We are in John 19 today, and we have reached the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The false accusations are thrown, the trial has ended, and Jesus has been condemned to die by crucifixion. Jesus is being led to his crucifixion on the hill of Golgotha. He is carrying his own cross, and the Roman soldiers are leading him along with two other criminals who are to be crucified with him. When they arrive at the place of crucifixion, Jesus is nailed to the cross and raised up for all to see.
Beginning at John 19:17-18 –
Therefore they took Jesus away. Carrying His own cross, He went out to what is called Skull Place, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him and two others with Him, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, is the original name; in the Latin Vulgate, they used the Latin word “calvaria” which means “skull” from where we get the word Calvary.
I counted at least 2 prophecies fulfilled in these two verses, and I started wondering how many prophecies Jesus fulfilled. It’s not as straightforward as you would think; the Old Testament has direct prophecies, but also indirect hints, allusions to a coming Messiah who would save God’s people and establish his kingdom on earth. These prophecies pointed to a specific individual who would embody the qualities of a savior and bring salvation to humanity. Many prophecies are repeated; some allusions aren’t prophecies but a foreshadow or a type of Christ. Depending on how you categorize them, scholars I looked at estimated between 300 and 574 verses that refer to Christ.
We’re not going to examine all 574 verses today, but instead just focus on the crucifixion itself. There are at least 28 prophecies fulfilled by the crucifixion of Christ and we’re only going to cover a few of those. Let’s read through the next several verses because I don’t want to skip the importance, John 19:19-22 –
Pilate also had a sign lettered and put on the cross. The inscription was:
JESUS THE NAZARENE
THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Many of the Jews read this sign, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Don’t write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that He said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’”
Pilate replied, “What I have written, I have written.”
I find it interesting the sign was intended to mock our Lord, but it inadvertently told the truth. The sign that Pilate had placed on the cross, which read “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,” is significant. The Jewish leaders wanted Pilate to change the wording, but he refused. This sign is a proclamation of the truth of who Jesus is, even in his darkest hour. He is not only the King of the Jews, but he is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, a part for each soldier. They also took the tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it, to see who gets it.” They did this to fulfill the Scripture that says: They divided My clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for My clothing. And this is what the soldiers did.
The death detail crucified Jesus. Excruciating pain shot through His hands and feet as they were nailed to the cross. Soldiers laughed as they gambled for His clothing. The soldiers’ casting of lots for Jesus’ clothing fulfills the prophecy in Psalm 22:18, which says,
“They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
This shows that every detail of Jesus’ crucifixion was foretold in the Old Testament.
Two others were crucified with Him. The two people who were crucified with Jesus are commonly referred to as the “Two Thieves” or the “Two Criminals.” According to the New Testament, they were crucified alongside Jesus at Golgotha and in accordance with the prophecy in Isaiah 53:12.
The Gospel of Matthew and Mark simply refer to them as “robbers,” while the Gospel of Luke refers to them as “criminals” and the Gospel of John does not specify their crimes. It is possible that they were rebels or insurrectionists against the Roman Empire, which was occupying the region at the time.
Despite their crimes, the Bible suggests that one of the thieves had a change of heart and asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom. Jesus responded by promising him that he would be with him in paradise. Since you and I and everybody are all sinners that fall short of the glory of God, everybody should be able to see themselves as one of the two thieves. There’s always a choice between faith and unbelief, between salvation and damnation.
Over the centuries, the two thieves have been depicted in various forms of Christian art, with one often shown as contrite and humble, while the other is portrayed as mocking or defiant. They have also been the subject of numerous works of literature, drama, and film, with their story serving as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of faith and redemption.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
The act of love and compassion demonstrated by Jesus even in his excruciating suffering is truly remarkable. Despite the immense pain he was experiencing, he was still able to put his mother’s well-being first. By entrusting her to the care of the beloved disciple, Jesus showed his deep concern for his mother’s future and her emotional and physical needs. This act of selflessness is a testament to Jesus’ character and his teachings of love, kindness, and care for others. In the midst of his own suffering, Jesus was able to prioritize the needs of someone else, exemplifying the true meaning of sacrifice and love. This selfless act was not only a demonstration of Jesus’ compassion, but also a reflection of his deep faith and commitment to God’s will.
Another example of a fulfilled prophecy can be found in Isaiah 53 which we mentioned a bit ago, which describes a suffering servant who would bear the sins of many. This passage speaks to the idea of vicarious atonement, in which one person takes on the punishment that is due to others. In Isaiah 53:5,
But He was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.
This prophecy was fulfilled through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, where he took on the sins of the world and paid the penalty for our transgressions. Through his death and resurrection, he made it possible for us to be reconciled to God and to have eternal life.
Some of the more remarkable prophecies fulfilled include:
- Born of a virgin: Isaiah 7:14 prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, and this was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:23).
- From the lineage of David: The Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David (Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5), and this was fulfilled in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38).
- Betrayed by a friend: The book of Psalms prophesied that the Messiah would be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9), and this was fulfilled in the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot (Matthew 26:47-50).
