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Tonight, with Gods blessing, well move on in the Puritan study we began a couple of months ago; its called Matthew Henry on the Seven Sayings.
Our Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross from nine oclock in the morning until three in the afternoon. During that time, He spoke seven times. Now, Im not too keen on finding symbolism in the Bible, but here I think there is some. Seven is the perfect number, the number of completion, you might say. Thus, our Lord said everything there was to say on the cross. He spoke to His Father; He spoke to His family; He spoke to His friends; He spoke to His enemies, and hereHe speaks to everyone: to those who heard Him that day, and to you and me too.
Earlier the Lord had cried out in agony and needbut no more! This is a cry of victory.
It is finished.
Henry notes this is a single Greek word, a word, he goes on to say that is both comprehensive and comfortable. By comprehensive, he means theres a lot in the word. By comfortable he means the word produces great comfort in the believer.
What did the Lord mean when He said, It is finished? And how does that finishing help Christians today? Matthew Henry says it means seven different things, and each one is full of encouragement. So lets get to them.
Our Lord was treated very badly by the people who should have loved Him. He came to His ownJohn saysand His own did not receive Him. This means He came home, but nobody welcomed Him, but rather bolted the doors and locked their hearts against Him. What a rejection! The promised Son not wanted by the family! The conquering hero rejected by the nation. The king turned out of His own kingdom.
The rejection went much farther than this, of course. People did ignore and exclude Him, but thats not all they did. They also actively persecuted Him: from King Herod who tried to strangle Him in the cradle to the Ruling Council who finally nailed Him to the cross, the people hunted Him His whole life and finally had their way with Him.
Both demons and men had poured out their hatred on the Lorddoing everything they could think of to hurt Him, humiliate Him, and break Him.
But thats all over now! The malice and envy are finished. From now on, the Man men rejected has been accepted by God. If they crown Him with thorns, God sets Him on a throne.
From this we learn that the wrath of man is temporary. When people are mistreating us, it doesnt seem like it, but it is. A woman with a bad husband may think his abuse will never end, but it will. The man with a cruel boss, thinks hell never get out from under his thumb, but he will. The Christian suffering under strong and relentless temptations will one day be free of Satans malice!
Wickedness is real and it hurts. But it is not eternal. Only He who does the will of God abides forever. This meanswithout pretending that hurts dont hurt uswe can be patient with the people who do us wrong. Time is on our side, not theirs. Psalm 37 speaks directly to the issue:
A Buddhist would say Do not fret because of evildoers because there is no such thing as evil. Baloney! The world is full of evildoers and many of them are not misguided, but know what theyre doing and intend to keep it up. But they cant. Their times are in [Gods] hands. In Gods good time, theyll be removed either by conversion or judgment. We can only wait and hope.
What is finished? The malice and enmity of men and devils. Thats number one.
On this point, Henry is repeating himself, but from another angle. Were the men who whipped, beat, and crucified the Lord bad men? Yes they werethe worst men ever. Did they mean to do Gods will when they destroyed Him? No, that was the farthest thing from their minds.
Yet all they did was by Gods plan. Not that He forced them to do it, of course, but He worked things in such a way that His good will and their wicked desires converged in the crucifixion. Thus, in trying to thwart the plan of God, they ended up fulfilling it.
Heres the point: the cup of suffering our Lord drank from was carefully measured out to Him by His Father. God wanted His Son to suffer for our salvation, but the sufferingsthough greathad a limit. It was six hours on the cross, not eight; it was five wounds not twelve.
This means your suffering is decreed by God, but thats not all it is: decreed. Its also limited. Because the Lord is in control of all thingsfrom the devils malice to your nerve endings that fell the painyou cannot suffer more than He intends you to. Does the Lord want us to suffer? He does. Not because He enjoys seeing our tears, but because He knows they are good for us in the long run.
There was nothing good about the cross, but something very good came of it. There is nothing good about your aches and pains and heartbreak, but directed and limited by Gods wisdom and grace, they end up doing you good.
God had a certain amount of suffering for our Lord to endure. The moment He finished it, God relieved Him and brought Him to glory. He will do the same for us. You will not suffer one pain or one second longer than you need to. Its all in Gods plan and its all for your good.
Lets not kid ourselves: Knowing this doesnt make sickness or loss easy, but it makes it bearable. It is finished means the suffering God has for you will soon be over. Thats number two.
