When Jesus hung on a Roman cross 2,000 years ago, the fate of humanity hung with him. Each gasp from His lungs proved more important than the last. Each held eternal significance. Would He give in? Would he decide we weren't worth dying for? In this message Stephen shows us how the Lamb's last words answered that question forever.
The Lamb's Last Words Part II
There is something very solemn about a persons last words - in the face of death, what a person truly thinks and is tends to come to the surface.
Voltaire: noted French infidel who had attempted with his writings to destroy the credibility of Christianity said to his doctor, "I am abandoned by God and man! W ill give you half of what I am worth if you will give me six more months of life."
Thomas Hobbes, the skeptic who crusaded against Christianity in England and influenced much of the social and civil life of England cried out, "If I had the whole world, I would give it to live one day. I am about to take a leap into the dark."
P.T. Barnum of Barnum and Bailey, his last words were as was dying, "What were today's receipts?"
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism said, "The best of all is, God is with us."
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said as his last words, "Jesus died for me."
Last words revealed the true nature of all of these men!
This morning I want to show you the last words of the Lamb from the cross . . .they reveal who He is and why He hangs upon tree.
Christ is nailed to the cross at approximately 9:00a.m. out time. The first there hours are spent in the sunlight of day. He will make his first three statments during this period of time.
Then comes the strange, miraculous, mysterious darkness and for the next three hours He hangs in silence. The silence is finally shattered with his heart rending cry in Aramaic, "Eloi, Eloi, lamasabachtani" My God my God, why hast thou forsaken me." A little later, "I am thirsty; It is finished" and last of all, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit."
History records what we would expect - the typical individual who was crucified would alternate with raging and cursing, and pleading and begging, and cursing again. And by the time of Christ, some 30,000 men had already been crucified by the Romans in Palestine alone.
But Jesus Christ was different - He had lived for this moment - and everything he said had incredible significance.
I don't intend to cover everything - it would be impossible to do so in several sermons.
Your study guide gives you all seven statements.
The first words are "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Luke's Gospel uses a tense that indicates this phrase was repeated over and over again.
You could imagine them nailing his wrists to the cross - He screams in pain and then say's "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."
The record of scripture tells us the soldiers mocked Him, the religous leaders jeered at Him; both criminals on either side cursed Him - His response?! "Father forgive them, they know not what they do"
He is acting as High Priest, interceding for sinful man. Sinful man who because of the hardness of his hearts couldn't see that He truly was the Lamb of God.
When Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were married in 1947, many of the streets and parks of london were crowded with people, including royalty from all over the world. King Faisal II, the 12 year old King of Iraq was there as well - not dressed in his finery, he was really more interested in the prancing horses...whe he pushed his way through the line of policemen to get a better view of the stallions, he ws handled roughly...next day the newspapers apologized "King Faisal, we didn't know who you were."
The second statement is found in Luke 23:39 . . . turn there please.
"And one of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!"
40. But the other answered, ad rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation ? nd we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothng wrong."
This is an amazing statement!
-He admitted his guilt - "We are here justly" (v. 41)
-He admitted he deserved his punishment
-He declared, in the presence of all the accusers that Christ was absolutely innoent!
But think for a moment how little this criminal knew about Jesus Christ
There are many people who have said to me, "Well, I'd like to trust Him if I could just understand more about it."
But look at what he says to Jesus, v. 42. Jesus, remember me when you come in Your kingdom!" 43. And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."
What an incredible statement! This theif is promised heaven!
You realize the first man that God created became a theif. Adam took fro mthe tree that didn't belong to him and was cast out of paradise. The last Adam, Jesus Christ, who will recreate and transform mankind now turns to a theif and says, "You're welcome to my Paradise."
Think of it: this theif was despicable - he was a sinner. But he becomes an unbelievable lesson in soteriology - the docrine of salvation.
He couldn't earn salvation. . .he couldn't do penance for his sins. . .he couldn't join a church. . .he couldn't be baptized by water. . .he couldn't do good deeds. . .the only thing he could do was receive the gift of salvation that Jesus just promised him.
And by the way, Jesus said, "Today. . ." Following death is either heaven or hell - not purgatory where you, slowly by degrees earn your way into paradise - TODAY!
Now perhaps someone here is saying, "Hey, I'll just wait until I'm much older before I get saved. . .I'll postpone until the last opportunity."
Listen, this dying man was not saved at the last opportunity he had - he was saved at the first opportunity he had!
The third statement is recorded in John 19...turn back there.
There were four women at the cross, including Mary, Jesus' mother.
verse 26. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, you son." Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
Now the Roman church will, in their continued efforts to deify Mary say that Jesus gave John the Apostle to Mary, thus making her the patroness over him and all of the Apostles and every believer hence. The truth is, Jesus did the exact opposite - for (v. 27b) ". . . from that very hour, the disciple took her into his own household."
