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Order Of Worship (Liturgy)Hymn 21:1-3
Hymn 21:4 (after the law)
Reading: John 19:1-37
Text: John 19:28-30
Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
On this Good Friday, we’ve gathered together again to hear God’s Word and to commemorate the suffering and death of our Saviour. As you know, the Bible gives us four accounts of what happened to the Lord Jesus. But even though there are four accounts, they are not contradictory, but complementary. They complement each other, they support one another and give us a complete picture of what our Saviour suffered. The Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit and so we can confident that the Good Friday accounts fit together. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John work together to tell us everything we need to know about what happened to the Lord Jesus in his suffering and death on that day some two thousand years ago.
This morning, we’re giving our attention to the account given by the Gospel According to John. This gospel has its own unique perspective. The purpose of this gospel is clearly given in John 20:31. John says that there are many other things that he could have written about with regards to the life and ministry of Christ. Then he says, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Everything in John’s gospel is written to that end. And that includes what we have here in John 19:28-30. Through John, the Holy Spirit wants to direct us to Christ, to believe in him. He wants us to understand that the Lord Jesus actively and willingly gave himself for us and he did so in fulfillment of the Scriptures. That’s our theme this morning and we’ll consider two points:
1. The manner of this giving
2. The meaning of this giving
In verse 28 we read that Jesus knew that all was now completed. He knew that his suffering was finished. He had been hanging on the cross for several hours. During all that time, the Lord Jesus suffered in body and soul. He was rejected, mocked, and despised by men. Worst of all, God poured out his wrath upon him and he endured God-forsakenness. Having never experienced such forsakenness ourselves or witnessed it, we can hardly begin to understand the depths of what he suffered. Sometimes people interpret God forsaking Jesus on the cross as if it was a matter of God abandoning Jesus. But God forsaking him is not abandonment. Rather, it’s that God was no longer present to bless him. Psalm 139 tells us that God is even present in hell. God is present in his wrath. God is present in hell to attack and punish sinners eternally with his just judgment. God was present at Golgotha to attack Jesus, the one who hung on the cross in our place. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 reminds us, Jesus became sin on the cross. He was counted as a sinner and consequently received the sinner’s due. He descended into the darkness of hell and experienced God’s fury.
But now all of that is over. The Lord Jesus had taken God’s wrath against our sins on himself. There was only one thing left for him to do on our behalf: die. His lungs had to stop expanding and contracting, his heart had to stop beating, the neurons in his brain had to stop firing. He not only had to suffer for our sins, he also had to die for them.
And the Lord Jesus knew that he had to die in a special way. He couldn’t let himself die from a heart attack. Christ couldn’t let himself die from cancer. He had to give himself to death. He had to do this so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. Here we can think especially of Isaiah 53:12. In that passage, the suffering Servant “pours out his life unto death.” This is a prophecy of Jesus Christ and it says that he actively gives himself. Jesus understood this. He said in John 10:18, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
Related to this were the prophetic words of Psalm 22 and Psalm 69. Psalm 22, of course, is what Jesus quotes from the cross when he says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That same Psalm speaks about thirsting in the midst of horrible suffering. Psalm 69 speaks of the suffering king’s thirst being quenched by vinegar.
Jesus knew that God’s Word had brought him to this place and God’s Word must carry him further. That’s why he called out and said that he was thirsty. Christ knew that the worst part of his suffering was finished. Now he had only to give his life, to pour out his life unto death. To do that, the Lord Jesus needed strength. He needed something to drink to help him complete his cross work. So, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
There was a jar of wine vinegar nearby. That would have been wine that had gone bad and turned into vinegar. It was mixed with water and would have been a cheap drink for the soldiers. Maybe a bit sour, but still okay to quench your thirst.
The people standing around the cross soaked a sponge in this wine vinegar and then used a hyssop branch to bring it to the mouth of the Lord Jesus. It is worth noting that John specifically identifies the type of plant here. He says that it was the stalk or branch of a hyssop plant. Why does he mention that? Here you have to think back again to the Old Testament and the way in which Jesus is fulfilling Scripture.
Jesus suffered and died during the time of Passover. The mention of hyssop here draws our thoughts to the Passover, and especially to the Passover lamb. Hyssop was some kind of plant – experts are not exactly sure which species. But it was some kind of plant that would have been dipped in the blood of the lamb and then used to spread the blood over the doorframes of Israelite houses. In a sense, the hyssop was an instrument for salvation – with the blood of the lamb spread on the doorframes, the angel would pass by and the first born son would be spared. Here John speaks of hyssop also in the framework of salvation. It’s used so that the Lamb of God can take the last step of laying down his life.
