world at His trials. False accusations. Condemned for speaking the truth. Rigged trials. Unjust imprisonment. Misunderstanding. Jealousy. The innocent dying while the guilty get off free. So often, good men doing nothing!
Then Jesus was flogged and mocked
Led like a lamb to the slaughter in silence and shame;
There on your back you carried a world of violence and pain;
Bleeding, dying, bleeding, dying!
FLOGGED – 39 lashes was just one less than the 40 which were expected to lead to death. Bare flesh flogged with a scourge, a leather whip with bits of bone embedded in it which would tear the flesh away. This suffering was not “redeeming suffering” – we arent saved because they treated Jesus this way. But it is “identifying suffering” – Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, Immanuel, God with us, identifying Himself with suffering people in every situation.
Flogged, then CROWNED WITH THORNS – Pure barbaric cruelty. Senseless torture. Suffering which was neither redemptive nor even identifying – but simply pointless!
And Jesus was MOCKED A purple robe, a crown of thorns, a reed in His right hand.
Along The Road to the The Via Dolorosa, the road of sorrows
BYSTANDERS – hurled insults at Him
CHIEF PRIESTS, TEACHERS of LAW, ELDERS mocked him.
WOMEN OF JERUSALEM – wept for Him
SOLDIERS – just did their job!
PILATE – standing back and doing nothing although he KNEW who Jesus really was!
DICIPLES nowhere to be seen = “lone and friendless now he climbs the cruel hill!
SIMON OF CYRENE – the only one to help Jesus!
And then as Jesus was dying on the cross we have seen how He prayed – not for Himself that He should be rescued, but for His executioners, for those who were torturing and murdering him. And he didn’t pray for their judgement, for their punishment, but for their forgiveness: Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing,
However evil we are – however much we have hurt God and rejected God, however many of His laws we have broken, we can be forgiven. NO-ONE is too wicked. Our sins may be very great – but God’s mercy is greater! If those very people who crucified Jesus can be forgiven, so can we!
So we saw Jesus Christ the Messiah, God’s Son – executed as a common criminal between two thieves. On the point of suffering an agonizing death, here Jesus said some of the most wonderful words he ever spoke. Not to the religious leaders, not to his own disciples, but to a complete stranger, the criminal hanging on the next cross. A man who had NOTHING to offer God AT ALL. Absolutely nothing. Yet Jesus says to HIM, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” All this repentant thief had to do was confess his sin and ask for forgiveness. Remember me Jesus when you come as King!
Then as the end drew near, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why did You abandon me?”
We sometimes try to imagine what it was like for Jesus Christ to die for our sins. We can maybe understand some of the physical pain. But we can only begin to glimpse the anguish Jesus felt to be rejected by His own people as a blasphemer, condemned by the Romans as a dangerous rebel, deserted by His closest friends. And worse than all these things, on the cross God the Son felt the full reality of being abandoned by God the Father.
“My God, my God, why did You abandon me?” (Mark 15:34)
These were feelings of complete rejection, no apparent desertion but a real desertion. The Son had come to reveal God as the heavenly Father. He had shocked traditional Judaism by daring to address God as Abba, Daddy. But on the cross for the first time in His life Jesus cannot pray “My Father” but only “My God”. Why have you deserted me? Why have you forsaken me? Abandoned me? Handed me over? Given me up? Betrayed me? WHY? How those words would have pierced the Father heart of God!
Something very profound was happening deep within God Himself as Jesus was suffering on the cross. As Martin Luther said, “Christ saw Himself as lost, as forsaken by God, felt in His concience that He was cursed by God, suffered the torments of the damned who feel God’s eternal wrath, shrink from it and flee.”
“It was a deep division in God Himself, as God abandoned God and contradicted Himself. ”
Amazing love, oh what sacrifice, the Son of God given for me! The sacrifice of the omnipotent Father is as great as the sacrifice of the helpless Son. God’s deity is divided! The Holy Trinity, God the three-in-One, is split apart by OUR sin as Christ the Son shares our rebellion and separation from God the Father!
