I’m going to invite you guys to John chapter 19. We’re going to be together, and I’m going to just be honest. I have spent the last part of this week at a conference in Atlanta. I was with several ministry leaders from all over the globe, just working together on how to help each other with different ministries of what we’re representing around the world. I was a part of some great ministries, to hear about what God’s doing. Even talking to one organization who’s working tirelessly to get Christians rescued out of Afghanistan.
The people that were leading that were just incredible. The thousands of Christians that have been spared, and then to hear some stories of Christians who choose to stay behind there knowing their lives are in danger was an impressive time. Then I thought to myself on Saturday, when this event was over, I was going to get to the Atlanta airport. I was going to get there a little early and just do some meditation, some praying, knowing Sunday was coming.
I’m at the front of the TSA line, when all of a sudden a guy decides he needs to shoot a gun. Then there’s mass chaos. Then I’m in the middle of a herd of people just trampling each other. It was crazy, but ended up getting delayed flights and in at one o’clock. When I land, my wife, I opened my phone to find out my wife is in the ER because my son, one of my kids, decided, I think to have a boxing match. I don’t know. They were all asleep when I got home.
One lost, ended with a face plant onto something your face should not plant on. All that to say, I want to worship today in an uneventful way. Okay. That is where I’m at. When we come to this text, John chapter 19. This is a text that I really want to take time to consider the value of what’s stated here. This is the foundation of our faith. There is a verse here that we’re going to hone in on at the end, that if I told you if there’s one verse in the Bible that I reflect on often, for who I am in Jesus, this passage contains that. One of those verses is found here, a very important verse.
As I think about this passage of scripture, as people, we like to be a part of something that’s got life. We like to have identity. We want to know that we matter and in the end, to even belong to things that we feel like has life, has identity, we’ll purchase items sometimes that feel like, have some value, some weight to it. Bring us into the club. When you think of different organizations, different organizations have brands. You like certain brands, you’ll buy those brands to show that you belong to those brands.
When I think of vehicles, vehicles are certainly a thing that’s got brands to it. When you purchase a vehicle, you get to walk with an emblem on whatever that vehicle is. You may have a favorite vehicle, but there are certain brands that come with a much more expensive label in order for you to belong to it. I think a lot of nice vehicles out here, I know that you always, you can divide a crowd very easily if you talk about Ford or Chevy. Where are my Ford people? Where are my Chevy people? I don’t really care.
You can be here. I’m glad you’re here, but you think about those brands. I want to tell you, if you try to give me a brand new Ford today, and I have a choice between that or just a few pictures above that icon to the Lamborghini. If my two options you’re offering me today is Ford or Lamborghini, I’m going to tell you, I’m probably going to take the Lamborghini and pay off my house and then go buy your Ford.
There’s certain brands that are just more expensive to belong to. Those brands come with identity. When you purchase into them, you get to tout whatever that label is. We all have particular brands that we might like, and some might have more expensive tastes than others. We can recognize the difference between, Kirkland, Signature, and Gucci. There’s obviously a distinction there. As you think about brands and labels, my mind, I immediately when I think as I look at these, I wonder what the most expensive brand to belong in, you can of purchase into it or belong, just to be able to tout.
You don’t have to go very far into this chapter to realize that the most expensive brand that exists, I think, is represented by the Christian community. That is the cross. What’s incredible about this brand, this label of the cross, is that when you think about the expense of it, why it’s so valuable, it’s because it cost God his life. There’s nothing more precious that could be put on something than God’s life.
The cross is expensive, but the amazing part about belonging to Christ is that he paid for you. For me, he paid the entire expense. You can carry this brand and what it represents for free. Here you have the most expensive identity, or brand, or logo, in all of history. Yet for us, it’s completely free.
When I think about the importance of what the cross represents for us, when I first moved to Utah, I can remember times, and I probably still do this if I think about it, but I would be driving around. I would see someone with a cross on the back of their car and I would stalk them. I would. I’d see it. It was like a moth to the flame. Oh, one of those. Where are you going? My wife would be like, “Stop following them.” I’m like, “They’re us, honey.” Just that emblem out here, it means something. It matters. It represents something. It’s a part of a tribe, which I’m a part of and I love.
