It's All Over but the Singing
Last week Pilate handed over (betrayed) Jesus to the will of the Jewish people to have Him crucified. It made mention that Pilate took personal responsibility for writing the accusation on the placard which would have hung around Jesus neck on the way to the cross and then was placed over his head on the cross. This title "Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews" is more of a proclamation of Who Jesus is and what He was doing for us than the accusation of a crime. It is God Himself Who through Pilate wanted the world to know about this crucifixion on His terms rather than the worlds. Like it or not, Jesus is the Chosen One of God. They indeed did crucify Jesus, but on God's terms. And John emphasizes that Jesus as God the Son was in control of the situation, even hanging on the cross. He was not victim as we describe being a victim today. He was instead the victor.
We also saw the most powerful demonstration of love in history. This act of love started at the Incarnation of John 1:14 when Jesus willingly laid aside the prerogatives of Godhood (see Philippians 2:5-11) and was born in a cave under the palace of Herod the Great with nothing. And even the clothes off His back, all that was left to Him in this world, were taken from Him and divided among the soldiers. Of course, the truth is that all human beings are born with nothing and take nothing materially with them out of this world as Paul mentions (I Timothy 6:7). Seeing this to be the case, should we worry so much about gaining possessions in this world? Perhaps we should worry more about what we can take which is the testimony of Jesus.
Everything Jesus did was a fulfillment of Scripture and the will of the Father. Psalm 22 is quoted or mentioned by all of the gospel writers. Isaiah 53 and several other Scriptures are mentioned as well.
Exposition of the Text
v. 25. John does not mention the heckling crowds around the cross. We know from the other Gospels that there were plenty. Some of them were the Jewish leaders who were there. Some of them were the crowds who had shouted "Crucify Him!" And there were many there who probably had no idea of why Jesus was there. Mob psychology works in strange ways. Some of them were heckling Jesus just because everyone else was.
Who wasn't there is significant also. Only John was there of the disciples, kind of hidden in the crowd. The others had run in terror. Even Jesus’ brothers and sisters weren't there The only ones bold enough to identify with Jesus hanging from the cross were several women, either three or four depending on whether Mary the wife of Clopas was the same as his mother's sister. It could be dangerous to show too much sympathy for someone hanging on the cross. The women are to be commended for their faith.
v. 26. Jesus’ mother Mary was last mentioned as being in Jesus presence in John 2:1-11, at the wedding feast in Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine. At that occasion, Mary wanted Jesus to perform a miracle to provide for this couple who had run out of wine at the feast. Jesus had answered her with the odd "Woman, what have I to do with thee? My hour has not yet come." In that statement, He was reminding her that He had come of age and that He was no longer under His mother's authority. It was time for Him to do the will of His Father.
Now he addresses His mother again as "woman". I think Jesus here is reminding her that this was the hour for which He came into the world. He did not come into the world to be a wonder worker or even a good teacher. He had not come to fulfill the expectations of men. He came to die on the cross for the sin of the world, so that "whoever believes on him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
It was the responsibility of the oldest son to care for his widowed mother. Of course with Jesus dying on the cross, He would not be able to care for her in a material way. We can conclude from this that He had provided for His mother is some way to this point, even though it isn't recorded in Scripture.
If the oldest son was unable to care for His mother, it became the responsibility of the next oldest son, then to the other sons in birth order, then the daughters and sons-in-law. And Jesus had at least four other brothers and one sister, as Scripture mentions them. Why did Jesus commend His mother to John, who was at best a distant cousin? Why could Jesus not depend on His own siblings? We do know that the Scripture says that His own brothers and sisters were unbelievers (John 7:5, Matthew 12:46-50). Therefore Jesus was giving John the care of His mother. This would be described today as an "unfunded mandate". It wasn't like Jesus had anything of material to give to John to see his mother would have her needs met. And since the resurrection had not yet happened and John was yet to become in a true sense a believer, this would have imposed a burden on him. It also pointed out John to the crowd that John was an important person to Jesus. You can run, but you can't hide. If you are truly a disciple of Jesus, it will come to light by Jesus Himself.
v. 27. John did not complain. It was the duty of a disciple to obey the master Rabbi without question. And John did what Jesus commanded him and took Mary home and cared for her as long as she lived. We do know that at least James and Jude of Jesus' brothers later became believers, but it also appears that John still cared for her.
