Photo: Sunset over the mouth of the Au Train River on Au Train Bay, Lake Superior, Au Train, Michigan. © Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2022.
John 19:30 – When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
“It is finished.” The most obvious meaning of these words, and the one most likely understood by those present at the crucifixion, is that Jesus was speaking of the end of his mortal life. The Greek word translated here as “finished” is also rendered, in other New Testament passages, as “accomplished.” Given this, it seems that, while he may be acknowledging the certainty of his death, there is much deeper meaning to these words. As we contemplate these near final words of Christ, let us examine three things, who Jesus is, why he came, and what he accomplished.
Who Jesus is
As for who Jesus is, one place we can look is his own, “I AM” statements recorded throughout John’s Gospel:
John 6:35 – Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
John 8:12 – Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 10:9 – “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”
John 10:11 – “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
John 11:25-26 – Jesus said to her [Martha in the context of her brother, Lazarus’, death], “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 15:1-2 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
And one more place to look is the disciples’ answers to Jesus’ question in Matthew 16:13-16, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He [Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
If all these give us an idea of who Jesus is, let us next look at a few passages that tell us more about why he came.
Why Jesus came
Before Jesus birth, in Matthew 1:20-21, we read of the “angel of the Lord” appearing to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, we read words of John the Baptist spoken at the beginning of Jesus earthly ministry, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
In his life Jesus himself speaks to why he has come. In Matthew 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
And in Luke 18:31-34 he tells his disciples that, “we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”
What Jesus accomplished
So just what was Jesus telling his disciples he would accomplish in the coming days? He was certainly describing his suffering and death on the cross, which they did not yet understand. But more importantly they did not yet understand that his death would be the ultimate fulfillment of all the prophecies and laws, the complete payment for the sins of the world, the perfect and final sacrifice of the spotless Lamb of God.
We have the benefit of knowing the rest of the story, the benefit of having all of scripture before us now, so we do understand what was accomplished that day by Jesus’ death on the cross of Calvary. There is so much more scripture to explore if time and space permitted, but as a conclusion, Colossians 1:15-20 gives us a nice summary of who Jesus is, why he came, and what he accomplished, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2023. This piece was presented as part of the North Cincinnati Community Church Good Friday service, “The Seven Last Words of Christ” on April 7th, 2023.