“So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 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 the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:16-30 ESV)
My oldest brother is a pretty good golfer. Me, I’m off the charts. Way, way off the bottom of the chart. I’m so bad I don’t even try to play anymore. There’s just no point. I’d hurt someone and it would probably be myself. We all have things we like to do but just never have time to do them, right? Truth is, we make time to do what we consider to be important or gives us the most fulfillment. You might disagree, but I would challenge you to look at where you spend your time and money and see if they don’t reflect your true values. Scripture says, “For your heart will always pursue what you value as your treasure.” (Matthew 6:21 TPT)
What does bad golf have to do with the pursuit of a treasure and the crucifixion of Christ? We make choices in our lives that are the direct result of what we truly treasure and those choices have consequences. I made a decision quite some time ago what would be important in my life and where I would commit my time. That decision and the resulting life choices are still bearing results in my life, some good and some not so good. The characters in our story are also making choices and we get to see some of the results. Doing so can help us make better choices and alter our future direction in life. Let’s take a look…
Pilate has now been backed into a corner and must make a fateful choice. He has already stated his opinion regarding the guilt and innocence of Jesus, “I find no fault in him.” However, the political chess game he is playing with the Jewish leaders has placed him in “check” with the possibility of “checkmate” with just one more strategic move by the Jews, “if you release him, you’re NOT a friend of Caesar.” He quickly counters to prevent the possible “checkmate” by offering up Jesus as the scapegoat (which we considered two weeks ago).
Now, he hands him over to the Jews for crucifixion with one final ironic slap in their face, a sign to be placed above Jesus that declares him to be the “King of the Jews” in three languages. The Jewish leaders protest, “make it say ‘he claimed to be king of the Jews,’ instead.” Pilate responds, “What I have written, I have written.” In other words, what’s done is done. It’s finished. Done. I made a decision and I’m not changing my mind on this. Deal with it. True, they wanted him dead, but not memorialized as the King of the Jews. While I’m certain that Pilate smirked at the intentional irony of his actions, God was the one truly in charge that day. The Jews and Pilate were acting, reacting and choosing according to their heart’s desires, but God was working quietly and purposefully to achieve His plan. So, while Pilate chose to post a sign, God purposed and planned that He would indeed be the true King of the Jews.
Next, we see the actions of the soldiers. They take Jesus out to Golgotha for crucifixion. It was just outside the city walls and He was crucified alongside two others. The soldiers take his personal items and divide them among themselves and then cast lots (similar to rolling dice) to determine the owner of his nice “seamless” tunic. John notes, this fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 22:18. John isn’t making a judgment regarding the actions of the soldiers, just noting that their actions confirm an ancient prophecy. You see, the soldiers chose to divide Jesus’ garments among themselves and to cast lots for his seamless tunic but God had been planning this moment long before it happened.
Some try and explain this away by noting that must have John simply written his gospel story to fit the ancient prophecies. However, they fail to recognize that the gospels weren’t written in a cultural vacuum. All one needed to do to disprove the content of the gospels written by these witnesses was to produce two counter eyewitnesses who could disprove their accounts, but none existed. In fact, the accuracy of the gospel story is supported by the recordings of contemporary historians, the Jewish historian Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus.
Finally, we find Jesus final moments on the Cross completing God’s plan. He fulfills his human duty by providing for His mother’s earthly needs through His closest friend, John. When he tells His mother, “woman, behold your son” it is unclear as to whether he intends for her to look at him and behold his condition or to draw attention to John. I personally believe that his intention is for her to see and understand that He has fulfilled his purpose and the prophecies regarding his life’s mission. Just as she was told on that fateful day of his circumcision so many years before, “…Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35 ESV)
If there was anyone besides the Father and the Son who understood the deep, deep truths of this moment, it was Mary. While I certainly don’t agree with the veneration that the Catholics give her, she was chosen and blessed as one who had found God’s favor. If anyone knew the truth of Jesus’ origins, she did. She KNEW that He was not just a man. Regardless of whether he was speaking of himself or John, he asks John to care for and provide for her as he says, “behold, your mother.” My point is that Mary also bears witness to the purpose and plan of God being borne out in her life, as well. She chose to obey and honor God, but God purposed.
His final words bear the most powerful witness to the purposes and plan of God. Knowing that everything was now complete He whispers, “I thirst” and fulfills the final cross-centered prophecy. But the touch of the moist sour wine on His lips and tongue enable Him to speak loudly and clearly the words that will echo throughout eternity, “It is FINISHED!” I could tell you the Greek word, but that’s generally just done to show off (even when I do it 😉). But, what’s important is what it means, I have fulfilled my intended purpose or reached my goal. It is finished, fulfilled, completed. I have achieved what I’ve been given to do! What did he finish? God’s perfect plan of salvation for mankind. That is HUGE!
It is always a great feeling when you reach the completion of a project, especially when it is turning out just as you planned. But don’t miss this! For it to have been completed, it must have been purposed and planned. You can’t fulfill something that was unintentional or accidental. Those things just happen. This DIDN’T just happen. This has been God’s plan all along, since the beginning of time. Even before the creation of the world. So, I want to end this week with a few thoughts on the purpose and plan of God for your salvation.
First, nothing you’ve done is a surprise to God and it doesn’t negate His love for you. Scripture is very clear on this subject. While your sin separates you from God, God’s love for you is far greater than any sin that separates you from Him. Your salvation is not based on your righteousness but on Christ’s. So, while God despises sin because of what it does TO us, He doesn’t despise us. He doesn’t permit sin in His presence, but He does permit redeemed sinners in His presence. So, recognize and “own” the sin that exists in your life. You’re not fooling God, He sees and knows all those things you hide from everyone else and He still loves you so much sent Jesus to make it possible for you to know Him.
Second, your sin is redeemed and removed through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ and is NEVER dependent on your actions. Now, don’t misunderstand me on this point. Your actions WILL subsequently be changed because of your redemption, but you are NOT redeemed because you’re good enough or perform some religious actions. When your faith or trust is placed in the redeeming work and person of Jesus Christ, then your heart is transformed. You aren’t saved because you joined some specific church or participated in some religious ceremonies. You are saved by what Christ did and not what you did or are doing.
Finally, when your heart is transformed or made alive, then your desires (or the things you treasure in life) are changed and you begin to desire what God desires. Scripture calls this “spiritual birth” because the part of you that is like God is now alive. You begin to see and understand that life is more than what you experience with your physical senses. You were made for man than this life and now you are able to see, understand and desire things that you once thought foolish or impossible. You had a sense of this before, but now the light has been turned on and you are beginning to make out details that were just vague shadows before.
It is finished! He has completed God’s purpose and plan for redeeming and transforming your life. Now, trust Him. Confess your sin and failures and place your trust in Jesus Christ. That’s called faith. Then begin to listen, hear Him in His Word, pray, and obey Him. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 ESV)