How wrong we can all be at times in our estimate of men and events! Of those who were standing by the cross of Christ on that first Good Friday – the women who loved Him so much – the priests who hated Him – the soldiers who couldn’t care less – the public at large who were enjoying a spectacle – the disciples who viewed the scene fearfully
from a distance – there was hardly one (except that one dying thief who gave his heart to Christ that day) – hardly a one who thought of it as anything other than the end of a life – a career – a ministry a hope and expectation. All ended, they thought, on Calvary. And in hell how the devil must have rejoiced to see – as he might have thought – the Son of God defeated – killed by sinful men, his pawns!
But in heaven, the cross went down as the indispensable prelude to victory – the beginning of a great new age for God and men – and so Christ Himself looked at it, too, as we may see from his great dying word (John 19:30) “It is finished.”
What was finished in that hour which had such different meanings above and below? I would like to point out to you today Eight Wonderful Accomplishments of Christ on the Cross in order that we, too, may glory in it, as every Christian should.
1. First of all, and most obviously, Christ’s life was finished at the cross – His human, earthbound life, that is; and it was, to borrow the late Fulton Oursler’s description of it, the Greatest Life Ever Lived. Born in the humblest of circumstances, a refugee in infancy, and raised in comparative poverty, He emerged at the age of thirty to teach the people of Galilee and Judah. He wandered from place to place during that ministry of His, having no place to lay His head. His food and clothing were the simplest. His real friends were few. His enemies were many and powerful, and before three full years were up they were able to work His undoing, or so they thought. They seized Him, mocked Him, beat Him, and finally crucified Him – yet today two thousand years later – more men know His name than any other – His words are remembered where all others have been forgotten – He has conquered more nations than the great empire builders – and He has won more hearts than the most popular and beloved of benefactors of our race.
Men and women, young people and old whisper His name on rising and on retiring – live by it and die by it – surely this was a life without equal: and it was finished now the earthly life He led for others.
2. Secondly, and equally obvious, Christ’s death was finished at the cross. It was a death we dare ne’er forget! Arrested as a common criminal, He was dragged to the high priest’s palace, then to Pilate’s, then Herod’s, and then Pilate’s again. At each place, He was the victim of lies and the subject of the vilest abuse.
They stripped Him of His clothes, lacerated His flesh with their whips, dressed Him in rags to ridicule Him, and pressed a crown of prickling thorns upon His brow. The people cried insistently for His death: and they forced Him to carry His cross to the place of execution and only relieved Him of its burden when it was obvious that He would never even make it if they didn’t. Nailed to that instrument of scorn and pain, they sat and watched Him as He died – and even gambled for His few possessions. Yet He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”‘ Six more times He spoke while He hung there suspended – and each time with words of the highest significance.
Towards the end He grew thirstier than ever – and they filled a sponge with vinegar (or the common sour wine the soldiers drank in those days) and put it on a stick of hyssop and raised it to His parched lips, and with the strength that He could still muster He uttered the cry “It is finished. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” With this His death was accomplished, too, for it is written that He bowed His head and gave up the ghost. The pain and the shame of it all was over – His body needed to bear no more.
3. Thirdly, of course, the malice of His enemies was over at the cross: for they thought that they had accomplished their end. True they put a guard over His grave to prevent any demonstrations there but there was little more that they could do to Him now. He had escaped their hands in death. All through His life on earth they had persecuted Him – and particularly in His public ministry. Did He assure poor sinners of forgiveness? They said, Who can forgive sins save God only! Did He drive out the demons that held so many captives in those days? They said, He casts out demons by Beelzabub the Prince of demons! Did He heal the sick, even on the sabbath days? They called Him a law-breaker for this and regarded Him as no true son of Israel. Did He teach men to repent and to be reconciled with God? They called Him a false prophet and a blasphemer for His troubles – and at last they said: We are only interested in the good of our people: and it is expedient that one should die and the people be saved from error and loss: and with this miserable excuse they commenced to plot His death. Now, however, He was dead, and they could harm Him no more by their plots and by their lies – and they thought that they had won, perhaps even done God a service: those blind leaders of the blind!
4. Fourthly the commandments of the Father were finished, accomplished at the cross, too. At every point Christ’s life was not His own but it was a life of holy obedience to His Father’s will. The words that He spoke were also His Father’s words. The deeds that He did were also His Father’s works. The death that He died was laid upon Him by His Father: and it was ever His motto in all things – to do His Father’s will.
God was His Father: the same God that made the world and men. God was His Father: the same God that desireth not the death of sinners, but that sinners turn from their way and live. The ancient prophet wrote of this when he said, We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted: but He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and with His stripes, we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.…… It pleased the Lord to bruise Him: He hath put Him to grief. Yes – on the cross the Father’s will was done and His commands accomplished.