I know it’s the most precious thing you can belong to. I can recount times in our church where, when people came to faith in Christ and the first Sunday they walked through the door wearing a cross of some kind on their body, and they wanted us to recognize it. They wanted to celebrate it. They were thankful to belong to that. The cross is a precious symbol. Now I’ll say for me, when I drive a vehicle, I have not gotten brave enough to put a cross on it yet, because there are times in my life where I feel like I’m trying out for NASCAR. I don’t want people to know that I also belong to Jesus.
That’s bad brand recognition there. There’s something about this, the symbol that matters. I’m going to look at these verses, chapter 19 versus 17 to 30 this morning. Here’s what I want to do. I want to talk about what happened, dealing with Jesus’s crucifixion, and then why it matters. That’s it. What happened, and why it matters. We talk about why it happened. It’s important for you to know the story. Then we talk about why it matters. This makes the impact to drive us forward, to continue to celebrate what the symbol of the cross is for God’s people.
First part of your notes, if you grabbed those this morning, it’s to say this: the blank is Jesus carries his cross. Jesus carries his cross. Verse 17. They took Jesus therefore, and he went out carrying his own cross to the place called the Place of a Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.
There, they crucified him and with him, two other men, one on either side and Jesus in between them. When Jesus took on the cross, he went through this walk in Jerusalem called the Via Delarosa. It’s about a half mile, one kilometer walk. It would’ve been through public streets. They would’ve attached the cross beam along his back. Cross beam would’ve been about similar to maybe considering you carrying a railroad tie. It would’ve been upwards of up to a hundred pounds they would’ve put on Jesus’ back.
You think Jesus, at this moment, he’s already endured his flogging, his beating. He would’ve been covered in blood. He would’ve been struggling with the crown of thorns on his head, just dripping and exhausted. Up all night. Now he’s carrying this cross half a mile through the streets of Jerusalem, public square. People everywhere. You can imagine if you were a parent walking with your kids on the street, and this morning, you see Jesus going by. You would just want to close their eyes from seeing the sight that was to happen.
On the left is a picture of the Via Delarosa, where Jesus would’ve walked. Jesus would’ve been carrying this cross all the way to the place of Golgotha, which today Golgotha is kind of difficult to get to or see, because it’s surrounded by a bus, or bus parking lot. Above it is a wall to kind of barricade the place of Golgotha. It was a public place. Meaning when they had Jesus walk down the streets of Jerusalem, they weren’t hiding what they were doing, because this was Rome’s way of striking terror in the hearts of people that wanted to come against Rome that wanted to create some sort of uprising.
It was how they kept the peace, and called people to follow after what Rome said. Jesus, very publicly through the streets, where people would’ve been walking, interacting, little shops would’ve been set up, all the way to Golgotha, above a major roadway where people could have seen Jesus crucified. As they were arriving into Jerusalem for the Sabbath, they would’ve seen Rome’s criminals dying on a cross.
When Jesus was crucified, he would’ve been crucified most likely at about eye level. I know sometimes when we see the cross portrayed today, we typically see the cross elevated and lifted up. Most likely when criminal were crucified, they were crucified at eye level, because people at that opportunity were able to mock and to spit on and to shame whoever it was that was facing that judgment from Rome. When they would’ve put Jesus on this cross, they would’ve ran nails through his hands and his feet in the nerve endings, to that portion of your body are the most sensitive nerve endings in all of the human body.
They would’ve been crushed as Jesus was nailed to the cross. When someone was placed on the cross, their death typically came about by asphyxiation. In fact, some people that were crucified, it would take upwards of seven, eight, nine days for them to finally meet their demise. When someone was crucified on a cross, the weight of their bodies would begin to crush their lungs. In order to breathe, you would have to push off on the nail that was in your feet to stand up, to be able to take in a breath. While you hung there defenseless, people would mock you, spit on you, shame you. Birds could fly down and pluck at you. You were in this vulnerable state.
The thought of the cross was such a torturous way to die that there was a word invented for it. It’s called excruciating. The word excruciating literally means out of the cross. It was considered such a horrific way to die that on a rare occasion, when a woman was crucified, they would actually turn her around and make her face the cross, so they wouldn’t have to look at her face to face. Here’s Jesus in this story, dying on this cross. Not only just dying on this cross, it tells us he’s wedged in between two criminals.
