"Bound upon the accursed tree,
Faint and bleeding, who is He?
By the eyes so pale and dim,
Streaming blood and writhing limb,
By the flesh with scourges torn,
By the crown of twisted thorn,
By the side so deeply pierced,
By the baffled burning thirst,
By the drooping death-dewed brow,
Son of Man, 'tis Thou! 'tis Thou!"

A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When JESUS had tasted it, he said, "It is finished!" Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:29-30

We have been contemplating, in the preceding pages, the death-scenes of Scripture worthies, whose names are, in most cases, illustrious in sacred story.

ONE other yet remains.

If we have been watching, with interest, some noble "suns" in the world's old skies hastening to their setting, going down in their western horizon amid bars of purple and gold--what shall we say of THE GREAT SUNSET? With what feelings shall we surround the dreadful death-couch, and watch the dying countenance, of the incarnate SON OF GOD?

We have seen, in the case of the others, their influence surviving dissolution, the rays of these glorious luminaries lingering on the world's mountain-tops--so that it could be said of this and that one--"He, being dead, yet speaks." But lo! at the setting of the SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, the universe itself seems to catch the glory. Not a few solitary mountain-peaks, but the whole world, is bathed in the light of His dying radiance. It sprinkles the everlasting hills. It gilds and glorifies the very throne of God.

If we have stood, with bated breath, around some of these death-couches of patriarchs, and prophets, and kings, to listen to their last utterances, no, if we treasure, with unutterable solemnity, the parting words of loved ones of our own family or acquaintance--with what feelings shall we gather around the Cross of JESUS, and hear His dying cry? Every incident in His life of marvel--every utterance of His heart of love--is priceless. But full of distinguishing solemnity, surely, must be that last saying which fell from His lips, when His eyes were about to close in their sleep of death. It was the moment of all moments!--the golden link which connected the past and the future--the bright focus-point to which all history, type, vision, and prophecy converged.

And what was that declaration? It consisted of but one word, (though rendered by three words in our English version.) That word was the commencement of endless, undying echoes--FINISHED! A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When JESUS had tasted it, he said, "It is finished!" Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Let us feebly attempt to picture to ourselves the scene when that word was uttered. It had been darkness over all the land until now. But the light again shines--the pall is removed--the sack-clothed sun disrobes himself of his mourning, and again discloses the spectacle which the supernatural gloom had hidden. What a spectacle was that!--the sinless, spotless Jesus, transfixed, in the agonies of a shameful death, to the felon's tree--His back bared for the scourge--his brow lacerated with the crown of thorns--his cheeks mangled by the cruel hands that had "pulled off his beard." Faint with loss of blood, exhausted with torture, parched with thirst--the nerves of the hands and feet (most sensitive of all the body to suffering) bearing the whole weight of the exhausted frame! A surging sea of human beings was beneath. Two ruffian thieves are struggling, in their last agonies, at His side; while in the distance, the Temple is seen gradually emerging, in snowy whiteness, from its three hours' darkness, and the green slopes of Olivet are lighted by the descending sun. The calm repose of death settles on the countenance of Him, who, two days before, had moistened the turf of that mountain with tears of compassion, and sprinkled its olive-boughs with drops of blood for His crucifiers!

Let us turn aside for a little, and see this great sight. As we take our position with that sorrowful group who "stood by the cross of Jesus--his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene"--let us take the shoes from off our feet, for the place whereon we are about to stand is holy ground!

We shall examine the import of that dying saying of Jesus, when, on receiving the vinegar, He cried, "It is finished--and He bowed His head, and gave up his spirit."

I. When Jesus said, "It is finished," He addressed HIMSELF.

It was a word of triumph--a calm, reposeful utterance; a dying word--but the word of a dying conqueror.

His soul-struggle seemed now over. Stretched as He was, a humiliating spectacle, upon that cruel cross, and excruciating as was the bodily anguish--yet light--the light of heavenly joy--seemed to have streamed in upon Him before He sent His spirit away. As we have often seen the sun in the heavens, after wading for hours amid black and murky clouds--as we have seen the hidden globe of fire, as it dipped behind the horizon-line, sending a gleam of dazzling brightness athwart the whole landscape--a parting burst of glory before the night-shadows fell--so it would seem with the Great Sun of Righteousness. After hours of unutterable darkness, which had their exponent in blood-drops, and in the piercing cry of God-desertion--lo! a gleam of radiance breaks from His eclipsed soul--suffusing His own dying countenance with triumph, and the world with hope! The cross is, for the instant, changed into a kingly throne. The thorn-crowned Monarch "sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied." It was the moment when the great program of His incarnation-work had reached its climax. He had the sublime consciousness that the battle was won, the ramparts were carried, and He, as the moral conqueror, was now planting His banner on their heights.

