Lesson 121: "It Is Finished"
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Welcome again! This is lesson # 121. In our last lesson we focused on the actual conditions and the circumstances surrounding the crucifixion. We won't read any new material in this lesson. In this lesson, we would like to back up and try to examine what was SAID on the cross. Jesus is usually credited with saying seven things while on the cross. The section that we read in Luke 23:28-31, where Jesus spoke to the women, referred to them as "Daughters of Jerusalem..." was said ON THE WAY to the cross. Then the next statement, Luke 23:34, it's not absolutely clear where Jesus said this: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Probably, Jesus said this while the soldiers were actually driving the nails or possibly momentarily after it was done. However, if you don't count what was said to the women, the "Daughters of Jerusalem..." statement and the prayer for the soldiers that nailed and affixed Jesus to the cross that we've just mentioned; then there are seven other statements. This is amazing but only one of those statements is repeated by more than one writer, that's the Aramaic statement, that both Matthew and Mark gave and then both writers translated the statement for us. We'll get back to that; but, right now, let's try, as best we can to revive and relive the six hours from the time that Jesus was put on the cross until his death, from 9 AM until 3 PM.
By way of review, it would appear that Jesus carried his cross from the Roman headquarters to the city wall, which must have been several city blocks. From there Simon the Cyrenian was recruited to take over carrying that cruel instrument, the rest of the way to Golgotha, the place of the skull. I would assume the place must have been about as far beyond the city wall as the city gate was from the Roman headquarters; thus Jesus must have carried the cross about half way. Luke called the place Calvary, in Luke 23:33. But.- that word "Calvary" is simply another translation of "the place of the skull", it's the Latin form, I understand. Some have in songs, poetry and other documents referred to the place AS Calvary's Mountain or Mt. Calvary; but, that is an incorrect rendering. It is not the name of a formal place, like a town or a named location. It's a description of a place in an informal way, like a little hill, or a place of tall weeds, or a bare place. Thus, the place literally had something to do with a skull; just what, no one seems to know. It could be simply that so many people had been crucified there, it was called the place of the skull because there were actually human skulls littering the place. Others think that a rock outcropping of the mountain someplace nearby resembled a skull. So, it adds up to the fact, we simply don't know the place. So many things, relating to this event, have been blown out of proportion historically you just can't put much faith in historical accounts. I heard the story about someone, a few years ago, who went through all the museums in Europe and other places studying all the chips and chunks of wood that it was claimed came from the cross of Jesus. After weighing all the wood in the museums that made that claim; it was discovered the total weight was something like 14 tons. So, I can understand why Jesus had trouble carrying the cross. I hope you understand I say that facetiously. The point is, as I said, you just can't trust all those so-called historical claims that have been made. Therefore, we'll stick to the inspired accounts and leave the other for someone else to sort out.
Some place between the city gate and the place of the skull, Jesus spoke to the women as recorded in Luke 23:28-31. We've already discussed that. Then, when the soldiers and the crowd arrived at the place of the skull; the soldiers undoubtedly went to work immediately nailing Jesus and the two thieves, each to a cross and hoisting those crosses into the air. Again there has been much speculation as to the gory details. Some think that each of these persons were nailed to a "T" shaped cross on the ground and then each cross was hoisted up and dropped into a post hole with a great thump that brought about exasperating and excruciating pain to Jesus and the two malefactors. Others seem to think the up-right pieces or the posts were a permanent fixture already there from so many previous crucifixions and the victims simply carried the cross-pieces. Again, we simply don't know! You'll have to decide which version seems most creditable to you. You see, these details were NOT covered by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. THEY simply passover the horror scenes of fixing Jesus and the others to the cross. What a brutal occasion it must have been. How heart-sinking and how terrible it must have been for those who helplessly looked on. It gives me a headache just to try to think of the brutal moment. But, some time during this event, Luke records in Luke 23:34 that Jesus uttered a short prayer for the soldiers and those responsible: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." We don't have any hint as to the length of time it took for the actual nailing of the victims to the cross. But, my estimate would be that it all happened in a very brief five or ten minute period. Then as the hard-hearted soldiers sat down close-by and began to gamble for the clothing; that must have been the time that the chief priests and Jewish rulers began to mock and do their thing. You'll remember, they had to hurry back and take the feast of the passover. From the time Jesus was put on the cross until the time that the darkness occurred was something like three hours, that Friday morning. So, it may very well be that the priest were back into the city before the darkness came upon the earth. It was probably after the chief priests had done their thing, or some time near the end of that phase that the two thieves conversed with Jesus while they were on the cross. If you study the conversation, the things that the thieves said were suggested or prompted by the things said by the priestly element. The soldiers undoubtedly made sure there was a good distance between Jesus' cross and the women and the acquaintances of Jesus that followed. Luke said in Luke 23:49, "all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things." From the four accounts we can identify some of the key persons in that group, Mary Magdalene, the apostle John, Mary or Jesus' mother, the wife of Cleophas and Solome, who was probably the mother of James and John. A very brief dialogue, amounting to a total of seven words on the part of Jesus, is all the exchange recorded between Jesus and his family and friends. All of this, I would infer, took place before darkness came upon the earth at noon. The first three writers mention THAT darkness and although they say, darkness was over the whole land; none of the writers use any adjectives describing that darkness. John is the only writer NOT to mention the darkness. The earthquake, the rending of the rocks and the tearing of the temple veil, I would assume,- all took place at 3 PM, i.e. when Jesus died.