It’s horrific. When you think about what happened to Jesus here and all the physical suffering that he endured, I still don’t think that is as bad as why, if I explain why it matters to us, another type of torture or hardship Jesus went through physically. It’s hard to hear this story and not respond to it emotionally. When you think about why Jesus was on the cross, he was on the cross to pay for your sins and mind. Jesus, while he was on the cross, it tells us in a few other gospels, not in the gospel of John, but when Jesus was on the cross, he cried out with a loud voice, “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?”
This statement by Jesus, out of all that Jesus endured, I would say this statement by Jesus highlights the most extreme suffering that he has gone through. Meaning God the father and God the son were in perfect relationship. When Jesus takes on sin, the father turns his back on the son. Now theologians have looked at this for centuries and marveled at it. They’ve tried to understand it. They’ve tried to be able to explain it. I don’t even know how you can. I don’t know that anyone really has. God the father turns his back on his son, as his son takes on the weight of sin in the world.
What Jesus endures here is literally hell on earth. Second Thessalonians chapter one, verse nine gives a picture of hell that I think is probably the best basis someone could understand, theologically. When they start to ask questions about what is heaven, what is hell? Second Thessalonians one-nine. Here’s what it says: that when you’re judged by God, that what hell represents is a place that you’re cast away from his presence.”
I know a lot of times when people like to talk about hell, we like to talk about the imagery Jesus draws up when he referred to the garbage dump of Gehenna, where the worm doesn’t quench and the fire doesn’t die. He’s given these illustrations of what hell could be like. What makes hell hell is not about a fire that’s not quenched. What makes hell hell is that we’re separated from the presence of God. You’re separated from the gracious presence of God. See, eternity for us is an invitation. Do you want to belong to Jesus or not? Heaven is his kingdom. Heaven is his house. He’s given us a place to come and embrace that. To be with him. What makes heaven heaven is his presence.
If you don’t want it, he won’t force you. Second Thessalonians one-nine says, “We’re removed from his presence.” When I think about in terms of what heaven and hell are like, I mean the gracious presence of God being departed from that. I think about then Jesus, in this moment, what’s happening to Jesus while he’s being separated in his relationship from the father? That’s what hell is. Jesus is removed from the presence of the father. Jesus experienced hell on earth for you and for me.
Sometimes people ask the question, “Well, what happened when Jesus died?” I’ve heard people talk about Jesus going to hell. Jesus had to go to hell. Jesus doesn’t have to go to hell. There’s no need for Jesus to go to hell. Jesus already experienced it here on the cross. Jesus endured that for us. Jesus didn’t pay a payment for you and for me in hell. Jesus didn’t have to pay Satan. Jesus satisfied the father because the father is holy. Our sin against the holy God deserves punishment.
Jesus took on that punishment. Why? So you could find your identity in him through the cross. The most expensive brand, logo, symbol, and it’s free for you and for me. Jesus went on from here in verse 19 in the next blank in your notes, Jesus’s crime was written. Now it says, “Now pilot also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written Jesus, the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.”
Therefore, many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified near was near the city. It was written in Hebrew, and Latin, and in Greek. Obviously the Jews would be reading Hebrew or Aramaic. The Latin was for the Romans. Greek is for the rest of the Mediterranean world. The chief priests of the Jews were saying to pilot, “Do not write the king of the Jews. Rather write that he said, ‘I am king of the Jews.’ Pilot answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.'” This is interesting.
Again, every time you come to the religious leaders, let me let just say this. Sometimes when I talk about the end of Jesus’ life, Jewish leaders are the ones that are promoting the death of Jesus. Sometimes I feel like when we talk about that repeatedly after message after message, it can develop a certain distaste for a people group. What I want to say is the First Century Church, the people that also love Jesus and follow Jesus were also Jewish. The problem isn’t if someone’s Jewish or not Jewish. The problem here is religion versus understanding how God has come to give us relationship.
It’s really not about a people group. It’s about an individual’s heart, and how they view Jesus in light of that. Let me just point out how that works in the irony of this moment. This group is completely okay with killing Jesus. They’re just not okay with the spelling of how it’s written. They want things in their own terms, written their own way. That’s been the problem from the beginning. They want to dictate who God is and not let God just be who God is. They want to tell God how great they are, rather than surrender their lives to the greatness of who he is.