What Jesus is doing is taking care of his earthly responsibility to see that His mother is cared for . . . this is His last will and testament.
I read that the longest will ever probated was made up of four big volumes. There were over 95,000 words in it! The shortest will on record is recorded in Great Birain and it has only three words.
Well, Jesus didn't have any earthly possessions to give to anybody. The soldiers were at that very moment gambling away his clothing. The record of scripture is silent where Joseph isconcerned - we believe he had already died. . .the half brothers and sisters of Jesus didn't even believe and they have allowed Mary to go through this agony without their support. So Jesus leaves the responsibility of caring for Mary up to John, the Apostle He dearly loved.
After that statement there will fall across the land, darkness and for three hours, the light of the sun will somehow be blotted out, even though it is early afernoon.
We have every reason to believe that this darkness covered the entire world - the greek word for land is "ge" and has also been translated "earth". It's interesting that in extrabiblical literature, there are references to a worldwide darkness on this day.
More importantly, the purpose of the darkness was at least three fold. It's never clearly spelled out in Scripture, but here are some suggestions:
1) The rabbis had long taught that darkening of the sun was a judgment of God on the world for an unusually terrible sin. Could you imagine God using this now as an object lesson that humanity had just committed the most terrible crime of all time.
2) Darkness was not only understood as a sign of judgment but a symbol of mourning. Amos wrote, "I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight...I will make that time like mourning for an only son." Imagine the cross is draped in the mourning shroud of darkness.
3) Darkness must also be understood in the context of the Passover. The Jews are celebrating the Passover - a time when Israel escaped from Egypt. You remember the many plagues God sent on the Pharoah - the ninth plage that came was a great darkness over the land. For three days, Egypt was in darkness. It was darkness that preceded the killing of the passover lamb as each Israelite took a lamb and killed it and sprinkled its blood on the doorways of their homes. The death angel was coming and wherever there was the blood of the lamb, the death angel passed over that home, and the firstborn was alowed to live.
The final Passover lamb is about to die - and so darkness covers the land, not for three days but for three hours.
Durng this time, the Lamb has become vile sin, who knew no sin - he is experiencing the wrath of God the Father and the infinite penalty for sin.
Suddenly, Matthew recorded, Jesus shouts aloud in the darkness, "Eli Eli, lama sabachtani" My God My God, why hast thou forsaken Me."
Jesus, the man - is experiencing a loss of intimacy that He'd never known. Sin isolates. . .sin seperates. . .sin is lonley agony!
One writer put it this way, "Jesus had never known a time when He was ot His Father's delight. Fellowship had never before been broken. But ow it had. Something else should be noted. The term "Forsaken" is the same word Paul sued when referring to Demas who had deserted him Why hd the Father forsaken or deserted His Son? Because at that period of time when Jesus took our sins upon Himself and paid the price of death on our behalf, God who is holy could not sustain fellowship with His Son. he full, crushing weight of sin He bore alone.
WHY? He was forsaken of the Father that we might never be forsaken by the Father. He went through darkness that we might live in the light. He went through isolaton - so that we would never be alone. He suffered Hell, so we could enjoy heaven forever!!!!!!!
The Lamb makes a fifth statment - verse 28 of John 19. After this, Jesus knowing that all things had already been accomplished, in
order that the scripture might be fulfilled said, "I am thirsty."
Jesus was offered something to drink twice during crucifixion.
The first time was from the godly women who had mixed gall with new wine - a drink that would work as an anathsetic - He refused it. Then as He cried out in thirst, John 19:29 states, "A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine (the cheapest drink anywhere) upon a branch of hyssop, and brought it up to His mouth."
A hyssop branch was around 18 inches long - they did it not so that they could reach Jesus' mouth, but in order to keep their hands away from his blood dripping face and blood drenched body.
Imagine, Jesus began His ministry hungry in the wilderness, He ends His ministry thirsty!
He, the one who had earlier said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. . .you will never thirst again."
He could make that possible becuase He would very soon experience thirst from this slow tortorous death.
Because Jesus experienced thirst, you and I will one day enjoy a place where thirst does not exist. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more." Rev. 7:16. The last invitation in the Bible, Rev. 22:17, invites all who thrist to come and take the water of life freely.
Warren Weirsbe was having dinner one evening with a friend of his. As so often happens in restaurants, the waitress came and asked them "Would you like something to drink from the bar?" Weirsbe's friend very tenderly said, "Ma'am, over 20 years ago I took a drink, and I haven't been thirsty since." Then he went on to tell her about the Lord Jesus who satisfied all thirst.
The question is not, "Do you have a thirst for spiritual reality . . . because you do. . . the question is, "Have you come to the Lamb who invites you to drink from His well of living water."
In a matter of moments, Jesus will utter His last statement - "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit."
