We rejoin Jesus in His final moments. John bears witness at the foot of the cross with the three Mary’s. I wonder which moments they would recount in their telling of this story. John, through the Holy Spirit chooses four details to focus on.
The first detail John brings our attention to is Jesus’ knowledge of God’s plan. “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished…” (verse 28a). Matthew and Mark share with us the words Jesus uttered at that point of knowing. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46 & Mark 15:34). This was the moment God turned away because He couldn’t look on the sin that Jesus was carrying. Sin demanded separation from God and the moment Jesus took on all our sin He could no longer be with the Father. I believe THIS moment was the one moment that wounded Jesus more than anything else in the whole process. For the first time EVER Jesus was not under the Father’s loving eye.
The next moment John recalls for us is Jesus’ last conscious fulfillment of prophecy. John, being at the foot of the cross and watching Jesus’ every breath, heard Jesus say He was thirsty. Jesus “…said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst’” (verse 28b). The other gospel writers don’t share Jesus’ physical thirst but they do share that His thirst was quenched with sour wine. Matthew, Mark and John all share how one unnamed person recognized Jesus’ need and met it. In His moment of greatest pain, one soul reached out to Him. While others watching Jesus’ same pain stood by and ridiculed Him, one man helped Him.
We don’t know what was in the man’s heart as he performed this service for Jesus but we can be certain that God did. Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 were brought to my mind as I was pondering this scene. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” (Matt. 25:34-36). This man had the opportunity to actually render unto Jesus an act of kindness. I have NO DOUBT that God took notice of this.
The third detail I want to point out in John’s narrative is Jesus’ words. We started this section recognizing the fact that Jesus knew the work was now complete. We now witness Jesus’ announcement to His followers, and anyone else looking on, of that fact. They wouldn’t understand the significance of that statement for a few more days. Jesus had finished the work required to purchase their salvation. But to them the last detail mentioned in our reading is what they attributed those words to mean on that day.
The final detail is how Jesus HIMSELF willingly surrendered to death. If He wanted to He could have lasted longer, just as His fellow condemned did. But He had had enough. The work was done and it was time to let go. The longest moment, from the instant the Father turned away to Jesus’ last heartbeat, was finally over. Now the rejoicing could begin.
I want to share with you one of my favorite poems about this moment. It is called Between Triumph & Tears. God gave me the picture from the other side of this moment and I put it in poem form. I hope it touches you and causes you to thank God again for His amazing love.
Father God, thank You that it is finished! Thank You that I don’t have to perform any other kind of legal task to receive the gift of grace that Jesus purchased for me that day. Thank You that it is a FREE gift to everyone. Thank You for enduring the pain just for me. Thank You Jesus for finishing the work. I’m so sorry for my part in Your pain.