Jesus is not interested in us impressing him with who we are. Jesus is interested in you being impressed with who he is. He’s come to give his life for you. That’s this relationship God invites us to, and that freedom that it brings is because we lay ourselves down completely for his glory. I think for the Jews, they’re a little reluctant here because in saying Jesus, giving Jesus this title, that he is the king of the Jews, at the same time he’s being crucified, which is a curse, is not going to look great for the Jewish people.
This guy who’s being claimed as king is also being killed. In Roman days, when someone was executed on a cross, they would always write there above their head, the purpose for their execution, the reason for the judgment, so that when people would pass by, they would know the purpose behind why this person’s being crucified and then be able to mock, ridicule, and whatever they wanted to do to this individual who just hung there, defenselessly.
For Jesus, that’s the sentence written up on his head, that the Jews didn’t like this title, or at least the leaders here didn’t like this title connected to one who was hanging on a tree. They understood the person hanging on a tree was cursed, Deuteronomy 21, verse 23. When I think about this moment as it’s developed throughout church history, how the church has received this for the first century and a half of Christianity, Christians did not embrace the cross. Now Jesus said to us in Mark chapter eight verse 34, he who wants to follow after me, must take up his cross and die daily.
There’s this teaching in Christianity that in order to follow after Jesus, you must be willing to lay your life down for him and embrace your cross that Christ calls you to. The early church, when the early church started to walk with Jesus and put their faith in Jesus, they actually rejected the symbol of the cross. It wasn’t until about the time of Tertullian, which is second century, that the church started to see it not as something to hide from, but actually something to embrace.
Tertullian and other church leaders started talking about the picture of what the cross represents in redemption, and how that becomes all of our story. What I mean is, yes, the cross historically was a place that was despised and shamed, but God takes the most broken things in this world. He places a victory song upon it. If you want to know what that looks like, all you have to do is look at the cross. God took the darkest day in all of history, the day he died, and he gave us the anthem of his people, the cry of our heart, the gospel of glory.
God took the worst of things and made it the victory chant of the church. The cross is a place of hope. It’s a place of renewal. It’s a place of acceptance in God. It’s a place where our shame could be buried in him and raised to new life and be transformed in Jesus. It’s a place where God becomes personal. It’s a place where God becomes relational. It’s a place where God becomes forgiving. It’s the only place in life where you can go where mercy and justice come together perfectly.
You think anywhere else in society, if you want to bring justice, you’ve got to relinquish mercy. If you want to bring mercy, you’ve got to relinquish justice. At the cross of Christ, both mercy and justice of God being pulled poured out fully for you and for me. God’s justice being delivered on Jesus on your behalf because he dies for your sin, and God’s mercy being offered to you because of Jesus, because Jesus has died for your sins.
Number three in your notes, the soldiers gambled for Jesus’ possessions. Oh, I want to show you this real quick. I should have told you this already. In the early church, well, this is long overdue, but the early church, even the first few centuries, you can see Christian art written in Rome on the walls, mocking Christians over the cross. This is a picture of Jesus on a cross, but they substituted his head for a donkey. Then the guy beside of him is worshiping. His name is Alexamenos, worshiping his God is what’s written below him. The church has come to see it as a symbol of victory.
Point number three, the soldiers gambled for Jesus’s possessions. It says in verse 23, then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his outer garments and made four parts. Traditionally, you’ll see if people draw the soldiers at Jesus’ crucifixion, they’ll often draw four soldiers because they assume four soldiers because Jesus’ garments are separated into four parts: a part to each soldier and the tunic also, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. They said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be.”
This happened so the scriptures would be fulfilled. They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing. Therefore, the soldiers did these things. It was common for when people were crucified, they would be crucified naked and shamed. Jesus snowed out here in the stories and that similar situation where all of his possessions, anything worth anything has been stripped of him. Here he is, exposed and shamed, hanging on this cross. These soldiers gambling for him.
