New Testament Week 24: “It is Finished.” – Matt 27, Luke 23, Mark 15, John 19

The picture of this week’s lesson is a painting that I have in my home office. It is one of my favorite paintings of the Savior’s last days. You can see Jesus in this state of contemplation as He faces eminent death. In the background you see two angels representing mercy and justice, and another in the dark representing the evil forces seeking Jesus’s failure and demise. Even Satan in these moments likely believed Jesus’s death was going to prevent His ministry from becoming a success. However, Jesus knows, even in this moment that He must die to fulfill the final sacrifice of His mission.

I will post this week and again next week the paragraphs on the three sacrifices of Jesus and their similarities to the Day of Atonement. On the Day of Atonement, or what we now call Yom Kippur, the offerings and the rituals performed by the High Priest in the temple were symbolic of the reconciliation, or atonement for all Israel’s sins, with God. I want to compare the basics of these offerings to Jesus Christ final three miraculous moments: atonement for our sins, bearing the physical pains and burdens of all mortal life, death and resurrection. These moments will coincide with our final three lessons as well.

  • First Offering – Sin Offering – (Heifer)
    • The offering was performed in the valley below the temple – Gethsemane was in the valley below the temple.
    • The offering was meant to cleanse us from the inside-out, to cleanse Israel of their sins – Christ bled in the garden of Gethsemane to pay for our sins and the consequences of our sins.
  • Second Offering – Burnt Offering – (Goat/Lamb)
    • The offering was performed at the temple – Christ was scourged on the same level as the temple.
    • The offering was meant to cleanse Israel from the outside-in and represented becoming sanctified – Christ bore our physical pains and burdens in these moments.
  • Third Offering – Peace Offering – (Ram)
    • The offering was performed on the mount above the temple and it is not a coincidence that the ram represents the ram that took the place of Isaac for Abraham – Golgotha was on the hill above the temple and Christ is the offering that takes the place for us.
    • The offering was meant to bring reunion and fellowship with God the Father – to us Christ’s death and resurrection provides the ability for us to be reunited with our families and with God in an exalted state. or true fellowship.

This week Jesus will complete the Burnt Offering related to the atonement of all humankind. With the sin offering complete Jesus now faces the worldly powers many believed He would overthrow, the people whom He had shown miracles, and the religious elite who He had consistently challenged. Even Christ’s disciples are still in shock and confusion over Jesus’s fate. It can be so easy to just glance over these events and marginalize the magnitude of fear, pain, and grief that Jesus’s disciples and friends must have been feeling on this Friday. I love Jesus so much and it is hard to express how much His example and love has meant to my life. I hope we can feel the spirit of love and redemption as we study the chapters for this week.

CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 24 – Matt 27, Luke 23, Mark 15, John 19

– Envy is one of the most damaging of feelings and we must do our best to remove it form our character.

– Christ’s death was willing, as He could have bargained for His freedom with a compassionate judge in Pilate.

– Forgiveness is something that will always be hard, but always will make us different and better disciples.

Context and Timeline:
– Timeline of Final Events
Friday Early Morning – Initial Trials, Confrontation with Pilate and Herod. Friday Morning – Final confrontation with Pilate, Releasing of Barrabas, Scourging.
Friday Afternoon – Crucifixion and burial before Sabbath begins on Friday sundown.
Sunday Morning – Resurrection

– Pontius Pilate was made the Roman Prefect (governor) of Judea in 26 AD, pretty close to the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. Pilate was particularly harsh toward the Jews, but had a tentative alliance with Caiaphas as his primary responsibility was the collection of taxes and keeping the peace if necessary. Pilate typically lived in Caesarea but would be in Jerusalem during major gatherings, like the Passover.

– Herod Antipas was the tetrarch of Galilee at the time of Jesus ministry. He executed John the Baptist and was well acquainted with the stories of Jesus.

– Praetorium is basically the courtyard of a residential palace estate.

