Mt Rushmore attracts 3 million visitors a year to South Dakota. The facial sculptures of U.S.A. presidents George Washington (nation’s founding father), Thomas Jefferson (national expansion with Louisiana Purchase and author of Declaration of Independence), Theodore Roosevelt (conservationist and industrial boom in nation), and Abraham Lincoln (preserved nation thru Civil War) are a phenomenal monument in our nation’s history.
Danish American Gutzon Borglum was enlisted as the project sculptor. The project began in 1927 and finished in 1941. The actual carving was done by a team of over 400 men, and remarkably, no one died during construction. And yes, for you National Treasure fans, there is a hidden vault behind the sculpture! But, did you know, the carving project was originally meant to include the bodies down to the waists of the presidents? Unfortunately, funding ran out and the monument was declared complete on October 31, 1941. Yet, according to the author of the project, Mt. Rushmore was an unfinished masterpiece.
Likewise, God has designed a masterpiece in creation of the world, humanity, and its redemption. While it may appear at many angles and perspectives unfinished, the work of God’s salvation is complete.
Jesus Christ declared the finished work of God at the end of His life.
- John 17:4 “[I have] accomplished the work that you gave me to do”
- John 19:28 “Jesus, knowing that all was now finished [τετέλεσται]”
- John 19:30 “Jesus said ‘It is finished,’ [τετέλεσται] and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
Today’s message will identify three completions from the death of Jesus.
EXAMINE John 19:30-42 Status: Finished. A word of victory.
Jesus’s death completes your salvation (Jn 19:30).
30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
This moment is monumental. Jesus is near seconds of His last cry, His last breath, and His last announcement. He will have one more statement after this word. While this word is three in English “It is finished,” it is one word in Greek: τετέλεσται. In this single word is a summary of God’s purpose in the gospel.
One preacher said “[The word is] an ocean of meaning in a drop of language, a mere drop, for that is all that we can call one word. “It is finished.” Yet it would need all the other words that ever were spoken, or ever can be spoken, to explain this one word. It is altogether immeasurable. It is high; I cannot attain to it. It is deep; I cannot fathom it.”
Tetelestai was a transactional word, sometimes used on business documents or receipts. When you owed a debt, you had to either work to make payment or enter prison. If you entered prison, you were not able to work and earn money, so the only way you could be free was if someone else came on your behalf to pay the debt. The list of your debts would be held up against you and stamped with a single word – tetelestai / paid in full. Essentially, they were saying, “Here is the receipt proving your freedom. Keep this receipt for your safety in case someone accuses you of still owing the debt.”
Likewise, in terms of our sin debt the wage is death and payment must be made. God does not do amnesia to forgive our sin, but atonement. In the OT, God dealt with the sin debt of people through the sacrificial system. The life of animals was substituted for humans, because sin causes death and blood equals life (cf. Lev 17:11; Heb 9:22 “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”). Each year on the Day of Atonement, there were 2 sacrificial goats (Lev 16): The first goat was a sin offering, sacrificed on the altar as payment for sin. This symbolized propitiation, where the penalty of sin is paid. The second goat was sent away, outside the camp, into the wilderness as a symbol that sin and guilt were removed from the people. This symbolized expiation – “As far as east is from west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). In Expiation, the power of sin is removed.
However, the sacrificial system needed to be repeated each year. As one biblical author notes, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:4). It was as if the OT saints were paying for sin by credit until the Christ came.
When you make a purchase with a credit card, the item becomes yours but only for as long as you make good on the payments. The OT sacrificial system was the credit payment, but it was ultimately insufficient to fully and finally pay the debt. So, God enters from outside our debt prison and pays the debt – tetelestai. Jesus is our substitution for sin (Rom 3:24-26; 1Jn 4:10). The punishment of sin is substituted from us to Jesus, and the place of eternity for sinners is substituted from hell to heaven. In full, the gospel is not just the removal of sin but the restoration of our ability to live among and for God according to our created purpose.
So what does this practically mean for you?
- Guilt is gone.
The cross is your receipt for your sin and shortcomings. You don’t have to worry about not being forgiven or loved, just look back to the cross for the reminder. Allow guilt to convict you to repentance, and then move forward in grace (cf. 1Jn 1:7-9). And stop comparing yourself to others good or bad; God doesn’t grade on a curve, but on the cross. Let Jesus be your comparison standard and allow His grace to flow through your life.
- Problems are not payback.
When a person experiences tension/trial/tragedy, the tendency is to think, “God is punishing me for something I have done.” But, based on the gospel, we should realize that problems are not always God’s means of paying us back. God has already paid fully and finally all that is needed for your sin. So, you will never experience the eternal consequences of sin. However, there are times when earthly consequences for choices will occur. We are free to choose but not free from the consequences of our choices. In all, because of Jesus, we know God is a good Father who will see us through the suffering we experience.
- Finished isn’t final. Jesus said, “IT is finished”, not “I am finished.” After Jesus died, He was just getting started. There was still more to come. In three days, Jesus would resurrect, spend forty days with over 500 eye-witnesses, and send the Holy Spirit to work through the church for the next couple millennia.
If you ever feel finished or tempted to quit, remember you can backup but don’t give up. God is always at work and has a purpose for everything you endure.
Jesus’s death completes Scripture (Jn 19:31-37).
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.
32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him.
33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.
34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.
35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.
36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”
37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
The normal Roman practice of crucifixion was to leave the person hanging on the cross 1) until they died, which sometimes could take multiple days, and 2) leave their bodies hanging to be gnawed by vultures and as a ferocious visual to the potential fate daring to challenge Rome. If there were a reason to speed their deaths, the soldiers would smash their legs of the victim with an iron mallet. In addition to body shock, this step prevented the victim from extending their legs to push open the chest cavity for breathing, and asphyxia followed.
