"IT is finished"
Dear Brethren and Sisters, the chapter we have had read for us this morning, Matthew 27, is, one may say, the focal point of all history. Most history is, to us, utterly meaningless and unimportant; as it were the mere squabbles of animals in a jungle, although some does have significance for our understanding of Yahweh’s plan and purpose, but this chapter records the most important and meaningful event that has ever happened since creation.
If we read this chapter regularly and meditate upon it, it could make the difference between acceptance and rejection at the judgment seat of Christ. Let us not take that acceptance for granted. It is only for the very few who give themselves wholly to Yahweh, (we are told that over and over), those who live and think entirely differently from how they would naturally live and think, if it were not for the influence of the Word of Yahweh.
What I am about to say is not said in a manner which indicates how I see my personal position – because Brethren and Sisters, I do not find these things easy, just the opposite! But that is because I need to work harder and more diligently upon my own life and lifestyle. What I am saying, is that all of us need to contemplate this statement and compare it against our own personal circumstances.
The attainment of salvation and eternal life is not hard. It is very easy. It is actually the easiest possible way of life because it is in harmony with truth and reality. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
But easy as it is, it does not “just happen”. It requires a certain specific course of life, clearly explained in Yahweh’s book of life. It may be very easy to get to a certain place, much easier for example than to get to some other place, but unless we actually put our feet on the right path and move steadily along that path, we shall never get to our goal, no matter how easy it may be to do so.
The judgment result for neglecting to walk down such a path is so severe because Yahweh has made the way to life so easy, so sensible, and so reasonable. “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” The judge does not say, “Sorry, you tried, but you did not quite make it. We’ll just put you quietly to sleep.” No, there is no such middle ground as that. What he says is either, “Come, ye blessed of my Father,” or “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.”
Why no middle ground? Because the way of life is SO easy. There is absolutely no excuse for failure. Yahweh has made every provision for success. It is just a matter of finding out exactly what is required and simply doing it, just very simple submission and obedience.
The required obedience covers many aspects, actually, every act and aspect of life. But none are too hard for the simplest mind to grasp. Such as;
“Love not the world.”
“Come out and be separate.”
“Always abound in the work of the Lord.”
“Rejoice without ceasing.”
“In everything, give thanks.”
“Present your bodies a living sacrifice.”
“Be ye holy, for I am holy.” (Yahweh writes through Peter.)
“Meditate on these things; give thyself wholly to them.”
“Make no provision for the flesh.”
“Let your speech be always with grace.”
“Put away all anger.”
“Be gentle to all men.”
There are, of course, many, many more. And they are all just as simple and easy. It’s just a matter of being sensible enough to get down to doing them, instead of doing something else.
There is absolutely no excuse for failure, for all that Yahweh ever asks for is our best. He never requires anything beyond our capabilities. All that He asks is everything that we have, which is perfectly reasonable, and actually, the very least that He could ask under the circumstances for His requirements to really mean anything at all. We also must remember that all we have was, and is, given by Yahweh through His grace and mercy.
The promised gift He offers is so great, and what we have to offer Him, at best, is so utterly puny, that for Him to ask, or for us to give, anything less than everything would make a mockery of the whole thing, something not worth bothering with.
All the things that Yahweh asks of us are the things that enlightened love and common sense would want to give anyway and would not be happy without giving.
The truly spiritual mind, the intelligent, reverent mind, could not possibly be satisfied with giving anything less. It is, in fact, desolated and embarrassed that it has so little to give to manifest its love, devotion and thanksgiving. Devotion always wants to give to its object. It gets its joy and peace and satisfaction from giving. And it is always eagerly striving to give more.
This is why the cleavage at the judgment seat will be so clear cut, “Come, ye blessed,” to the wise and intelligent; “Depart, ye cursed,” to the foolish.
When we have to interact with Yahweh, the issues are so great that there just cannot be any half way. If we do not eagerly go all the way, we just haven’t learned anything about Him at all, we are just playing a game; a Sunday religion.
Yahweh asks for nothing that we cannot do, but He does ask for everything that we can that is righteous. The basic requirement we need is eager desire.
The chapter before us records the final terrible sufferings of The Lord Jesus Christ in his loving obedience to the Father. These sufferings should ever be before our minds.
I do not wish to dwell on their details this morning, but we should all be fully familiar with all the dreadful details involved in Roman scourging with a barbed whip, which tore the flesh to pieces, and with the hideous cruelty of crucifixion. They can be very disturbing to contemplate. Yet we should think upon them often, so we keep our minds within the healthy tract of humility, gratitude and separation from the world.