Now, with that order of events in mind, let's back up and go through the dialogue. Jesus had turned and talked to the women on the way. He had uttered a prayer for the soldiers as they went about driving the nails and undoubtedly as the blood was squirting. Above the sound of the hammers and the activity of the soldiers were probably much weeping and wailing of the women and possibly others in the crowd. But, as the soldiers sat down to cast their lots, some of the scribes and elders must have broken the silence. The first taunt that Matthew records is in Matt. 27:40, "Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross." Then Matthew said, "Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God." Jesus had the power to come down; but, Jesus didn't come down from the cross because he was obeying the heavenly Father. Oh! What love and understanding to endure the cross, even for those that put the nails in his hands and feet and for those mocking him as he endured that cross. How difficult it must have been for the heavenly Father to endure such mockery? Did you notice that those taunts were as much blaspheming against God as it was against Jesus? How foolish men are! Oh! How foolish we are! Would those people have believed if Jesus had come down from the cross? Jesus told the Jews back in Luke 16:31 "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." We shall find Jesus' words rang true with those scribes and elders and chief priests even on this occasion. Mark records almost the exact same words in Mark 15:29-32. Luke used only one verse to cover this. In Luke 23:35, that writer said, "And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God." Then Luke adds that, "the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, and saying, If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself." Mark said simply, "they that were crucified with him reviled him." But, Luke gives us their words in more detail. In Luke 23:39-43, Luke said, "one of the Malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the just reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." These are the first words recorded that Jesus uttered on the cross. Jesus did not respond to all the mockery and all the insult and all that slander and all that indignity. Jesus did not respond, did you get that? Even here, Jesus taught a great lesson. It's so hard for us, day by day, to overcome simple, insignificant, taunts and remarks. It was only when one was serious about their soul that Jesus responded. It was only when one asked for salvation and pleaded with Jesus for his saving grace that Jesus responded, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." Many, many preachers and religious people have used this verse to "prove" that baptism is not necessary to salvation. I said "prove!" Does this verse PROVE that point? Nothing could be used more out of context. This verse DOES NOT PROVE or disprove anything with respect to baptism. First of all, this was still under the O.T. law. The kingdom was eminent, yes; but, it still had not been instituted. Secondly, as long as Jesus was here in the flesh; he could make any exception he wanted to. Heb. 9:17 says, "a testament is of force AFTER men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." So, Jesus had all the right in the world to change his will and make any exception he saw fit before his testament went into force with the coming of the kingdom. Thirdly, we can't prove that this thief HAD NOT been baptized. He had heard something about Jesus' kingdom; that's for sure. Luke 23:42 proves that point conclusively. If it be so, that this man had been baptized; he was not the first baptized believer who ever stole something. I agree! It shouldn't be that way; but, it's true. And then, there's the question: where is "paradise?" My dictionary says the word "paradise" is of Persian origin and means something like a beautiful park, or a beautiful garden in English. Jesus did not say the man would go to heaven; but, I have no reason to doubt that is what Jesus meant. However, this case NEITHER teaches death-bed repentance NOR that Jesus will alter his will in my case or your case. So, don't go off on the deep end! Stay within the context, context, context.
Then, likely the next thing Jesus said, is in John 19:26-27, "When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." John makes reference to himself in the words "the disciple...whom [Jesus] loved." Thus, this is generally understood to mean that Jesus in these seven words was saying to John, "Behold thy mother!", i.e. like Jesus was introducing his mother, Mary, to John and saying, you take her and care for her John as you would your own mother. Then in v.27, John said he took Mary unto his own home as Jesus requested. "From that hour" would imply the rest of her life. I would assume this happened before the darkness; but, the point is obscure. However, at three o'clock, probably as the darkness was lifting; John says in John 19:28 that Jesus said, "I thirst." Then, someone put a sponge of vinegar to Jesus mouth; but, Jesus wouldn't accept it. It must have been about THAT MOMENT that Jesus cried out, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" or "My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34). Things were so gruesome that even the heavenly father had to look the other way. Mark said Jesus cried with a loud voice. But, John gave us the words; he said Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30) and then John adds the words, "he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." And, that scene must have been indelibly imprinted upon the apostle John for the rest of his life. It must have been at THAT MOMENT the earth began to quake and there were great sounds of rock, the bones of the earth, being broken. Matthew said, "the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." Then Matthew says that when the Roman centurion saw these things he said: "Truly this was the Son of God." I make no attempt to explain these things. It's the record of Matthew an inspired man, one of the twelve. Medically speaking, why did Jesus die before the two thieves? Of course, we can only guess at such a question. Jesus had been on the cross for six hours, undoubtedly the loss of blood, fever, dehydration and difficulty of breathing in such a terrible position had greatly taxed his heart. Although, I'm told that men usually lived longer than six hours on the cross, when crucified. As terrible as his task was; Jesus' ministry upon the earth came to an end at that moment. "It is finished." In the prayer in the upper room (John 17:4), Jesus had said: "Father...! have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." The mighty task was accomplished. The veil was rent. God's name was removed from the temple. It was no longer God’s house. Jesus had said, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." Undoubtedly the darkest hour in history. But, someone has said, it's always darkest just before the dawn. Jesus' apostles and all the disciple must have been crushed. We'll pick up here in our next lesson. Have a good day.