Sunday, April 05, 2015

Part 6- What are the Seven cries of the cross?

1. Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do
2. 6th hour- Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
3. Woman, behold thy son! , Behold thy mother!
4. 9th hour- My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
5. I thirst
6. It is finished
7. Into thy hands I commit my Spirit
In this Easter Season, it is perhaps altogether fitting that I write about the sixth cry from the cross. What exactly is finished? Jesus was referring to the finished work of the cross, where God himself took on the sins of mankind and bore the punishment for those sins, that is, death on the cross. I believe that at the moment that Jesus said “it is finished” the veil of the temple, a veil two inches thick, was rent from top to bottom. It helps if we understand that the veil in the temple separated the holiest place of God so that it remained private. The high priest alone was allowed in this place, and he brought sacrifices that the sins of the Jewish people might be atoned for. No one else was allowed into this place, not even the other priests. The father of John the Baptizer was in this place when he was given the vision from the angel, and if you remember the story, his speech was taken away from him until the baby was born, because he was skeptical of the message. The other priests worried that the high priest might have a heart attack, or otherwise become incapacitated, so they attached a rope around his ankle with a bell. As long as they heard the bell ringing, they could assume all was okay, but if they became concerned they could always haul on the rope and drag him out. What they were not allowed to do at any time was to enter the holy of holies. The significance of the veil being ripped was that God served notice that we no longer had to have the high priest act for us—we have been given direct access to the Father through what the Son had accomplished. It is finished.

But there is so much more that was finished at the same instant! Jesus had given us the pathway to God; now he would be able to give us the very Spirit of God to live and dwell within us. Jesus said, “It is good for you that I go away. Unless I go away, the Comforter will not come to you” (John 16:7). The work was finished, and Jesus could at last send the Comforter to us. We were made righteous, as all are made righteous, if they will but believe God. Soon Jesus breathed on the apostles, giving them the Spirit, and he bade them to await the filling of the Spirit in Jerusalem.

It is finished. God’s plan, in the making from eternity past, was at last revealed to the world. In Genesis, God had foretold that the Serpent would bruise the heel, but the Son would bruise his head. All of creation had been waiting for this point, that God should come in the flesh and give himself as an offering. In so doing, Satan thought he had won a great victory, killing the Son of God, and instead the Son had dealt Satan a lethal blow, rising from the dead, and freeing mankind from the bonds of sin. As long as we are in the bondage of sin, Satan owns us, and it is interesting that Jesus did not dispute that ownership. During the temptations of Jesus, Satan took him up to a very high mountain, and offered to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. They were his to offer, but with this cry, “it is finished” the end of that time had come.

And so the gospel was given to mankind, that “whosoever” believeth might be saved, rescued from the long coming judgment of God.
At that point, Jesus became the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. He took over the ruler ship of the world from Satan and made the possibility of salvation happen for all men. Revelation tells us that we will reign over earth for a thousand years, for he will be the King of the earth, and all nations will bow before him. It is this time that the prophet Isaiah prophesied that the swords shall be turned into plowshears, and the young child who dies at one hundred shall be thought accursed.

In a manner of speaking, all that was accomplished when Jesus finished his work on the cross. We await its happening two thousand years later, but in the purposes of God, it is a finished act, a never-ending salvation for whosoever will come. And we can add absolutely nothing to his act. We cannot do good deeds, acts of contrition, or gain indulgences. We cannot “help” God any in the work of the cross, and until we see all that he did on the cross, we cannot really appreciate the offense we cause to our Father when we pretend to bring our good works before him. I recently read about a rich man doing so many good deeds that he was heard to brag that when he died, he would get a “fastpass” right on through the turnstile to heaven. Poor soul! He is depending on his good works to do what God did perfectly in sending his Son. How God must be insulted with our best works, which the Bible tells us are as filthy rags in his sight. The word for filthy rags is actually a used menstrual cloth—it is that offensive to God when we pretend that our righteous acts can stand before God a single instant.
This is not to say that all was accomplished on behalf of the believer at the cross; it most definitely says that our sins were paid for in full at the cross. For instance, Jesus told the disciples in John 14 that he was going to prepare a place for us, that where he is we may be also. Keith Green aptly points out that God worked on the creation of the world for six days, but he has been working on our place in heaven for over 2,000 years. What a wonder that place must be!

When Jesus said it is finished, what exactly did he mean? He meant at least this—that every sin which a believer brings to the cross has been fully provided for. There is no sin, not one, which is not provided for, with the exception of the sin of unbelief. Moses, in the wilderness, had a poisonous viper lifted up on a stake. Those Israelites who were bitten by a viper were told to go and gaze upon the viper, and that then they would not die. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, John tells us, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish. A month ago I was told that a man with many covered up tattoos came into one of our services, and expressed reluctance in going forward to receive forgiveness because of all of his tattoos. The usher was able to assure him that God did indeed have mercy and forgiveness for all. Why are we so certain that there is mercy and forgiveness? Because at the cross we find that it has all been finished. In giving his all for us and accepting the penalty of sin, he completely made us free. There remains nothing possible left to be done, and God in giving his all, more than he gave at the very creation of the world, can give no more. But there is no need for more. It is finished. Only lift up your eyes on the gift of God, and believe.

Isaac Watts long ago found that wonderful grace at the cross, and penned the words to a lovely hymn, one that I wished we would still occasionally sing in our church. It is called, “When I Survey the Wonderous Cross”:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

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