There are many puzzles in this chapter; strange enigmas that give us partial hints of so much that is not revealed, things such as Pilot’s wife’s dream; Joseph of Arimathea, who suddenly appeared just this once, just at the right time and who is never again mentioned; the thief on the cross; a manifestation of almost incredible faith and comprehension from a criminal; the deeply impressed centurion, a hardened Roman; the dark tangled picture of the traitor Judas; the dead saints who rose and appeared to many; the scarlet robe, which even the Jews could not leave on him; Simon the Cyrenian, father of Rufus and Alexander, apparently men who were known to the apostles, who suddenly and out of nowhere was thrust into the very centre of all history; the words of The Lord Jesus Christ in his agony, “My Elohim, my Elohim, why hast thou forsaken me?”; and Pilate himself, a vile and wicked man, caught up in depths that frightened him, yet he was struggling to set The Lord Jesus Christ free.
All these lead to both profitable and unprofitable lines of thought: profitable, if used in the direction of a better understanding of basic principles, of getting closer to the mind of Yahweh, of a beneficial effect upon our own acts and conduct. But unprofitable, if just aimless, merely curious, dead-end speculation, questions with no answers.
It is to be noted from verse 3 that Judas repented. He regretted what he had done. He recognized and confessed his sin, but it was merely the repentance of despair, a natural fleshly repentance. It did not lead him to do well. Repentance must go all the way to a complete change to mean anything, a new beginning. We know how different it was with Peter’s repentance! And how differently he was treated!
And then the strikingly hypocritical contrast between verses 4 and 6, when, to the statement, “I have betrayed innocent blood,” the Jewish leaders quite coldly replied, “What is that to us?” To them it was an utterly unimportant consideration. It was just innocent blood, obviously not the first spilled blood with which they had involvement, but the idea of putting the betrayal money into the treasury, Oh no, that just could not be done. “It would not be lawful.” How easy it is for us all to “strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel.” Quoted from Matt 23:24.
There is no basic logic, balance or reason to the natural human mind. “It is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” Jeremiah tells us in Chapter 17:9. It can believe anything it wishes, look how the world blandly accepts evolution, and how it can justify anything it wishes, just look how the world around us revels in moral torpidity and loves capitalism, the epitome of sin – the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.
What about Pilate? This man presents a strange figure in this confrontation. We know from Scripture and from history that he was a wicked and evil man. He came to a bad end, yet he struggled mightily to free our Lord—three times protesting Yahushua’s innocence as Luke records in Luke 23:22.
The message from his wife in verse 19 of Matt 27, “When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him,” was just what was needed to induce him to do what had to be done. It needed to bring out those terrible words from the Chief Priests and elders, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” “We have no king but Caesar.” It had to bring about their choice between The Lord Jesus Christ and Barabbas. The multitude had to be aroused to a frenzy before Pilate could overcome his fears and superstitions. The Romans, who were generally the most practical and deadly efficient people in all history, were deeply superstitious about dreams, auguries and omens.
Pilate had wanted to release The Lord Jesus Christ. He had a nameless fear of this strange man, who claimed to be the Son of Yahweh, and of whose work he, doubtless, had heard much. He knew the leaders had delivered him up because of envy, (verse 18) envy because of The Lord Jesus Christ’s power and popularity with the people. Still again, ‘overruling providence’ takes a hand in the events, to direct them in the way that Yahweh wants.
This was the Passover, the greatest, in the Jews’ eyes, of the three great feasts, when all must assemble at Jerusalem. The whole nation was there. And it was the custom for the Romans, or at least Pilate (it could have been Pilate’s own custom, we are not told), to release one prisoner to them at this time. And the time for that release had just occurred.
Matthew said, we note in verse 17, “Therefore when they were gathered together”. `That was to demand of Pilot the release of the prisoner, that is, the whole multitude in Jerusalem or at least as many as could possibly crowd into the available space for the occasion. The Revised Version’s account of Mark 15:8, gives the same picture. “And the multitude going up began to desire him to do, as he had ever done unto them.” The inference from the language here is that it may have been Pilot’s own custom.
How wonderful that these events so marvellously converge! The nation unconsciously being assembled to face the choice between a murdering bandit and the sinless Son of Yahweh!
Pilot clearly felt that here was a way of escape. The Lord Jesus Christ, he knew, was popular with the people. He had gone everywhere doing ‘good’, and just a few days before, the multitude, this same multitude, had worshipfully hailed him, as recorded in Matt 21:15, with “Hosanna to the son of David.”
But Pilot’s scheme did not work, now the multitude chose Barabbas, and said of The Lord Jesus Christ, “Crucify him.”