– Barabbas’s first name was likely Jesus. He was a political revolutionary who murdered someone during an insurrection shortly before Jesus was arrested. It is interesting that the people released a Jesus who was fighting to release the people from Roman tyranny.

– Scourging was the act of being whipped and beaten. The whip that was used in conjunction with crucifixion had many straps with sharp bone, metal, and glass fragments. They were typically whipped over 30 times and many died from the loss of blood prior to their crucifixion.

– Crucifixion was a barbaric death typically used to humiliate the criminal and their loved ones in an effort to deter future criminal behavior. Those subjected to the punishment typically died from asphyxia and exhaustion after a few days. To speed up the process the criminals could have their legs broken or speared so they would bleed to death.

– Simon of Cyrene, which is located in what is now Libya, was an African man who was the father of two very prominent Christian disciples, Alexander and Rufus, who were close friends to apostles after Jesus death. He would have only carried the horizontal part of cross, the vertical post would have already been in the ground.

– A Centurion is a commander of a centuria in the Roman legions. They would have commanded 100 soldiers.

– The veil of the temple was a veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. It represented the intercession between heavens in which the High Priest could enter the presence of God once per year on the Day of Atonement.

– It is clear there are many women present with Jesus during his trials and at the crucifixion site. These women included many who traveled from Galilee, His mother Mary, His aunt Mary, Mary Magdalene, James and John’s mother, and many others who helped the disciples and Jesus over the past three years.

– Golgotha means the place of skull and was likely called that because of the executions and death that were experienced there.

– Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, but also a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus has just endured the midnight farce of a trial with the Sanhedrin at Caiaphas’s home, and the leaders of the Jews now take Him to Pilate. They are hoping to get Pilate’s permission for a political execution from the Romans in order to avoid them looking like they are taking Jesus out. Interestingly, Pilate sees through their ruse and confronts them about what Jesus has actually done and they make up a story about Jesus teaching people not to pay taxes. Pilate questions Jesus and finds nothing to support their accusations.

After discussing it with the Jews again they claim that Jesus is trying to usurp the kingdom from the Romans and that Jesus had been doing this since His time in Galilee. Pilate clearly sees this is a tricky political situation and sees a potential out when they bring up Jesus being from Galilee. Jesus is then sent to meet Herod Antipas at a nearby palace and Herod also agrees that Jesus has done nothing worthy of execution and sends Him back to Pilate.

At this point Pilate seems frustrated and sees that the Jews who seek Jesus’s death are envious of Jesus. He could only know this by learning from investigation and from Herod that most of the people love Jesus. Pilate then seems to believe leaving it to the people to decide will allow Jesus to walk free if His reputation is to be believed. However, the Sanhedrin has been hard at work manipulating the crowds who have gathered at Pilate’s palace for the decision on which criminal to release. Who knows what methods they used, but the crowd has turned angry with Jesus and when Pilate asks who they wish to release, they choose Jesus Barabbas, a revolutionary who killed someone in a recent insurrection.

Sensing the mood of the crowd, Pilate tells the crowd that they will get what they want and he washes his hands as an act of absolving himself for the decision to crucify Jesus. The crowd chants that they should crucify Jesus and Pilate turns Him over for scourging and crucifixion.

Jesus is then whipped and scourged, likely over 30 times, and then the Roman guards mock Him and put a purple robe on Him. They then fashion a crown of thorns and begin calling Him “King of the Jews.” He is then presented to the crowd and they also mock Him and ask why God is not saving Him.

Shortly before 9 AM the time for the crucifixion has come and Jesus is apparently too weak from the scourging to carry the post of His cross. The guards grab a man named Simon to assist with bringing the cross’s beam to Golgotha on Calvary.

Jesus has nine inch nails hammered through His palms and wrists to fasten Him to the horizontal beam that will be attached to the vertical beam forming the cross. A sign is also fashioned above Jesus’s head that read, “King of the Jews.”

