When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30 ESV)
When I was younger I was really bad about starting something and never finishing it. These days I try to sing a different tune, and seeing something through to completion is a great joy. I can really only speculate at the sheer amount of joy Jesus must have felt at knowing he had finished his work.
Jesus stepped across time and spice, wrapping himself in humanity, and set out on a lifelong quest to mend the broken bond between God and man. He taught. He travelled. He preached. He healed. He also hurt. He bled. And he died.
Jesus drew his last breathe knowing that the work of the Father was accomplished. Mankind would be restored to the Kingdom of Heaven for anyone who wished to be a part of it. The hard part was over. It was finished.
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. (Luke 23:44, 45 ESV)
Supernatural events surrounded Jesus’ crucifixion. It was the day that Hell leveraged all it had to do all it could, and failed. Jesus could, and would be killed, but he would not be stopped. He would not stay dead. His life would be the catalyst for the hope of humanity and his death would be the event that would change human destiny forever.
Darkness covered Jerusalem that day. The huge curtain that separated the priests from God fell into two pieces. Dead people left their tombs and wandered the area. It was a significant day.
Evil things were meant for mankind. Satan’s schemes had reached their apex. Jesus would die. But the apparent victory was actually defeat.
The Father had always known the Son would need to die for humanity. He had ordained it since before the foundations of the earth. He had whispered it into the hearts of prophets for thousands of years.
The light of the world hung upon a cross, and the world went dark. Earthquakes happened. People believed. And people have never stopped believing.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 ESV)
Have you ever felt forsaken? Perhaps you have. It’s that wretched feeling you get when someone you have absolute trust in has abandoned you. But being forsaken is more than just a feeling of abandonment. It is an action. It is being walked away from. It is having someone turn their back on you in a moment of absolute need.
Jesus needed God the Father for instruction, encouragement, and support. But just in the moment when Jesus’ need was greatest God was out of his reach. It sounds absolutely horrible doesn’t it? If that were how the story ended it truly would be horrible.
You see, Jesus became the recipient of all human sin, for every person for all of history—past, present, and future. He accepted all of it onto himself. And then he placed himself between us and God the Father. Being a perfect man, in perfect communion with God, he was accustomed to a direct line of communication with God. However, sin interrupted that. Our sin.
As Jesus took the sin of the world, he isolated himself from the glory of God Almighty. God did not forsake Jesus out of anger, malice, or disgust. And he doesn’t turn his back on you or I when we find ourselves making poor decisions. No, God forsook the sin that Christ had recieved—sin which exacted its price upon the Son of God. Jesus was momentarily forsaken, but he was not forgotten. Today, the children of God stand in a place made ready by the sacrifice of Christ. A place where Scripture declares that we are neither forsaken nor forgotten.
Matthew 27: 27-31
And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, (Matthew 27:28 ESV)
Have you ever been horribly embarrassed by something? Have you ever felt like all of your problems or insecurities were put on display by someone else? Those kinds of situations can be both heart breaking and deeply shameful.
Jesus was perfectly sinless. He had nothing to hide, no skeletons in his closet, and yet his persecutors still attempted to shame him. They plucked his beard, which was a cultural sign of masculinity. They mocked, beat, and disrobed him—replacing his clothes with garments meant to mock his royalty. They were out to not only kill him, but they were trying to destroy his image.
Jesus claim to divinity reaches across history as unique. Not because he is the only man to ever claim to be God, but because he is the only man ever to actually be God. To those trying to kill him and undermine his message, it won’t be done. Try as you might to wrap him in scarlet robes, and parade him through a gauntlet of brutality and cruelty—Jesus is the Son of God. He is God-with-us. Any attempt to mock his royalty only serves to illuminate it.
Isaiah 53:4-6, Matthew 27:26, Mark 15:15
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV)
Scourging was a horribly grotesque punishment. It was so barbaric and brutal that many actually died as a result. Yet Jesus endured.
Just as the prophet Isaiah foretold nearly three millennia ago, Jesus was harmed beyond human recognition. I find it comforting to know that as difficult as life may sometimes be, it is not outside of the reach of the comfort of Christ. He was our substitution. He was our replacement.
He has borne our sorrows, anguish, and calamities. He knows the depths of our troubled souls. He has entered into the pit of Hell and returned victorious—brandishing eternal life and salvation for all who would enter his tender care.
He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will. (Luke 23:25 ESV)
Barabbas was a known murderer. He had led an attempt at a full blown uprising. Usually that type of activity was met with swift and brutal retribution in the Roman world. However, for some reason Barabbas had been left on prison to rot. When it would have came time for him to have faced justice, Jesus was there to take his place.
Jesus took his place! Barabbas deserved justice. He deserved the full extent of the law, but he didn’t face it because Jesus took his punishment.
You and I face our own punishment. We have sinned, we deserve an end that often reflects a lifetime of selfishness and immorality. But Jesus didn’t die for your morality. He died to make you family. Why? Because he is more interested in the criminal than the crime. He took the place of a murder.
Regardless of background, moral slant, and failures—Jesus stands in for you. Barabbas’ freedom was purchased by the death of Christ. So is ours.