This is the impossibility of the cross – the paradox of the cross. Black becoming white, evil becoming good. “Christ was without sin, but God made Him to BE sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God!”
“The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God His Father. Jesus humbles Himself and takes upon Himself the eternal death of the Godless and the Godforsaken, so that the Godless and the Godforsaken can experience communion with Him.” THAT is how much it cost God to bring us back from hell! THAT is how much God loves you and me!
And at the end of all this we find Jesus saying just one word, which translates into English as, “It is finished!” What did Jesus mean by those words?
Not “I’m finished” but “IT is finished”
Not “I’m done for”, not “I’m done in”, but “It is done”, “I’ve done it!”.
It is completed. It is accomplished. It is finished!!
Jesus’s death on the cross was God’s plan of salvation. That is what was completed – THAT is what was finished!
A young man once came forward in a Gospel meeting. “What can I do to be saved?” he asked. The anxious inquirer was heartbroken to be told, “You’re too late!” “Oh, don’t say that,” exclaimed the distressed seeker, “I really want salvation; I’d do anything or go anywhere to obtain it.” “I’m sorry,” replied the counsellor, “you’re too late for that. Your salvation was completed many hundreds of years ago at Calvary. It’s all been done already! It’s finished
Behind the scenes, God had everything under His control when Jesus came to the cross. Not the Jewish leaders. Not Pilate. Not the Roman soldiers. But God was in charge.
John 19:10-11 Pilate said. “Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.
The cross was all part of God’s master plan for salvation. Pilate could only see power and authority in limited human terms. He needed to be warned of the cosmic implications of His actions, of the “shortness of time and the vastness of eternity.” In the same way we can only understand the cross if we see it in cosmic terms, in terms of the “shortness of time and the vastness of eternity.”
Everything that happened on the cross was in fulfilment of Scripture, especially of ISAIAH 53
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 ¶ Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But 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. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all
10 ¶ Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
There on the cross Jesus was dying for sin – paying the penalty WE should pay for our rebellion against God, for our disobedience and pride, taking on Himself OUR punishment. That is what was finished as Jesus died. That is what was completed!
By current standards of success, Jesus might be considered a failure. Was he popular? No. He was not well-liked. In fact, after one of his sermons, all of his followers deserted him, except for the Twelve Apostles.
Did he have political power? No. He was a political failure. All levels of government first rejected him. Then they conspired to kill him. Did he have lots of friends? No. His friends often hurt him, eventually abandoned him, and one of them betrayed him to death.
Did he have money and possessions? No. No house, no “posh cars”, no mobile phone, no website, no world headquarters, no Christian amusement park.
Was he respected by his peers? No. His professional peers (the Pharisees) rejected his work.
And dying on a cross was the ultimate failure, the ultimate shame.
But looked at NOT from the perspective of the “shortness of time” but in terms of the vastness of eternity” the cross wasn’t failure – but success! It wasn’t defeat but victory!!! The cross was the ultimate victory over sin, over death, over the devil. It is finished!
I hate paying bills – but there’s a tremendous satisfaction in handing over the money and seeing that stamp “paid in full”. They used to have tax bills in Jesus’s time, and they used to write over the bills in latin “consummatum est”, in greek “tetelestai” “paid in full”. And that’s what Jesus cries here on the cross. “Telelestai”, “paid in full”. With sin’s account settled, our debt of guilt was indeed wiped out! It is finished!
This is the great difference between the Christian religion and every other religion in the world. Every other religion can be summed up in just two letters but the Christian faith needs four!
Every other religion says ‘DO. Do this, do that, do the other and you will find salvation”.
But Christianity says “It is DONE, it is accomplished, it is finished!”
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood: Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
Lifted up was He to die, ‘It is finished!’ was His cry:
Now in heaven exalted high: Hallelujah! what a Saviour!