Nailed to the Cross

KEY VERSE: “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.” —John 19:30, RSV


OF ALL the painful ways which man has devised to kill his own species, death on the cross is one of the most cruel. The cross was used during Roman times as an instrument of execution, a death reserved for slaves and the worst of criminals.

It was indeed a traumatic shock to Jesus’ disciples to realize that the one whom they had followed, who had loved them, and whom they had learned to love, should die such a terrible and ignominious death. And yet hanging there in shame between two criminals, his end was in keeping with his life. From the very beginning of his ministry, he had been greatly criticized by the religious rulers because his life was so closely associated with sinners, and now he was dying with sinners. With his last remaining strength and breath he uttered with a loud voice, “It is finished.”

This was our Lord’s dying effort to make an important announcement to his followers. What was finished? Jesus had said earlier concerning his death, “For this cause came I unto this hour.” (John 12:27) It was for the cause of dying as the world’s sin bearer that he had come to that hour, and this was finished when he bowed his head and gave up his spirit of life—his existence as a man. The corresponding price, or substitute, for the life of Adam, and all mankind lost in sin through him, was paid. The death penalty which could not be annulled was thus assumed and paid by another. Even in the agony of death, Jesus wanted this glorious message proclaimed.

Our Lord had come into the world to take the sinner’s place in death. How appropriately the cross signified that this was efficacious even for the vilest sinners, a fact further amplified in his statement to the condemned thief hanging next to him; even to such a one, assurance was given that when Jesus came into his kingdom, the thief would be with him in paradise. Would this imply there will be thieves and men of like character in the completed kingdom? Not at all, but its subjects will be former sinners, since sin is a condition that all men have shared to a greater or lesser degree through the fall.

Our Master rejoiced in the prospect of a restored world, free of sin. This was a great part of the “joy that was set before him,” giving strength to “endure the cross and despise the shame.” (Heb. 12:2) He took comfort in the assurance of the prophetic words of the twenty-second Psalm, which described that very moment, how even though he was “a reproach of men, and despised of the people” (vs. 4), nevertheless the Lord had “not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, neither hath he hid his face from him, but when he cried unto him, he heard.” (vs. 24) And as a result, “all the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. And to them his righteousness shall be declared.”—vss. 27,31

When Jesus said, “It is finished,” he was referring to that part of his work involving his earthly ministry. The remainder of the work of redemption yet to be accomplished was to be executed not as a man, but as a great and powerful divine being.

Having endured the cross, Paul says that he “is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2) From this position of authority, Jesus can rid the world of sin and all of its attendant ills far more effectively than he ever could have as a man. No doubt as such he could have relieved some of the world’s suffering on a larger scale than the limited and temporary miracles he performed in Israel. He probably could have established purer government for the people, and greater justice for the oppressed, instituted better education, more effective health practices, and higher religious reasoning and social standards. No doubt, with his keen intellect he, centuries ago, could have given the world advanced technology exceeding any that we have today. But though it doubtless could have accomplished much temporary good, it never would have succeeded in fulfilling the grand deliverance for the race which God’s greater, far more comprehensive plan of the ages is designed to work out. Knowing that his Father was greater than he, Jesus submitted fully to his methods, and died to all other possibilities, in order to carry out God’s plan.

When Jesus said, “It is finished,” only he, of all men, sensed it as a moment of triumph: the future was secured!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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