My grandfather passed away a few years ago. My family, one of the things they gave me from him, was a series of notebooks that he had written in. My grandfather loved the Lord and he studied God’s word pretty often. In fact, when I would go to his house, if he was ever home, I could almost guarantee he would be in a recliner, reading his Bible. Beside his Bible, there was a notebook. In the notebook, he would record his thoughts as he read through the Bible. He created really his own commentary on the Bible. My family gave me that when he died. The first place that I turned to was this passage of scripture.
One of the things I remember that my grandfather commented about these soldiers. He just said how incredible he thought that someone could be so close to the cross of Christ, but yet so far from Jesus. Here are these soldiers, more interested in the garments Jesus wore than in Jesus himself. Now, why did John include this in this passage for us? Well, John included it because it tells us here in the end so that scriptures could be fulfilled, so the scripture would be fulfilled in verse 24.
What he’s quoting is from Psalm 22 verse 18. Psalm 22 is a prophetic chapter of the Bible that deals with the crucifixion of Jesus. In that chapter in verse 18, it talks about Jesus’s clothing being divided. Here’s why John does this. If you read the gospel of John, you’ll see from time to time, John says, “And God fulfilled scripture, and God fulfilled scripture.” When you get to the Jesus being crucified part, John intensifies the amount of times he says, “And Jesus fulfilled the scripture, and Jesus fulfilled the scripture.” Here’s why: here’s our human tendency, when things get hard, we start to ask the question, “God, where are you?” Eventually we look for that place where things get so hard that we must obviously come to that position where we must be beyond where God could reach us.
John, as Jesus gets closer and closer to death, continues to say more often, “And God fulfilled this scripture, and God fulfilled that scripture, and God fulfilled that scripture,” so that we can see, even in the most difficult of moments, God’s hand far exceeded what was needed. We’re never too far for the grace of God. We’re never beyond the sovereign hand of the Lord, no matter how dark the day may feel. God’s grace is stronger still.
When I think about the importance of this moment and that Jesus continues to fulfill scripture, guys, I cannot tell you how often, just this portion of the story of the gospel where Jesus is dying, is something that my heart reflects upon often. Coming to this passage of scripture, I can think of my own life, when the adversity I had faced, Jesus always gave more. Jesus suffered more. Jesus endured more, and Jesus was faithful to fulfill every one of those promises.
If Jesus was able to do this in the greatest spiritual battle, physical battle, that’s happened on earth, he can handle my problems. He can handle my struggles. He cares. How do I know he cares? He’s on the cross. He’s on the cross. The purpose of this is not, it’s for me, he cares. This is John’s way of saying, “Look, he continued to be faithful. He continued to fulfill, no matter how dire this moment gets, and no matter how dark it continues to seem, God is still in control. He is for you.”
Jesus then goes on from here. The next blank, Jesus cares for his mother. In verse 25, now beside the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister. By the way, Jesus’ mother’s name is Mary. His mother’s sister, and then Mary, the wife of Clopas, and then Mary Magdalene. Basically if your name is Mary and you’re in Jerusalem at the time, you got an invitation to the across. Verse 26, so when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to this disciple, “Behold your mother.” From that hour, the disciple took her into his own household.
Could you imagine being Mary in this moment? You read the story in the beginning of the gospels. It was not easy for Mary to bring Jesus into this world. You think she was a young lady. Didn’t have of hardly anything in life. Her best offer to Jesus was a manger and a trough. He’s wrapped in swaddling clothes, which are really rags that historically, people say generally, when people go on a journey, they would wrap swaddling cloth around their waist like it was a belt.
That way, if they needed anything while they were journeying, they could just rip it off. If someone died while they were on a journey, they couldn’t bury him right away, so they would kind of entomb or embalm the body, wrapping it in the swallowing cloth. Jesus when he was born was wrapped in burial clothes. She didn’t have a whole lot in life. It must have been an incredible struggle to care and raise for Jesus. She held that baby. That baby looked her back in the face and would smile, reach out, touch his mother.
There’s nothing better than an infant reaching out and just putting his hands against your face. Now she’s staring at her son face to face dying on a cross. Could you imagine the grief that Mary would be going through in this story? Then John the disciple is with Jesus, John who wrote the gospel of John. I love the way that John refers to himself here in verse 26, he says, “He’s the disciple whom Jesus loved was standing nearby.”