The sponge was lifted to his mouth and he drank it. And it had the desired effect. He received the last burst of energy needed to finish his work on the cross. He said, “It is finished.” By that, he simply meant that everything that Scripture required of him on Golgotha was completed. There was more to come in his redemptive work – for instance, his resurrection and ascension—but what was required of him on the cross was at its end. Verse 30 tells us that he then bowed his head and died. Note that it describes his death in a special way, “he gave up his spirit.” In the King James Version, this is translated, “he gave up the ghost” – which, by the way, is the origin of that expression in English. “He gave up his spirit” – we never find that expression used of anyone else in the Bible. Only Jesus gives up his spirit. Note: he didn’t just die, he actively gave up his spirit. He was actively involved with the separation of his body and soul – that separation that takes place in the death of every human being. This was exactly the way that it had to be. Jesus was no hapless victim on the cross. He had covenanted with the Father and the Spirit to be our Saviour. He willingly went to the cross and took our punishment and as the climax of that, he willingly gave up his life. His suffering and death was a sacrifice for sin and he was the one who offered the sacrifice. This moment when he gives up his spirit is the crowning moment, the last act of the sacrifice.
Now let’s reflect for a few moments on what that means. Let’s consider two aspects. The first is that everything was finished here. Verse 28 says that “all was now completed.” In verse 30, the Lord Jesus called out and said, “It is finished.” That means good news for us! We can know for certain that the Lord Jesus did not go halfway in his suffering. Our Saviour didn’t leave us with anything that we still have to do for ourselves. For instance, he didn’t just bear God’s wrath against sin and then say, “Well, you still have to die for your sins.” No, he did everything! We’re simply called again to believe that he did this for us. It is all grace. There is nothing left for us to do to get right with God, to be justified and adopted as his children and heirs. Simply rest and trust in Christ Jesus and you will be saved from God’s wrath against your sin and you’ll know God not as your enemy, but as your Father. That’s the good news of Good Friday.
Loved ones, when we believe this good news, when we embrace it personally, what results is praise and love for God, for the Triune God. Each person of the Trinity was involved. The Father sent his Son into this world to suffer and die for us. The Son was willing to do so and our text paints this picture of a willing Saviour. The Holy Spirit has been poured on us so that we believe the gospel, so that we rest and trust in Christ alone. We give all praise and glory to Father, Son and Holy Spirit for our redemption. We’re impressed with God, and we love him and want to make much of him with our words and works.
The same happens as we consider that it was for our benefit that the Lord Jesus became thirsty. When he said, “I am thirsty,” then we know that he was and is a human being just as we are. Yes, the Lord Jesus was and is also God. But in his suffering and death, we really see his human nature at the forefront. For our salvation, we needed a human being to be there on that cross. God would never punish an animal or some kind of disembodied spirit for what man did. There needed to be a true human being hanging on that cross, forsaken by God. When the Lord Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” then we know for sure that he was the man.
That’s good news for us. It’s good news because we know that the Lord Jesus continues to be both man and God. His human nature didn’t evaporate when he ascended into heaven. When we go through hard times, the Lord Jesus sympathizes. When troubles and adversity come our way, the Saviour empathizes. Loved ones, listen to what Scripture says about Jesus in Hebrews 2:17-18, “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might propitiate for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Jesus became man so that he could propitiate for us – that means, turn God’s wrath away from us and so take away our sins. Jesus became man so that God’s fatherly heart of love would be turned towards us. Jesus became man so that he can help us when we suffer.
Brothers and sisters, when you have trials and difficulties, turn to the Lord Jesus. Pray to him and speak with him directly. In him you have someone who understands. As the old hymn says, “What a friend we have in Jesus!” In him, we have someone who truly understands what we’re experiencing. Why? Because he suffered on the cross, he had trials, he had adversity, he became thirsty. Because we have Jesus as our Saviour, we can give praise and glory to God! We can know that God’s fatherly heart of love is turned towards us, because he loves his Son, and in Christ, we also are his children and heirs.
Beloved, Good Friday is good because there is good news. The Lord Jesus took that last drink so that he could finish his work. He took that last drink so that believing in him, we would never thirst or go hungry. Jesus actively and willingly gave himself for you. He did this because he loves you. He did this because he knew that by doing it, God would receive all the glory then, now and for eternity.
Let’s pray together:
O God in heaven, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
All praise, glory and honour be to you for the redemption accomplished on Good Friday some two thousand years ago.
We praise you Father, for sending your Son into this world, to be the propitiation for our sins. We thank you that through his sacrifice, we know you as our Father, that we are assured of your unending love for us.
We give glory to you Lord Jesus, for hanging on the cross in our place. We thank you that you suffered thirst so that we might never be thirsty and go hungry. We thank you for fulfilling the Scriptures, for willingly giving up your life for us so that we may have life. Thank you for the perfect sacrifice through which we are reconciled to God.
We honour you Holy Spirit, for inspiring the Word of God which testifies of the gospel. We thank you for your work in our hearts so that we believe this gospel. Help us to embrace it ever more, please give us more grace so that our hearts, minds and wills are inclined heavenward in love and praise. Please help us and work in us a desire to glorify our Creator, Redeemer and Renewer.
Lord God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our redemption is entirely your work and to you goes all adoration and glory. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. World without end, AMEN.
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service. Thank-you.
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