It would seem astonishing that John would have had extended first hand contact with Jesus' mother, yet not mention anything about the Virgin Birth or Jesus' birth and childhood. But again, this isn't so hard to understand considering John does not even mention his or his brother's own names in the Gospel, even though James and John are mentioned prominently in the other gospels. The gospel isn't about Joseph and the Virgin Mary. It isn't about John or James or Peter or Rufus or you or me. It's about Jesus. We would do well to remember this. Even when names are mentioned they should not be the main focus. How often are we more interested in lifting ourselves up rather than Jesus. And to do so in the pretense of giving God glory is really a shame. In some churches the Virgin Mary and the Saints are practically worshipped alongside of Jesus. Anyone who sees the way John deals with himself and Mary in the Gospel should serve as a warning. I appreciate all that God's people have done over the centuries in response to God's will. But it is Jesus Whom we must magnify.
v. 28. This is the only moment of weakness which John mentions of Jesus on the cross. Being out in the heat of the day and exposed to the elements, the loss of fluids due to blood loss and sweat would have created a terrible thirst upon the one being crucified. Jesus would have been no exception. He really was thirsty. Yet He did not cry these words out except that Scripture might be fulfilled. The Scripture cited is Psalm 69:21 which is another of the Psalms which tells of the suffering of the Messiah. Even in the moment of greatest physical weakness and pain, Jesus is in control. He was still in His right mind. He was aware of what was going on and why He was there. Usually by this time, most of those being crucified were half delirious, screaming in pain, and cursing. Their body would shake uncontrollably. But Jesus was fully knowing that the work He had come to do was over. It was nearing three in the afternoon when the Passover lambs were to be killed. He had one more thing to do, to finish fulfilling all of the Scriptures which were written about Him.
v. 29. He knew that they were not going to give Him water, but vinegar to drink. Another name for vinegar was "gall". One would expect to give water and not gall to quench thirst. Gall is mentioned often in the Book of Jeremiah as well as other places in the Old Testament as representing the wrath of God being poured out. By taking this last cup, He was drinking from the cup of God's wrath, bearing it for us. Note that this is at the very end of His time on the cross. He had not taken upon Himself the wrath of God which was due us upon Himself. The greatest outpouring of this wrath was death which came immediately afterwards.
v. 30. If we combine the last words of Jesus on the cross, they were probably: "It is finished. Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit." It was three o'clock on the dot when Jesus died, when the first of the Passover lambs was being slaughtered. It usually took several days for crucifixion to do its dirty work. But now that Jesus had taken the cup of God's wrath immediately before His death, there was no reason to linger any more. The work was done.
"It is finished (Greek τετέλεσται, teh-tell-es-tai) is in the Perfect tense which means that this statement of Jesus has everlasting significance. The work was done and its effects would be everlasting. One can see the last seven days of Jesus as the New Creation. Jesus had come in triumph. He had spent the week cleansing the Temple, teaching the people, prophesying about the future and fate of Jerusalem, and finally to die on the Cross on the sixth day, the day He had created man. He had now created the new man. And as God said that after the creation of humankind "Good, good" a Hebrew way of saying "very good", not Jesus who is presented in this Gospel and elsewhere as the creator of the world says "it is finished (and the work cannot be undone by Satan or anyone else). The Greek word actually has the idea of perfection to it. Jesus was saying in a sense "It has been made perfect."
In six days, God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. In six days, Jesus had recreated the world. Jesus died ad the evening of the sixth day.
On the seventh day, God rested from His work.
It's all over but the singing. The world has a vulgar expression that "it isn't over to the fat lady sings." This statement goes back to a German Opera of the 1800's which was many hours long. The context of the Opera was German mythology in which one of the characters was a rather large blonde woman with a cap with horns on it sung at the very end of this seemingly endless opera -- hence the saying. We are waiting fro what seems to be and endless time for the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But we are told from Scripture that the delay of Christ's return is because that He is unwilling that any one perish. When He comes, the sheep and the goats will be separated forever. I know that we squirm just as the agonized participant of that opera whose only relief is that after what seemed like an eternity, the fat lady sang. We have a far greater reward awaiting us. We ourselves will get to sing God's praises for ever.
But when Jesus said, "It is finished", he meant just that. There is no further work that needs to be done. We just need to occupy till He comes, patiently doing that which He has commanded, to love God, to love each other, and to proclaim the good news.