Comparatively, the Jewish law viewed a person hanging should not remain overnight and be buried same day (Dt 21:22-23). Such a person was under God’s curse and leaving the dead body would defile the land. Further, John notes it was the day of Preparation, before the Sabbath – “Friday.” Therefore, the Jews asked Pilate/Rome for Jesus’s body and they obliged with their attempt to break the legs of Jesus, except he was already dead.
The evidence of Jesus’s death was testified by the Roman soldiers piercing His body with a spear. If Jesus were not already dead, the spear to the heart would have been the death blow. However, John notes eyewitness testimony of death having already occurred. Contra to those who dismiss Jesus only faint and later revived (Docetism, Islam, etc.), the evidence of blood and water exiting the body.
Further, John relates the scriptural significance of unbroken bones for Jesus (cf Ps 34:20) and looking upon the pierced one (cf. Zech 12:10; Jn 3:14; Rev 1:7). John, with all the other Gospel and NT authors, take numerous opportunities to relate how Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection are in fulfillment to hundreds of Scriptures that were written hundreds of years before the events fulfilled. While some claim historians falsified information about the birth of Jesus, and that Jesus manipulated events to make himself appear to be the Christ, the events concerning the death of Jesus are uncontrollable, unforced, and extraordinarily realized in Jesus the Christ.
- Consider reading Psalm 22 for events prophesying the crucifixion events.
- Consider reading Isaiah 53 for events prophesying the death, burial, and resurrection events.
- Consider reading apostles’ preaching and teaching of Jesus’s fulfillment (Lk 24:44-49; Ac 2; 13:33-35; 1Cor 15:1-4; Heb 1; 2Pet 1:16-21; Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and Omega, the One who is, who was, and who is coming”).
Statisticians tells us for one person to fulfill even a few dozen of the hundreds of prophecies are impractical of any human and impossible for anyone – but God. Peter Stoner in Science Speaks writes, “Now these prophecies were either given by inspiration of God or the prophets just wrote them as they thought they should be. In such a case the prophets had just one chance in 1017 of having them come true in any person, but they all came true in [Jesus] Christ.” Stoner illustrates this by saying it would be like taking 1017 silver dollars, marking a single one of them mixed in randomly and laying them all on the face of Texas, which would cover the state two feet deep; and then blindfolding you and asking you to select the marked coin first try.
- The fulfilled prophecies should give us anticipation and preparation for prophecy yet fulfilled, specifically the second coming of Jesus.
- Are you ready?
- Death doesn’t discriminate. Your family & friends are not promised tomorrow. What stops you from testifying?
Jesus’s death completes the race (Jn 19:38-42).
38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body.
39 Nicodemus, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.
40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.
42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
Joseph of Arimathea (JoA) is a follower of Jesus that appears in all four Gospels at the end of Jesus’s life and we know little else. Matthew 27:57 and Luke 23:51 tell us JoA was looking for the kingdom of God, and Mark 15:43 tells us JoA was a member of the Sanhedrin. Only John tells he was following Jesus secretly. Likewise, the mention of Nicodemus who approached Jesus at night (Jn 3) is now entering the light. Both men risk their reputation to care for Jesus in a personal manner.
Jesus had run His race, but now it was time for His followers to start running. You can follow Jesus secretly for a brief season (consider today’s persecuted church), but there are moments to stand and speak as a Christian.
- Following Jesus will cost your reputation, religion, and riches.
- Reputation: “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words… of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mk 8:38)
- Religion “unless one is born again you cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3)
- Riches “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24)
Each of us have a race to run. Ancient Greece is known for its athletic competitions, such as the world competition of sports we know today as the Olympics. In these Olympic competitions, victors receive a crowning honor. In ancient Greece, the winners receive a wreath of fragrant evergreen to wear around their heads. Likewise, in ancient Rome, military commanders who had conquered armies in battle would wear similar wreaths. And Caesars would have their images impressed on coins wearing ceremonial wreaths to display pride and triumphant spirit.
The NT authors reference wearing a crown for running and persevering in the race, living for King Jesus. Christians will receive a crown of glory that never fades (1Cor 9:24-27; Js 1:2; 2Tim 4:6-8; Rev 2:8-10).
- Where is the destination of your race? When all is said and done, what will be said of you? What’s your desired legacy?
James Harrison has in interesting life legacy. He is a blood plasma donor in Australia. His unusual plasma composition had antibodies against Rhesus disease, a deadly form of anemia common among infants. He has made over 1000 donations 1,173 as of May 2018 / averages 1 donation every 3 weeks for 57 years) of blood in his lifetime, which have estimated to save over 2.4 million unborn babies from this condition, including his own daughter Tracey. He has been nicknamed, “The Man With The Golden Arm” by many of his Australian countrymen.
Jesus gave His life and love so we can live… and give our life and love for others in His name.
 Charles Spurgeon, “Christ’s Dying Word To the Church” (John 19:30) https://www.spurgeongems.org/vols40-42/chs2344.pdf
 Adrian Rogers.
 D.A. Carson, The Pillar NT Commentary, John 19:31.
 Some contend Jesus was crucified earlier in week to align with The Passover lamb sacrifice. However, John is aligned with the other Gospels indicating the day before Sabbath (cf. Mk 15:42; Lk 23:54). The theory that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday, before a “second Sabbath” – Passover – would negate the fact that Jesus ate Passover meal with the disciples before his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. Further, the Emmaus disciples noted on resurrection Sunday, “today is the third day since these things [Jesus’s crucifixion]” (Lk 24:22). Starting with Wednesday night, the third day would be Saturday – the Sabbath, which we know Jesus rose Sunday. So, starting with Friday night, we can account with Jesus’ promise of rising on the third day.