Why the sudden change? The chief priest and elders persuaded the people that they should ask for Barabbas. But how were they able to do so?
The Lord Jesus Christ stood before them, a pitiful figure, horribly beaten and wounded, bound, humiliated and not doing any miracles, not saying anything. The outstanding aspect throughout is that The Lord Jesus Christ was practically silent through the whole transaction, a meek, tempted, uncomplaining, submissive sheep.
He had boldly claimed to be the Son of Yahweh, yet then stood helpless and seemingly powerless. This was not the kind of king the mob wanted. They were not interested in his goodness, or his kindness, or holiness and gentle words of love and light. “Give us Barabbas.” A leader, a real man and a fighter. Barabbas; who dared to lead an insurrection against the world-wide power of Rome!
The chief priests thought they were saving the nation and themselves. “One man must die, lest the Romans take away our place and nation.” But it was the Barabbas class that finally brought on the Roman armies and the desolation of the land and the awful horrors of the final siege and destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, one of the most terrible events in history.
Pilot, in vain, tried to stem the tide, pleading with them. But, in verse 24 we note, he could see the ugly and ominous beginnings of a riot brewing. The Jews of the day were very prone to riot.
So, he took water and washed his hands, and said again, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.”
And the mob cried, “His blood be upon us, and our children.” So, he gave our Lord over to their will.
In preparation for the crucifixion (verse 34), they offered Yahushua a stupefying drink to dull the mind and lessen the agony of the terrible ordeal, but he would not drink it. The cup that he chose to drink was that cup prepared by his Father, fully conscious with patient obedience right to the very end. There could not be the slightest degree of evading the divinely appointed task. He must manifest clear unconfused perfection right to the final moment.
The way in which he accepted this terrible torture was all important. It was for the eternal record; it was the final climaxing event of an absolutely perfect life. His mind must be clear. He had things to say, both to man and to His Father.
There are seven things recorded that he said on this occasion, manifesting to us perfect self-control, perfect submission, perfect obedience and perfect wisdom. One moment of failure would have spoiled the whole age-long purpose of Yahweh. What a weight lay upon him! The weight of all the sin, the sorrow and the eternal destiny of mankind. Here is the secret of the sweat, as it were, like great drops of blood in Gethsemane, and of the terrible cry of “My Elohim, my Elohim, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Some have scoffed at his fears and tears, pointing to others who have gone bravely and defiantly to terrible tortures and deaths. But how little they realize the real struggle, Yahshua had struggled for thirty-three long years, he had walked the agonizing tightrope of perfect obedience—and Brethren and Sisters, he had never slipped. Just a few hours more, but what a battle those hours held! He must be perfect unto the end.
As mentioned, there are seven recorded statements that The Lord Jesus Christ spoke from the cross. No one gospel gives more than three of them, and only one of them, the central and most striking one, is recorded in more than one gospel. But pieced together, they form a remarkable and obviously intended pattern. Luke gives three, John gives three, and Matthew and Mark together give the same.
The first, the central, and the last ones are prayers. The first and the last addressed to “my Father”, the central one to “my Elohim”.
The first three concern care for others; the last four concern The Lord Jesus Christ himself, although all that concerns him applies to everyone, for he is the foundation of all.
The central prayer and the last prayer are quotations from the Psalms.
The first, recorded by Luke only, is “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” This is fittingly the first, and it appears to have occurred at the beginning when they cruelly nailed him to the cross.
They did not know the extremity of what they were doing, although they should have known. They were blinded by the flesh. They had not sought the light that was able give them light; they were in darkness. Many were forgiven, when they realized and repented. Peter said, on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 3, “Ye killed the Prince of Peace… through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers… Repent ye therefore, and be converted.” And many did.
The second utterance, also recorded only by Luke, was the glorious promise to the thief on the cross. We are specifically told that one of the thieves was on his right hand and one was on his left, and we cannot help but feel sure that in the wisdom and providence of the Elohim, this one was the one on the right hand.
Actually, he was not a thief; that is a mistranslation. Throughout the New Testament there is a very clear distinction between thieves and robbers, which the Revised Version consistently follows; although the Authorized Version, unfortunately, does not. It should be here translated robber, similarly in the cleansing of the temple, it should read, “a den of robbers”, not “a den of thieves”.
The so-called ‘thief’ on the cross was a robber, not a thief.
What is the difference?
A thief uses stealth and secrecy, whereas a robber uses violence, often openly. This may seem not much of a difference, or it may seem to even make the case worse. But it does give us a much clearer and more understandable picture.