Jesus then has a few interesting conversations with the other criminals who were being crucified. A few of them mock Him, but one, a believer, asks Jesus to remember him. Jesus tells the man that they will be again in paradise soon. There are a number of other interesting things that happen on the cross of note.

  • Jesus instructs John to take care of His mother when after His death.
  • The earth groans, earthquakes, thunder and lightning, and darkness covers those at the scene between 9 AM and 3 PM.
  • Bruce R. McConkie taught that Jesus felt the pains of the atonement again in this moment without the strengthen He received in Gethsemane, leading Jesus to exclaim, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”
  • The veil of the temple is rent and then Jesus declares that His work is finished and then He willingly dies of His own choice.
  • The Centurion who was overseeing the crucifixion sees something or many somethings that convince him that Jesus was in fact the Son of God.

Immediately after Jesus completes His final offering on our behalf, His friends and family get to work in securing His body’s release. Typically on Friday executions the soldiers would break the legs of those being crucified so they would die before the Sabbath began on Friday at sundown. When the soldiers came to Jesus, He was already dead and so the speared His side to confirm.

Joseph of Arimathea, who was a prominent man, petitioned Pilate, on behalf of Jesus’s family, to have the body given to them for burial before the Sabbath began. Their petition was granted and the body was taken to the tomb, where they would return after the Sabbath to prepare the body in the more traditional way.

A few soldiers, likely at the behest of the Jewish leaders, asked Pilate if they should guard the tomb of Jesus so the body could not be taken and them claim that He had risen from the dead. Pilate agrees and approves a guard detail to watch over Jesus’s tomb. Of course their efforts will be useless as we know that Jesus will rise again on Sunday morning and complete the Peace Offering.

Have you ever been falsely accused? How did you react? What can we learn about how Jesus reacts?

When you are a spectator to injustice how do you react? Should we act differently to try and fight injustice?

The Jews as an entire people often get the blame for Jesus death. Is this fair? Who are really to blame and what are their attributes? What can we do to rid those kinds of attributes from our character?

What can we learn from the forgiving attitude Jesus takes into His very violent death? Why do you think forgiveness is so crucial to discipleship? Is it because it is so hard? Is it because it challenges us to realize our own weaknesses cause harm to others as well and puts us on the same level as the offender?

Key Moment or Scripture: Luke 23:32-43
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 
33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 
37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 
41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

I think it is easy to take for granted the difficult nature of forgiveness. We have discussed it on numerous occasions the past 6 months during our study of Jesus’s ministry and it is clear that regardless of the difficult nature of forgiveness, it is something we must work at in our lives.

There must be something about learning to forgive, especially in the hardest instances of forgiveness, that brings the most holy part of us into existence. I often wonder if in those moments of discovering the ability to forgive we face our own brokenness and our own depravity, and that finally allows us to recognize the power and the purpose behind Jesus’s sacrifice for us. When we have that realization about ourselves then we get a small glimpse into what Jesus was willing to do for everyone, even those who were beating, whipping, mocking, and crucifying Him. He was willing to sacrifice for those who beat, mocked, and killed His loved ones. He was willing to do it for everyone.

I know forgiveness is a tricky thing, but I think the part that is necessary is the recognition of how mistakes make us all in need of Jesus Christ. I don’t think we have to forget or hang out with people who have harmed us, but I think if we can see them and us on the level that we need Jesus Christ and that we will always need Jesus, then we can feel some healing and an empowerment that comes from Jesus Christ.

Final Thoughts:
When Jesus proclaims, “It is finished” after His conversation with the other criminals being crucified, you can almost sense His relief. I cannot imagine what the events of the past two days would have felt like. I felt the relief along with Him as I read these chapters and thought about their meaning. As we prepare for next week’s lesson, I think we should remember the difficulty and awfulness of these past two week’s readings. This will help us highlight the absolute joy and wonderfulness that will come with Jesus resurrection. It is not a coincidence, but an eternal truth, that difficulty faced with faith and love will lead to our greatest joy and that will be shown to us in next week’s lesson.