That is always a solemn crisis, in a man's history, when he has completed some great undertaking. A great historian (Gibbon) has left a memorable record of the evening when his pen traced the last line of a gigantic work. The architect or builder must feel a proud sensation when the last stone of some mighty edifice is laid; or, in our dockyards, when the last ring of ten thousand hammers is heard, and some proud naval ship triumph floats majestically on the waters. The patriot who has worked resolutely and bravely for his country's welfare, must experience an elevating satisfaction when he sees his days of patient toil, and his nights of anxious watching, crowned with success--despotism dethroned, and liberty triumphant.

And what, if we can use the comparison, must have been the feelings of the adorable Son of God, at that moment, when the burden of His tremendous work was at an end--redemption completed, the victory won!--the moment arrived, to which He had looked forward from all eternity, and regarding which, as cycles narrowed into eras, and eras into centuries, and centuries into years, and years into weeks and days, He had uttered the words with increasing intensity and fervor--"There is a terrible baptism ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished."

If, even in the anticipation of this moment of victory, "Wisdom" had exultingly said, before the foundations of the world--"Lo, I come; I delight to do Your will, O my God"--what must have been His delight when He placed the last stone on the consummated Temple, and looking down the vista of a glorious future, beheld "a multitude which no man can number" casting their ransomed crowns at His feet! If there is joy among the angels even over "one sinner that repents," what must now have been the joy of the Lord of angels, when He had in view the millions on millions, who in all coming ages, would exult in that cross as their chief glory? It is enough; He need keep the chariots no longer waiting, that are ready to bear His spirit away--"His right hand and His holy arm have gotten Him the victory." The great redemption is achieved. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

II. When Jesus said, "It is finished," He addressed His FATHER.

The Redeemer stood not alone in that wondrous undertaking. Deeply mysterious are those references in Scripture to the covenantings of Father and Son in a bypast eternity, regarding the work of redemption. There are gleaming passages of light that burst upon us here and there; revealing the First Person in the adorable Trinity, as entering into covenant-stipulations with Christ, "the Servant" He had "chosen"--"the Son in whom He delighted"--for the ransom and recovery of the fallen. Shadowy and undefined as the record of these solemn intercommunings is, we gather from them that that theology is false and unsound, which would represent God as an unloving being, armed with vindictive wrath against the sinner, and only calmed and propitiated by the blood-shedding of an innocent surety. "O righteous Father!" truly exclaimed the Savior, knowing the world's unscriptural dogma--"The world has not known You!" And then He adds, "but I have known You!" As if He said, "If that misjudging world had been admitted, as I have been, into these eternal secrets, it would not have been slow to attest that God is love!"

Yes, the Father was as profoundly interested as the Son, in the completion of that vast undertaking. It was His sovereign love which devised it--"GOD SO loved the world." "I have finished the work," says Christ, "which YOU gave me to do," (John 17:4). The character of God was, in the obedience and death of the Surety, to have a twofold illustration, as a God of holiness and a God of love. In the cross of His dear Son, He gave the mightiest pledge and exponent of both--of His holiness, that required such an expiation; and of His love, that would give such a ransom price.

God yearned over that prodigal earth; He longed for the times when, rising from its degradation and ruin, the cry would be heard, "I will arise and go to my Father." He longed to clasp it to His embrace, welcome this truant from the brotherhood of worlds, and exclaim, "This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found!" And just as on earth, the consciousness of a son faithfully fulfilling his father's wishes yields the truest comfort and delight, so it would seem to be the noblest and purest source of joy to the Son of God, in His great work, that He was doing and implementing His heavenly Father's will.

"O MY FATHER," exclaimed He, in the garden of Gethsemane, "if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." Or again, when He was in deepest period of His gloom--when the last ray of joy and support seemed quenched in darkness--the floodgates of His pent-up anguish burst in that bitter cry--"My GOD! MY GOD! why have YOU forsaken me?"