- Crucifixion: The prophet Zechariah described the Messiah being “pierced” (Zechariah 12:10) and “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12), and this was fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:27-28).
- Resurrection: The prophet Jonah was a sign of the resurrection of Christ (Matthew 12:39-40), and the Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would not see corruption (Psalm 16:10), indicating that he would rise from the dead. This was fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:6, Mark 16:6, Luke 24:6, John 20:9).
Even the last words of our Savior had meaning and purpose, fulfilling scripture –
|Father forgive them for they know not what they do||Luke 23:34||Isaiah 53:12||Prayer for enemies|
|Today you shall be with me in paradise||Luke 23:43||Isaiah 53:10-11||Promise to a believing sinner|
|Woman behold your son…Behold your mother||John 19:27||Exodus 20:12; Mark 7:10-13||Provision for followers|
|My God my God why have you forsaken me?||Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34||Psalm 22:1||Mental anguish|
|I Thirst||John 19:28||Psalm 69:21||Physical anguish|
|It is finished||John 19:30||Psalm 22:31||Past satisfaction|
|Father into your hand I commend my spirit||Luke 23:46||Psalm 31:5||Future satisfaction|
The fact that these prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ is a powerful testimony to the truth of the gospel message. It shows that God had a plan from the beginning of time to redeem humanity through his Son, and that plan was carried out with precision and accuracy. This gives us confidence in the reliability of the Bible and in the message of salvation that it proclaims.
Another example of a fulfilled prophecy can be found in Micah 5:2, which speaks to the birthplace of the Messiah. The passage reads,
you are small among the clans of Judah;
One will come from you
to be ruler over Israel for Me.
His origin is from antiquity,
This prophecy was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem as the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a savior to the world. These and other prophecies in the Old Testament point to the coming of the Messiah and the work that he would do. Christ’s fulfillment of these prophecies is a powerful testimony to his identity as the Son of God, and it underscores the importance of his redemptive work on the cross.
Christ’s Redemptive Work on the Cross:
In addition to his fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, Jesus’ words “It is finished” also refer to his redemptive work on the cross. As we read in John 3:16,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Through his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus has made it possible for us to be reconciled to God and to have eternal life.
The concept of redemption is central to our belief. To be redeemed means to be bought back or rescued from a state of slavery or captivity. In the case of humanity, we are enslaved to sin and death, and we cannot save ourselves. But through his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus has paid the price for our sin and has redeemed us from our bondage to sin.
In Colossians 1:13-14, we read,
He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, we can receive the forgiveness of our sins and be transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God. This is the essence of the gospel message: that through faith in Christ, we can be reconciled to God and have eternal life.
When Jesus cried out “It is finished” from the cross, he used the Greek word “tetelestai.” This word is derived from the verb “teleo,” which means “to bring to an end” or “to complete.” In the context of financial transactions, the word “tetelestai” was often stamped on a bill or receipt to indicate that the debt had been paid in full.
“Tetelestai” is also the perfect tense in the Greek. That means “It was finished, it is finished, it will always be finished.”
In the context of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the word “tetelestai” takes on a deeper significance. It emphasizes the completeness and finality of Christ’s work, and it underscores the fact that there is nothing that we can add to it. As we read in Hebrews 10:14,
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified.
Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is sufficient for our salvation, and there is nothing that we can do to earn it or add to it.
Works and Salvation
The concept of salvation by faith alone is central to the Christian faith. This means that we are saved not by our own works or merit, but by faith in Jesus Christ and his redemptive work on the cross. In Ephesians 2:8-9,
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast.
This does not mean that good works are unimportant or unnecessary. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that faith without works is dead. In James 2:17,
“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Genuine faith will always produce good works, and that our actions are an important expression of our faith. However, it is important to note that our works do not contribute to our salvation in any way, but rather they are the evidence of it. Good works are not the basis of our salvation; rather, they are the fruit of our salvation. As we read in the very next verse of Ephesians, 2:10,
For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
John 19:17-30 is a powerful passage that speaks to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. Jesus’ words “It is finished” are a reminder of the completeness and finality of his work, and they underscore the fact that there is nothing that we can add to it. Salvation is a free gift that is received by faith alone, and our good works are the fruit of our salvation.
As we reflect on the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, may we be filled with gratitude for the incredible love and grace that God has shown us through his Son. May we also be inspired to live lives that are marked by faith, obedience, and good works, as we seek to share the message of hope and redemption with those around us. May the words “It is finished” serve as a constant reminder of the incredible sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, and may they fill us with hope and confidence in our eternal salvation.
As we consider the significance of Christ’s finished work on the cross, we should also be mindful of the fact that salvation is not just a one-time event, but an ongoing process. As we read in Philippians 2:12-13, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
While we cannot add to Christ’s finished work on the cross, we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit in our ongoing sanctification. This involves putting to death the deeds of the flesh and living in obedience to God’s word (Romans 8:13, Galatians 5:16-25). It also involves growing in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), and walking in the good works that God has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).
To God be the glory.
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