But first he shouts one Greek word . . . John 19:30. When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave
up His spirit.
IT IS FINISHED - one Greek word - tetelestai!
The Gospel records that this word was shouted!
Pink writes, "This was not the despairing cry of a helpless martyr; it was not an expression of satisfaction that the termination of his sufferings was now reached; it was not the last gasp of a worn-out life. No, this was the declaration on the part of the Divine Redeemer that all for which he came from heaven to earth to do, was now done; that all that was needed to reveal lthe full character of God had now been accomplished; that all that was required by the law before sinners could be saved had now been performed; that the full price of our redemption was now paid. To be sure, as Jesus spoke these words He was not yet dead. But His death was only moments away and He speaks anticipatively of the work now done."
Tetelestai - literally, "It has been and it forever will be finished."
At age 33 most people are saying, "I'm just starting!" Jesus said, "I've finished."
Now you notice that Jesus said, "It is finished" not "I am finished!"; for while He was finishing the work of Atonement, He was beginning the new dispensation of grace!
Now the word, "tetelestai" is foreign to our ears and our culture. But it was a common word in the day of Christ.
It was used by:
1) servants. A master would tell his servant to go and fulfill a task; and when the servant had completed the job, he would come back and say "tetelstai" - 'I've finished the task you gave me to do." Philippians 2 tells us that Christ came as a servant, not a sovereign. . .He performed the work the trinity had assigned Him to do - He finished it.
2) aritists also used this word. When a Greek painter or sculptor completed his work, he would step back and say, "tetelestai" - it is finished. . .the picture is completed!
When Jesus Christ came, He completed the picture of God's revelation. You remember the two travelers on the Emmaus road - Jesus slipped into their company and beginning with Moses and all the prophets, the Lord Jesus went through the Old Testament Scripture and explained he total picutre. Calvary completed he picture! The canvass upon which God painted redemption's scenes is now finished.
3) The word was also used by merchants.
To them it meant, "the debt is fully paid." If you had purchased something, the merchant would take your money and then would give you a receipt. That recept would have written on it, "tetelestai" - you are the owner of the product; you've paid the price for it.
You and I are in debt before God - the law is demanding payment. Paul tells us that the payment or the wages for sin is death. Jesus will make the payment and satisfy the price God demands for sin.
It is finished - the masterpiece has been painted, salvation has been purchased so it can now be offered as a gift to you.
One writer said, "The great word of the gospel is not "do" but "done!"
All the other religions in the world will tell you - if you will find eternal bliss you must do something, attain to something, join something, give something, become something".
Alexander Wooten a generation or two ago was an interesting evangelist. One day a man who he knew came to him and rather sarcastically said, "Wooten, tell me what I have to do to become a Christian." Wooten replied, "It's too late." The man sobered up and said, "Wait a minute, what do you mean . . . tell me, what do I have to do to become a Christian?" Whooten said, "No really, it's too late; it's already been done."
That's the message of this cross ladies and gentlemen - the work of salvation is completed. "It is finished."
You know that in the Old Testament tabernacle there were no chairs because the work of the priest was never finished. But Jesus Christ will soon ascend and sit down at the right hand of the Father - the work was finally finished!
What seperates those who are saved from those who aren't is the simple fact that some have come to the foot of the cross and admitted their helplessness and sinfulness and have received the free gift of eternal life - others haven't - they'll work their way to heaven, or they'll refuse to admit they need saving after all.
I remember reading the story that the AP news carried from Florida. In rural Lake County, according to police reports, two elderly sisters drove around for 2 1/2 days before their car finally bogged down in a muddy orange grove. The two ladies, one 80 and the other 84 had just been on a shopping trip into a town just 20 miles from their rural home, where they lived together. But somewhere on the return trip, the driver took a wrong turn. In an attmept to get back on the right road, the ladies evidently drove around in circles for over 60 straight hours, not stopping to eat, never once asking for help. The police, in attempting to retrace their journey, estimated that the two had traveled over 200 miles trying to reach their home only 20 miles away. Finally they were discovered by a farmer, the car hopelessly stuck, one sister dead from exposure and the other lying under an orange tree in critical condition . . .when later asked why they did not seek help or ask directions, the surviving sister sai,d "Oh, we didn't want to do that! We've always been so independent, we wouldn't have dreamed of admitting we needed help."
Did you know that this Book declares you are lost without Jesus Christ; furthermore, you are traveling on a road that is heading for eternal death. . .but that Jesus Christ came into the world, to seek and to save those who are lost . . . even you!
When O. Henry the writer of short stories was dying, his final words were, "Have someone turn up the lights - I don't want to go home in the dark."
You never need fear that my friend - for Jesus Christ, the light of the world, has promised to shed abroad in your heart His light if you will believe in Him."
Listen to the words of the dying Lamb - the final passover Lamb - the one who died so that forever, you and I might live!