If there was a moment, during the most tragical occurrence of old Abraham's history, when the faith of the patriarch could have staggered and faltered, it was that surely when his innocent boy made the touching appeal, "My Father!" If there were a moment when the courage and heroism of some aged confessor's heart would be likely to fail him--when his aged hands would be tempted to unbind the cords which tie his son to the martyr-stake, it would be when the words are wafted to his ear through the flames, "My Father!" If there were ever a moment in the history of the incarnation, when God the Father's purpose of love to His world was, humanly speaking, likely to fail, or be shaken--when He would be moved to untie the cords from the bleeding sacrifice, to let the world perish, that His loved One might go free--it was surely when these filial appeals, were sent up amid the thick darkness--"O my Father!" "My God! my God!"

Never since the time when the pledged covenant-vow had been taken and sealed in heaven--never since the voice of the Eternal had propounded the question, "Who shall go, and whom shall I send?" and the everlasting Son had willingly responded, "Here am I, send me"--never had the Father's love been so tested; Redemption, for the moment, seems to tremble in the balance--it hangs suspended on the will and purpose of the Father! One volition from that Father's throne--one utterance from that Father's lips--and the expiring Victim is unbound, and the world, loaded in its own chains, is left to the wail of despair. "Father," He cried, in another similar moment, just when the dreadful crisis had arrived--when the dark shadow of the cross was projected on His path--"Father, the hour has come." "Father, save me from this hour!"

But does the Father falter? Do these melting appeals shake the resolve of eternal love and mercy? We can imagine angels gathering around the garden and the cross, and asking, in suppressed emotion, "Will He save Him? shall the piercing appeal of the Innocent Sufferer prevail? or shall the cry of the doomed world enter into the ear of the God of Sabbath?" "The Lord has sworn by an oath, and will not repent." Father and Son are mutually pledged to fulfill the terms of the everlasting covenant. "Father," says Christ, "glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you." "Father, glorify your name! And a voice came from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it yet again."

And now, at this final moment, when yet hanging on the cross, "knowing that all things were accomplished"--that He had fulfilled the requirements of a spotless law, not only by passive suffering but by active obedience--that its every penalty was paid, its every curse exhausted, and the luster of a glorious vindication shed around the throne of God--Jesus proclaims, in the ears of His Father, the completion of His triumphs; He makes the joyful announcement that He had magnified His law and made it honorable, securing "peace on earth, and glory in the highest!"

When a son on earth has completed some great undertaking, or accomplished some great enterprise which has lain near a parent's heart--with what bounding joy does he hasten to that father's presence, crying out, "Father! the work is done; your fondest wishes are realized and fulfilled." If it be lawful to compare human feelings with divine--think of Jesus, the Son of God's love--at the moment of the completion of that which had occupied the Father's thoughts from all eternity, lifting up His eyes from His pillow of more than mortal pain, and with joyful elation--the smile of ineffable love on His lips--saying, "Father, O my Father! IT IS FINISHED!"


Whatever mystery there may be with reference to spiritual agency, Scripture leaves us in little doubt, not only that there is a gigantic confederacy of evil spirits, with Satan at their head, in league against the world--but one great object of the incarnation of Christ--one part of His mission to our earth--was to break up and disperse this confederacy--as the Prince of Light, to crush and conquer the Prince of darkness; "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." On two occasions especially, in the personal life of the Savior, does Satan, the arch-enemy, cross the path of the Son of God. First, on the Mount of Temptation he gathered all his accursed wiles. On each successive assault, he was repelled, but not vanquished. When the forty days' temptation was ended, we read, "the devil departed from him FOR A SEASON." When wave after wave had spent their fury on the Rock of Ages, they receded to gather up fresh strength for another encounter. "For a season," that malignant demon retreated to his halls of darkness, to organize another--a last daring attack, on incarnate Truth and Holiness.

Two years and a half were spent in maturing his plot. The garden of Gethsemane is selected as the field of conflict. There were, doubtless, other and more dreadful elements in that hour of soul-agony. That mysterious cup, for whose removal He prayed, points to Him as the Surety-substitute, draining the vials of wrath for our sins; and this wrath-cup of imputed transgression was doubtless what He held with most trembling hand. But we cannot read the passage without being forced to the conclusion, that there was also a personal foe--Satan himself--prowling amid that darkness. The divine Sufferer had the anticipation of his coming. The foul shadow of the tempter's wings seems to be brooding over Him in the hour of His farewell discourse--"The prince of this world comes," says He. Again, "This is your hour, and the POWER of darkness," (Luke 22:53). And again, "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out," (John 12:31).