Barabbas was a robber, the same word, and a murderer. He had made insurrection against Rome. He was what today would be called a terrorist, a freedom fighter, a guerrilla, and as today, these have always been a mixed and motley crew. We remember the type of some who assembled with David, when he was a fugitive, all the discontent. And as it is today, some are high-minded patriots and some are common criminals and a lot are somewhere in between.
It has been suggested that the robbers crucified with Yahushua were part of the robber Barabbas’ band of insurrectionists against the power of Rome. We cannot, however, exonerate the repentant robber as a pure patriot. He was a robber. He himself recognized that his punishment was due and just.
One of the Lord’s disciples had been of just such a band, Simon Zelotes, Simon the zealot. The zealots were a wild party of violent insurrectionists like Barabbas, with, some say, perhaps a few more principles.
So that we can see the picture and background better, consider this; terrorists such as these, justify robbery as part of their patriotic conflict as so many do today, going to every limit of violence in the name of freedom. There has even been the downing of the airliners in the name of, for example, Ukrainian (so called) freedom. Some of us may remember the high-jacking of the El Al plane and killing of Israelis in the Entebbe incident back on the 4th of July 1976 that interested the media so much because of the brilliant raid by Israel to rescue many of the victims.
It appears that this robber had first joined with the others in reviling The Lord Jesus Christ. It is possible to take the record otherwise, but only by straining it. Here we are shown the importance of The Lord Jesus Christ’s demeanour whilst in agony upon the cross. It convinced the robber and saved him, just as it convinced the Roman centurion in charge, who said, “Truly this man was the Son of Yahweh.”
The robber clearly knew of The Lord Jesus Christ and his doctrine. He said, “This man has done nothing amiss.” Just as Pilot testified. And the robber then spoke of The Lord Jesus Christ’s coming kingdom. He manifests one of the most remarkable cases of discerning faith in all Scripture. When the disciples had fled in bewildered despair, and when he and Yahushua the Anointed hung, dying in agony, he understood and believed.
It is a deeply sobering thought that though he repented and was forgiven by The Lord Jesus Christ, and was promised eternal life, he still had to endure the continuation of the crucifixion, even to the barbarous smashing of his legs with clubs to make sure that there was no escape or recovery when he was taken down prematurely, done because they were not to be left overnight at that feast time. There is no record of his dying quickly as is mentioned about Yahushua.
The third utterance was to Yahushua’s mother and to John, loving consideration and provision even in the midst of his agony. Only John records this.
These three utterances seem to be quite early, certainly during the first three hours before the darkness came. The last four were at the very end, at the ninth hour.
First that strange, central, key cry, “My Elohim, my Elohim, why hast thou forsaken me,” recorded by Matthew and Mark. What did it mean? He knew all his life, from the 22nd Psalm, that this moment would come. He knew that he would make this cry.
This was the climax of the life-long struggle. From his birth, and especially from his baptism, he had been filled with the Holy Spirit. From his baptism without measure, limitless, Yahweh was in him. “Yahweh was in him, reconciling the world unto himself.” He was thus Yahweh manifest in the flesh. He could truly say, “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father.”
There was a perfect oneness, a perfect union, a perfect fellowship. “I am not alone.” He had never known anything but this.
But now the time had come for a brief sundering. The time had come for the Father’s presence to leave him. It was a moment of desolation and anguish. Truly expected and braced for, but still a terrible shock in his weakened physical agony that called forth that bitter exclamation. But now that last hurdle was past.
The fifth utterance was; “I thirst,” recorded by John. What a terrible, choking, burning thirst it must have been for it to stand out above all the tortures of crucifixion and to cause this comment. But he needed one last moment of refreshment, of renewal. Then he had two more things to be said:
Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all tell us that Yahushua cried with a loud cry, a loud voice. The word ‘loud’ is usually translated ‘great’, a great voice. Only John tells us what he cried, “It is finished.” His work on earth was done, accomplished, fulfilled. The terrible thirty-three-year ordeal of agonized perfection and the struggle with the flesh was over. The foundation of righteousness was laid; the way of life opened up; sin and death conquered, and their power forever broken.
The seventh and final utterance, which Luke gives us, was, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” This is from Psalm 31, a psalm of both deep distress and joyful, thankful, confident worship and praise. And his next conscious moment was glorious resurrection.
Brethren and Sisters, we have had a short, and no doubt poor, summary of those last painful hours of our Lord and Master, taken from the guide to life which our Loving Heavenly Father has left us in the form of this book in front of us. Please take to heart those wonderful lessons and that perfect example from Him whom we now come to remember through these powerful emblems here on the table, and let us all strive with all our whole being to emulate that example, so that we can all pray with honest and true fervour; even so, come Yahushua, the Messiah.