THE PROPHECIES AND TYPES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
God wanted His people to know who their Savior was. To help them recognize Him, God gave them the Old Testament Scriptures, and filled them with prophecies and foreshadowings of the Messiah. Some of them were quite direct (like His place of birth in Micah 5:2); others were a bit fuzzier, but all of them allowed Israel to know that Jesus of Nazareth is their King and the Savior of the world.
As death drew near for the Lord, He looked back at His life and saw that everything God said He would do He had done. From His near escape from Herods soldiers (cf. Jeremiah 31:15) to the Romans gambling for His clothes and giving Him vinegar to drink (cf. Psalm 22:18, 69:21).
This meansfirst of allthat anyone who believes the Bible must also believe in Christ. That the Jews (and others) who believed God spoke through Moses and the prophets had no excuse for rejecting Christ (cf. John 5:29).
It also means thatif Christ followed Gods will for His life in every detail, that we also ought to obey His Word. His obedience was perfect, ours is not and cannot be. But are we making an effort to be the kind of persons the Lord wants us to be?
If anyone might ignore some of Gods Law, it would be the Lord. But He didnt. And neither should we. We must keep things in perspective and not be legalistic, of course. But this doesnt mean we can skip over the plain will of God for our lives. We ought to be generous with the failures of other people, but for ourselves, we ought to be sticklers about obedience. Psalm 119:6,
It is finishedthenmeans our Lord fulfilled the types of the Old Testament and did His Fathers will at every point of His life. We cannot be sinless, but wouldnt it be good if, as we lay dying, we could say,
THE CEREMONIAL LAW
The death of Christ means the ceremonial law is abolishednot because it is uninspired or badbut because its purpose has been fulfilled. It was not Gods will for His people to go to the Temple foreveragain, not because the Temple was a bad thingbut because He had something better for us!
Christians differ on some of the details here. We all agree that the dietary laws are done away with, but what about the Sabbath? I cannot get into that at the moment, but only praise God for bringing in an order that is better than the one Moses and the others back then lived under.
I should also warn you of going back to what Paul calls the weak and beggarly elements of the Old System. Beware of the legalism that has a way of breeding and the self-righteousness, and the exclusive spirit that comes from placing law above the Gospel.
This is a big and complicated topic. But, for now, lets remember that the Jewish time of the Church has come and gone. And now, people who were not a people are the people of God.
There is a great barrier between men and God. The barrier is sin. Until it is taken down, we can never have fellowship with each other. God is offended by our sin and, frankly, we are offended by His holiness.
Sin has to be taken care of. It has to be punished by God. And it was in the Lords death for us. When it is punished, then sinners who are sorry can approach God for mercy. And get it.
In a dumbed-down form, thats how the cross works for our salvation. Jesus Christ took my sins upon Himself and bore the punishment my sins deserve. Now, ashamed of myself, I can flee to God asking Him to spare me because of what my Savior has done for me. And He will.
For anyone who wants to be rid of his sin and guilt, there is salvation in the cross. It is finished means the believer is now acceptable to God.
When I started to read this heading, I didnt know what Henry was getting at. Of course, It is finished means the Lord is about to diethats the main and most obvious thing it means. But then he tacks on another sentence: This we must all come to shortly.
This reminds us that death is for everyone and that its coming sooner than you think. If even the Lord dies, you will too. But will you die with the same confidence He had? You can, even though youre not the man He is. For if you die in faith, you also die in Christ and receive the same reward He did. The Lord left this world for paradise. When He closed His eyes on a cross, He opened them in a palace.
To die in faith means to die in union with Christ and open your eyes in the same place He did. Youre going to diewhether you want to or not. Why not die in Christ and wake up in Christ too?
This one paragraph could be turned into a dozen sermons. People think the hard part of salvation is repenting of their sins or believing in Christ. Wrong! Thats the easy part of salvation. The hard part was done by Christ for you. Its not your death and agony that will save you, but His! How thankful we ought to be that when carrying the unbearable load, it was He who picked up the heavy end!
If being saved is like carrying a big tree, remember Christ has the trunk and youve got a twig. We carry it only because He does!
Gods justice was against you; the power of Satan was against you; moral dirtiness was against you; unhappiness was against you. But note the word, was. For believers, all of these things have been removed: God is satisfied, the devil is broken, youre washed clean, and the ground beneath your happiness is solid and unshakable. All of thisand moreis finished with the death of your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is finished is a comprehensive wordall theology is contained in it, from the character of God to the demands of His law to the fall of man to our salvation in Christ is all bound up in the Word!
It is a comfortable wordyour hope in life and death, in body and soulis all in that Word.
How mindful we ought to beand thankfulfor that word: It is finished.
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