This week we find ourselves in chapter 19 of the Gospel of John. Jesus, the Son of God, is hanging on an old rugged cross, a hand hewn tree prepared for the execution of a common criminal. He was given the death penalty for a crime he did not commit. He was an innocent man, yet, it was for this He was born! The Roman crucifixion was the most cruel form of capital punishment ever conceived. It brought shame, with the recipient hanging naked, humiliated, and ridiculed. This was a slow, agonizing death that came hours, even days after hanging there. The cause of death was ultimately suffocation.
Here’s what the Bible says about Jesus in Philippians chapter 2: "Jesus, who being in the very nature of God...made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross!"
So, what happened on that hill far away? And what does it mean to you and me? Jesus summed it up in three little words (John 19:30): "IT IS FINISHED!" At the age of 33, most of us would be saying, "It is just beginning"; but Jesus said, "It is finished!"
How many of you have started worthwhile projects, but never got around to finishing them? I don’t care to count mine, thank you! But Jesus finished what He started! (Aren’t you glad?) He could have lifted His voice to heaven and called 10,000 angels to take Him off that cross of suffering. But instead He shouted, "I have finished what I came to do!" But what was it Jesus came to do? What work was it that He finished? He came to save us out of a life of sin and condemnation and judgement, and translate us into an abundant life of freedom and forgiveness and hope! And this promise of life wasn’t just for now, but for eternity!
But notice He did NOT say, "I am finished", but "IT is finished!" This was not a cry of defeat, but a shout of victory! This was a proclamation of our victory because of His death on that cross and His eventual resurrection from the dead! And because of it, you and I can have the assurance of eternal life in heaven and peace of mind here on earth. This statement, "IT IS FINISHED", was the most powerful declaration ever made in all of history. But what did it mean? What does this statement mean to us?
Jesus’ cry from the cross that Friday afternoon in Jerusalem was actually a one word statement in the Greek language of the day. That word was "tetelestai". It was a very familiar term to the people who heard it that day. It actually had multiple meanings, depending on the context it was used. And for the next few weeks we’ll be looking at these words from the cross. Hopefully, we will all come to a better understanding of what happened on the cross and how it became a “tree of life“ to us!