April 14 Sermon Resource

Jesus’ Last Words

Main Text: John 19:23-30

Accompanying Text: Psalm 26:3


“This is a detailed story.  John knows why the soldiers cast lots when dividing the clothes: because Jesus owns a rather nice woven undergarment that they decide not to tear into pieces.  John knows there are four soldiers who share the clothes.  He knows the full text of the sign that Pilate has made and that it is written in three languages: Hebrew, Latin and Greek.  He knows that the disciple whom Jesus loved is also at the cross.  He includes the very touching scene of Jesus bringing together the two people closest to him: his mother and his much-loved friend.  He knows that Jesus requests his final drink.  He knows Jesus’ final prayer: ‘It is finished.’  He knows that the soldiers are ordered to break the legs of all those crucified, which would kill them because they could no longer breathe.  When you are hanging by your wrists on a cross the only way to breathe is to push up against the nails through the feet.  He knows that when the soldiers come to do it, Jesus is already dead.  But just to make sure, Jesus’ side is pierced with a spear and ‘blood and water’ flow out.  He knows that Nicodemus comes to help Joseph with the burial and that he brings the spices, possibly worth more than £100,000.  He knows that the tomb is in a nearby garden”. [1]

“In the Gospels the soldiers who crucify Jesus divide his garments among themselves (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24). This is consistent with Roman practice (cf.Digesta 48.20.1). Tacitus, for example, tells us that ‘people sentenced to death forfeited their property’ (Annals 6:29). [2]

Thoughts re application today

The synoptics note various words of Jesus from the cross whereas “John records but one word, tetelestai: ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). The same word occurs a few verses earlier (v.28) as part of John’s own narrative: ‘Later, knowing that everything had now been finished’. This was certainly part of what Jesus meant by his last cry. He has now completed every stage of his passion. But the reference is to more than the series of events that unfolded at Calvary. The tetelestai embraces his life’s work and points to the completion of his mission. Now he can say, not proleptically, but as a matter of genuine accomplishment, ‘I have completed the work you gave me to do’ (John 17:4). He has drunk the cup and paid in full the ransom needed to redeem his people. He can say what the high priest of Judaism could never say, ‘It’s done! Finished! Nothing more is needed’. Now and for all time this one act of perfect obedience and sacrifice would determine humanity’s relation to God.

And yet there is work to be done beyond the tetelestai. He has glorified the Father on earth, and in response the Father will glorify him (John 17:1); not, however, in order to an existence of self-indulgent ease, but so that, with all the new power and authority of his throne, he will continue to work as redeemer, giving eternal life to all those the Father has given him (John 17:20).

…It is through the Son’s choice that the Father completes his own priestly action and delivers up his Son; as Calvin points out, this voluntariness, this willing self-offering, is a key element in the atoning significance of Christ…His dying completes his obedience, and his death, in and of itself, destroys the one who has the power of death (Hebrews 2:14). The cross brings the triumph (Colossian 2:15), and beyond it nothing more is required.” [3]


Some other Scripture Resources

  • Mark 15:21-41
  • Matthew 27:27-56
  • Luke 23:26-49
  • Hebrews 7:27

Other GCI resources

Footnotes and references

  1. Ian Galloway, Called to be Friends: Unlocking the heart of John’s Gospel, published by Hodder & Stoughton, UK, 2021:284.
  2. Craig A. Evans and Tom Wright, Jesus, the Final Days, published by SPCK, UK, in 2008:32.
  3. Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement, published by IVP, UK, in 2014:52-54.

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