I don’t know about you, but if you’ve got siblings, my siblings do this all the time. If you ask my mom, or ask one of us who is favorite to my mother, all of them will tell you they are. Just like I will say, I am my mother’s favorite. Hands down, I am my mother’s favorite. Then they would disagree and argue the same thing. You read John’s statement here and it’s like John’s saying the same thing, isn’t he?
He’s like, “Out of all the disciples, the one he loved the most.” It’s why John refer himself in scripture. When I think about why it matters, I’m being a little facetious in how I’m presenting John. I don’t think that’s really what John’s intent here. That would be my intent, but I don’t think it’s John’s intent. I think John is saying to us, “Yeah, I was at the cross, and you want to know why I was at the cross? I love Jesus. The reason I love Jesus is because I knew how much I was loved by Jesus.”
This isn’t John bragging about being the favorite, or being in some sort of competition with the rest of the disciples. This is about John being confident in who he was, because he knew he was loved by God and embraced by him. This is John just wanting to cherish the moments next to the one that he had come to enjoy as he walked life with him. In Jesus’s dying moments, we’re just a couple verses away from where he dies. This is incredible. Verse 27, Jesus tells John to take care of his mother with his dying breaths.
Jesus’ interest is still not self focused. Jesus’s concern is still for others, even his mother. He could tell a good son by how he treats his mother. Ladies, if you’re looking for somebody to marry, please watch how they treat their mother. In a few years, that’s going to be you. Jesus, in these moments, his concern is for his mother. He’s still being selfless in everything that he does. The whole motivation behind the cross is not about what he gets, but what about what he has to give for you and for me.
History tells us that the apostle John did in fact take care of Mary. The church of Ephesus records that when John was there later in years, writing the gospel of John, there’s historical records that talk about Mary being present in Ephesus with John. John was faithful to fulfill this. Jesus cares for his mother. Then the last point is this, and this is I think the most important. Jesus dies.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished in order that the scriptures would be fulfilled, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a branch of his, and brought it up to his mouth. Therefore, when Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirits.
I don’t know about you, but I just think when you ask people for certain items in the room, to me, the one thing that you would suspect people wouldn’t have on the side of a cliff called Golgotha would be a sponge. Who just carries around a sponge? Historically, when you study soldiers and part of their travel kits that they would receive in the army, a sponge was actually an important piece of a soldier’s kit.
The sponge was used for a few things. One of the more popular things was for your visits to the restroom, because you’re dealing with days that you don’t have toilet paper. Now you can picture in your mind where to take that from there, but let me just say this: that was what Jesus was offered to drink from. They grab a sponge, recycled sponge, most likely, and they offer God a drink from it. Jesus was placed in the worst of circumstances in life for you and for me. Then with his last breath, he gives this thought that is incredibly theologically rich. He says, “It is finished.”
It is finished. The question we could ask is what, then, what is finished? Certainly Jesus died for your life. It’s finished. Jesus died. Jesus doesn’t mean he died. Jesus certainly does die here, but this phrase, it is finished, means much more than simply Jesus died. What Jesus is saying to us is the fullness of the plan for which he came has now been completed. The whole point of Jesus’ life was found in his death. Mark 10 tells us that he gave his life as a ransom for many. Jesus came to this world to give his life as a ransom for many.
When Jesus is thinking about it is finished, he’s not talking about the end of his life. He’s not talking about himself being a victim here. I died, I didn’t make it. He’s actually referring to himself as a victor. It is finished. I’ve crossed the finish line. Exactly what I came to complete, I have completed it. It is finished. Church, let me tell you this morning, if there’s just one powerful thought, phrase, that you could just let resonate and church within your soul all the days of your life, it should be this one. It is finished.
For us, it’s the victory of what the gospel is about. Jesus paid it all. That’s what Jesus is saying. The cost for your life, that you may have relationship with God for all of eternity, Jesus paid it all. He’s thinking about your life in this moment and thinking, what does it take to see your life in the presence of God for now and forever? I’ll pay it. It is finished. It’s ransomed. It’s redeemed.
The phrases that are used in scripture and in Mark chapter 10, in Exodus chapter six, verse six and seven, there’s this … In Exodus, chapter six, verse six and seven, when the Passover celebration is going to be brought through Moses, one of the things God promises his people is that he will redeem us. He’ll redeem you, meaning he’s going to buy Israel out of slavery, into freedom.
