Studies in John's Gospel -- Part 22
The Uniqueness of His Death
By: A.J. Higgins, M.D.
Passage: John 19
"...Jesus said, ‘It is finished’, and He bowed His head and gave up the spirit." John 19.30
Pilate’s final futile attempt to win Christ’s release, the nation’s final rejection of Christ, accuratley dated and marked out by the Spirit of God, the Savior’s bearing of His cross out to Golgotha are all presented in John 19. We are brought to the foot of the cross and privy to His words of compassion for His mother as He commits her to John for care; we hear His eloquent yet simple cry "I thirst", revealing something of His intense physical sufferings; and then we hear in a loud triumphant voice, "It is finished".
We become so familiar with the historical account of the crucifixion that we are in danger of missing its spiritual significance, to the detriment of our souls.
The death of Christ was not an ordinary death. For us who are mere men, death is the great contradiction to life. It interferes with our life’s work, our hopes, goals or ambitions. At best, if we can forstall it, it comes after we have accomplished all these things. For the Lord Jesus, death was His great purpose in coming into the world. All the great Jewish prophets foretold of a coming suffering Messiah. Isaiah pointed forward to
The Death of Christ was not an ordinary death.... death was His great purpose in coming.
the Man of Sorrows who would be wounded and bruised for the transgression of the nation; Zechariah prophesied of the smitten Shepherd, Jehovah’s fellow; Daniel forsaw Messiah cut off. Death was not an interruption of His ministry, but the great purpose for which He came. He had already told the people of His day that He had come to lay down His life for His sheep (John 10.11-17). When upon Calvary He proclaimed "It is finished", He was not saying that life was finished, but that the great work He had come to do was finished; that all the scriptures that spoke of His death had been fulfilled. He had come to deal with the great issue of sin. It was finished. He had come to make it possible for a holy God to righteously forgive sin. It was finished. He had come to seek and to save the lost. It was finished. Death was not a defeat, but a victory. Please reserve the title martyr for others. This was no martyr; He was fulfilling all that the prophets had written concerning Him.
But we are informed that He ‘bowed His head". The word really means to recline or rest. We lose the force because we are not familiar with the barbaric practice of crucifixion. Men wreathed in pain until ultimately unconscious. Such was not the case here. In full control of all He rested His head.
We are then told that He "gave up the spirit", or dismissed His spirit. He voluntarily entered into death. He was not death’s victim but its victor. He voluntarily dismissed with kingly dignity His spirit. It is Luke who tells us in His account of the cross that the
Please save the title of martyr for others... "I lay it (My life) down of Myself"
Lord Jesus committed His spirit to His Father. Earlier, John recorded that the Lord Jesus told His audience "No man taketh it (My life) from Me, but I lay it down of Myself." John 10.18. His death was not only the purpose of His life, it was also voluntary and vicarious. He gave Himself to the death of the cross.
Well might every reader seriously consider if they have ever come into the good of the purpose of the death of Christ. It was not to furnish us with a stirring example or provide us with a martyr with whom to identify.
The words of Paul epitomize the personal value of the blood of Christ: "The Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me." Gal. 2.20. All who are striving for heaven and fail to see that in His death the Lord Jesus has made atonement for sin will forever miss God’s provision for their sin. T he loss is tragic and incalculable for eternal life or eternal wrath hang in the balance.