5. Fifthly – the prophecies of Scripture were also accomplished at the cross. All through the former revelation which God at sundry times and in divers manners over so many long centuries, there runs like a crimson thread the same theme which Isaiah brings out so clearly in the words previously quoted – yes, from the Garden of Eden itself where the Savior’s bruising is already mentioned, down through the types and shadows of individuals and ceremonies – all, all, foretold this day when men should arise in hatred and lift up their hands against God’s holy Child and their vilest plots be converted by God into His great deed – the salvation of many! All these hints and veiled words were now made plain at the Cross.
6. Sixthly – the ceremonial law was fulfilled at the cross. As Jesus died, the veil of the Temple was rent in twain – a symbol of this great accomplishment. No longer need men to bring their bulls and goats and lambs and doves to the Temple to satisfy for their sins. The temple itself became superfluous and in a short time would be leveled to the ground
The mediatorial priesthood was also fulfilled – and these consecrated men of Aaron’s line were unnecessary for effective worship. A way appeared steps unto heaven! Without a priest and simply pleading Christ’s death we might now come into the presence of God, being confident that He will receive us and forgive us all our sins. No ceremony at all is necessary for God’s favor now. And every attempt to re-introduce one even the sacraments of the New Covenant itself as prerequisites of God’s acceptance of us – every such attempt is vain. God receives sinners now on one ground and one ground only – the sin – atoning death of His blessed Son to be received by faith for salvation.
7. Seventh – sin and its reward have been taken care of at the cross. What a vast account of guilt sin has built up in the world since it first gained entrance here! What an unpaid debt that is! If sinners had to pay for it, even in part, they could never go free: but Christ died for our sins on the cross. He paid it all! Sin had left no crimson stain, He washed it white as snow. He has redeemed us, lost and condemned sinners that we are otherwise – not with silver or gold but with His precious Blood What a blessed accomplishment that is: which brings us to
8. The eighth thing Christ accomplished for us at the Cross – redemption! In accordance with the Father’s will, revealed before time in the prophecies, pre-figured in the types and prepared for by the sacrifices and ceremonies of the older dispensation, sin’s power has been broken and its account settled once and for all, and the children of God redeemed from countless loss. It was not just a theoretical redemption that Christ accomplished on the Cross, but a real one. He has saved there all who would be saved. He has atoned there for all who should ever see God. And we may sing – since calvary – “Tis done – the great transaction’s done, I am my Lord’s and He is mine!
Has any work been done as well as Christ’s work was done at the Cross? Has any accomplishment been as complete as perfect as that? Is there any other act – in all of history – so worthy of this word “Finished” as His atoning death? What then is left for us to do – but To Rest Therein?
You can’t add to the Cross! You can’t add – your Righteousness – for all our righteousness is like filthy rags compared to His! You can’t add your Religion – for who needs it? All its rites and ceremonies have been fulfilled there. You can’t add your faith – for true faith is not your work, but His in you enabling you simply to receive the benefits of Calvary. There is nothing you, or I, or anyone can add to the Cross! It’s finished, perfect, complete.
And you can’t take away from it either – as some have tried to do. You can’t take away from Christ’s person for who can change what God has established and done. You can’t take away from Christ’s worth – for God has defined that. You can’t take away from Christ’s accomplishments – for it is finished nothing more is needed; nothing less either.
You need only to Rest in Christ’s finished work – are you doing that?
Or will there be some of you even today who will go off into darkness still unburdened of your sins and their reward? You know what that reward is – temporal and eternal death! You know that there is no way, no way at all for you to escape save that way which God has appointed! Yet you will not be serious about it – oh, why? Hear how Wesley put it
“Sinners, turn, why will you die? God, your Maker, asks you, Why? God who did your being give, made you with Himself to live; He the fatal cause demands, asks the work of His own hands; Why you thankless creatures, why will you cross His love, and die?”
Why, indeed, when you can rest today in Christ’s finished work on the Cross.
And will there be others even today who will go away still anxious – not sure whether He died for you or not? You hope to be forgiven. You hope to go to heaven. But you are still unsure – and why? Do you think you are not good enough, perhaps? Do you think you have not truly heard His pardoning word, or felt His hand upon you in absolution? You need not go on like this, you know – for Christ has once offered Himself for sin. It is finished, is His word: and you need only rest yourself in His work believing.
Christians – isn’t this the best of all – to know that It is finished all Christ’s work for our salvation. “‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,” we sing, “Just to take Him at His word, Just to lean upon His promise, just to know, Thus saith the Lord.” And this He saith – with His dying breath It is finished the world’s defeat, the devil’s death, the believer’s Victory! Amen.
Sermon written by: Rev. Charles W. Krahe, Seventh Reformed Church