Then when Jesus shows up in Mark chapter 10, he borrows a word from that same family tree of redemption, and he uses the word ransom. In Mark chapter 10, he says, “I will ransom you.” Jesus’s imagery in using that is again, a slave on a slave market. That belongs to someone else. Jesus is saying, “I will give my life. I will pay the payment of myself, that they could be set free.” This is the gospel of the church. This is what we stand for. This is what the emblem represents, that Jesus paid it all for us.
To even think that you can add to what Jesus has accomplished, it’s an insult to God. That’s why as Christians we’re adamant, you cannot earn your salvation. You cannot do anything to merit your salvation anymore. The reason for that is because Jesus paid it all. It is finished. If you try to add anything into that, you’re telling Jesus he’s not sufficient enough. That is blasphemous towards God. It is finished.
Even within this story, we saw that Jesus was crucified between two criminals. One of those criminals was one that turned to Christ. In Luke 23 and verse 43, the thief on the cross that turned to Jesus, and Jesus gave him his promise, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Paradise. What did that thief do? I can tell you in Jesus’ day, to be called a thief means more than you just simply stole something. When we refer to someone as a thief today, we generally mean they stole something.
In Jesus’ day, it was a much more rich word than that. Just stealing something doesn’t get you crucified. Most likely what he would’ve stolen was maybe someone else’s life, and that’s why he finds himself on a cross. With his hands and feet nailed, not able to do a single work for God, not able to get baptized even. God says, “You will be with me in paradise,” because that is the gospel for us.
I hope you in your life, you know it, you’ve embraced it, that God would give everything for you. While you were sinners, Romans 5:10 tells us, “You were enemies of God.” Think about this: God the father gave his son for his enemies. The enemies, to make it more specific, are you and me, because we sin. Therefore we stand contrary to God. God gave his life anyway, the most expensive emblem we could ever hold, the cross, so that we could find freedom in him.
When I think about the importance of the gospel, because the gospel is not something that you just let your soul embrace once in life and say, “Jesus, save me. I’m glad I embraced the gospel. Now let’s move on with the rest of my life, or now let’s do the rest of what the Christian life is about.” The gospel is what you walk in every day. That’s why I said to us, this phrase, it is finished. It’s one of the richest phrases. You could speak into your soul all the days of your life. Jesus is enough. Jesus is enough. That’s where Jesus has displayed his love for you. That’s how Jesus every day wants to renew you in the goodness of who he is, because he gave his life for you. It is enough.
The things of this world, the tact of Satan, is to constantly come at us, to make us feel worthless, to throw our past in our face. It’s Jesus’ words to remind you: it is finished. It’s finished. You’re enough. You’re enough because he’s enough. He’s already given you the greatest gift he could give. There’s nothing more that you can add. What you can do is embrace his love and embracing his love, your heart responds with love in return to the goodness of this king. It is finished.
The reason I want to share that with you, and I’ll close with this little story. John writes the gospel of John from Ephesus. First Corinthians was probably written from Ephesus. John probably wrote his three Epistles, verse second and third, John from Ephesus. Ephesus had Timothy. Ephesus had John. Ephesus had Mary. Ephesus was one of the richest theological churches in all of church history.
When you get to Revelation chapter two, John also writes revelation. This is what he says about the church of Ephesus. You have perseverance, and you have endured on account of my name, and have not become weary, but in verse four. I have this against you, that you have left your first love. That first love is Jesus. God doesn’t save you in order just to make you some sort of machine to do things. You got to live your religion now.
The primary reason God saves you is so that you can have a relationship with him. God wants to make you new in him. God wants you to experience the love that he has for you in him. God wants your first love to be in him. That phrase, it is finished, reminds us the significant of the cross of Christ and where we play in it.
Rembrandt would often paint himself in his paintings to remind himself of the importance of who Jesus is in light of who he was. In this particular painting, he put himself at the feet of Christ. I think this is Rembrandt’s way of saying to himself, to the world that looks at this painting, the gospel isn’t something that you just embrace once. The gospel is the story that you retell to your soul every day. In the beauty of the cross, which was the most expensive symbol in all of history, is where you freely find God, and in that relationship with him forever.