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THE JESUS PARADOX
The Cross: Becoming King Through Death
April 14, 2017
The Jesus Paradox. That’s we’ve been talking about during this Easter season. On Sunday Matt did a wonderful job describing the collision of three kingdoms and the interaction between Jesus and Pilate that resulted in his crucifixion.
Jesus hung on that Roman cross for six hours, from 9 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. And during those six excruciating hours he made seven statements. And when we look at those seven words we see a progression from sympathy to suffering to satisfaction.
In the first three words we see the sympathy of Christ.
Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.
Right up to the bitter end Jesus is still forgiving his enemies. Amazing! His second statement is
Today, you will be with me in paradise.
Right up to the bitter end Jesus is still saving those who believe, even a convicted felon, most likely a murderer, executed next to him. His day will end better than anyone else’s in the crowd. “Paradise awaits,” Jesus says.
Woman, here is your son. Here is your mother, is Jesus third word from the cross.
Right up to the bitter end Jesus is still caring for his aging mother and fulfilling the fifth commandment to honor father and mother. And I think of so many in the Valley View community including my wonderful wife who are caring for aging parents, following the example of Jesus who gives us the power to care for one another.
Jesus. Always thinking of others first. Three words of sympathy followed by two words of suffering.
My God, my God why have you forsaken me?
This is the fourth statement of Jesus and the only time Jesus ever calls God “God” and not “Father.” It’s the moment when our sin is wedged between Jesus and his heavenly Father. It’s the moment when he’s absorbing the punishment we deserve. He feels estranged from his Dad. He’s going through hell for us and it leaves him dying for a drink which is his fifth statement,
I am thirsty, he says so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
This fifth statement is a direct fulfillment of Psalm 69:21 written a thousand years earlier by David, They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
Three words of sympathy. Two words of suffering. And now two words of satisfaction.
It is finished.
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
(It is finished slide). John records that sixth statement this way in John 19:28-30, Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Matthew 27:51 adds, At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
“It is finished.” Three words in English. One word in Greek. Tetelestai. One word that says so much.
Someone has said that no single word ever spoken in all of human history has ever had such far reaching consequences as tetelestai. Finished. Not, “I am finished,” but “it is finished.”
It is finished. What is finished? Jesus is certainly not finished. He’s still the one in control of his own destiny. He’s still the one calling the shots and following the script that was written about him over a thousand years before.
We get a clue in John 19:28 where the same word tetelestai is used again. Later, knowing that everything had now been finished so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
Jesus had finished fulfilling every single prophecy written about him. And there were hundreds. His life on earth had finished everything he set out to do. The script had been written well before his birth in Bethlehem and now the curtain is going to drop with everything in place.
Jesus did not go out with a whimper. He wanted a drink so he could clear his throat and go out with a shout. And that’s exactly what Matthew tells us this was, a shout with a loud voice. Tetelestai! A triumphant cry loud enough for earth and heaven and even hell to hear.
“It is finished. I’ve accomplished everything I’ve set out to do. The Scriptures have been fulfilled.” This is a shout of victory! Jesus is not the victim here. He’s the victor! That’s the Jesus Paradox.
He’s the victor over the world, the flesh, and the devil. He’s in control and he’ll make the final call on when he’s good and ready to bow his head and give up his spirit. Nobody’s going to take it from him until he has fulfilled everything written about him. What his enemies thought was the end of Jesus was actually the beginning with no end.
But there’s another meaning here, an even deeper meaning. The word tetelestai literally means “paid in full.” In Jesus day, the word was stamped on a bill that was completely paid off. Tetelestai. Paid in full.
Jesus completely paid off our sin debt. On the cross he wrote the check that covered the cost of all my sin and yours. Paid in full!
I love that little chorus that says, “He paid a debt he did not owe. I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song, amazing grace all day long. Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.”
No more sacrifices. No more bulls. No more sheep. No more goats. No more blood. No more striving. The price is paid in full. No more priests. No more curtains for God to hide behind.
Matthew tells us that at that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. That was the curtain that hid the presence of God from everyone but the high priest. According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, that curtain was 60 feet high, 30 feet wide, and four inches thick. It was massive, so thick, he says, that two teams of horses tied to each side could not pull it apart. And it took 300 priests to manipulate it.
But now that curtain was ripped in two by God’s hands top to bottom opening up direct access to God, not through a priest or a pastor, not with an animal sacrifice one day a year, but now in person we can come to God, without a sacrifice, any day, anytime, anywhere because Jesus said, “Tetelestai. It is finished.”
Jesus paid our sin debt in full. He wrote the check. All we need to do is endorse it. We can’t add to the payment that Jesus made. To add anything to it is to subtract from it and make it insufficient and less than. All we need to do is endorse it.
All we need to do is accept it for what it is, paid in full. And we endorse it when we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s what the centurion at the foot of the cross concluded when he said, “Surely, he was the Son of God!”
(The Jesus Paradox slide) What about you? Is that your conclusion? I hope so. And as we come to the table I want to give you a chance right now to make your own declaration about Jesus directly to him. We can go right into his presence, right here, right now, and tell him that we believe that he is the Son of God.
We can thank him for finishing the work that God gave him to do and we ask God to help us finish the work he’s given us to do. And that work is to believe in him and to follow him as his disciples.
Let’s take a moment of quiet right now for you to thank Jesus for who he is and what he’s done. Tetelestai. It is finished. Let’s pray.