And when, in the mysterious recesses of that olive-garden, He was engaged face to face, as we believe, with His gigantic foe--three times did He rise from his posture of agony, to warn His disciples of the tempter's presence and accursed wiles--"Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation."

That the same Spirit of Evil had followed Him to Calvary, we cannot doubt. In that touching and impressive twenty-second Psalm--the very record of the Savior's sufferings--the soliloquy which, it is with probability supposed, He uttered to Himself on the cross, while He says "Many bulls have encompassed me, strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round," He mentions specially "one" roaring lion from "the mountains of prey," mightier and stronger than the rest; and it is remarkable that the last prayer of His lips, during the period of darkness described in that psalm, just immediately before the light breaks upon Him, is a prayer for deliverance from this great personal foe--"Save me from the lion's mouth," (Psalm 22:21).

The prayer is heard. What is the next utterance? It is a burst of triumph, which continues to the end of the psalm, until the lips that utter it are sealed in death--"You HAVE heard me from the horns of the wild oxen," (Psalm 22:21). The battle is over! Satan is defeated, unsceptred, and uncrowned. The vanquished spirit, in the poetry of the Psalms, "is led, with his captive multitudes, captive." He and his legion-throng are laden with fetters, and chained to the triumphant wheels of Messiah's chariot. "Having," says Paul, speaking of the Savior on the cross, "having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." It was on the cross, the scepter of Satan is here represented as broken, and his power crushed and annihilated. There "he cut Rahab to pieces, and wounded the dragon," (Isa. 51:9). Oh, when the adorable Redeemer, with His omniscient eye, saw this vast Jericho of Satanic power, which four thousand years had matured and consolidated, falling with a crash to the ground--the palace of "the strong man armed" now a dismantled fortress, and all its magazines redeemed for His own service--when He saw the old serpent of Eden writhing in the dust; its head bruised and crushed under His own bleeding feet; He sounds over His prostrate adversary the death-knell of His power! At the sound, the pillars of hell rock and tremble to their foundations. He cried, "IT IS FINISHED; and he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit."

IV. When Jesus said, "It is finished," He addressed His ransomed Church and a PERISHING WORLD.

(1.) The CHURCH of all ages heard in that cry what it had long lived and waited for. All the scattered rays of light in type and prophecy, were here concentrated. Here was the day Abraham saw afar off and was glad. (John 8:56.) Here was the true Isaac lying bound upon the altar, (Gen. 22:9). Here was the arbitrator and the living kinsman of Job, (Job 9:33). Here was the antitype of the brazen serpent in the old Sinai desert, (Numb. 21:8, 9). Here was the wounded and bruised and afflicted Savior of Isaiah (Isa. 53:5), yet His "wonderful Counselor" and "mighty God;" "Immanuel, God with us," (Isa. 9:6). Here was the "Shepherd and fellow of Jehovah," against whom Zechariah saw the sword awaking, (Zech. 13:7). Here was Daniel's Messiah, the Prince "cut off, but not for himself," (Dan. 9:26). Here was David's Lord "made a priest forever," yet now drinking the bitter "brook by the way," (Ps. 110:7). Here was the interpretation of all that long mysterious ritual of blood and sacrifice in "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," (Rev. 13:8).

Jesus himself, as He now hung upon the cross, and just before uttering His last saying, saw the completion of all these prophecies--the fulfillment of all these types.

No, not all--there was one prophetic utterance of the Psalmist, apparently trivial and insignificant, that had not yet been accomplished. It occurs in the sixty-ninth Psalm--"They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst." Until this moment, during all the protracted bodily tortures, He had asked no alleviation. He sought no shelter from the full thunderstorm of wrath that burst on His guiltless head. He wished to give His enemies no reason to suppose that He desired to evade the appointed sufferings. He even refused the offered, "wine mingled with myrrh," which would have induced a torpor, and made Him so far insensible to suffering. But He who has power over His own life, remembers, that, before He can close His eyes in death, one saying yet must be fulfilled. It is all that is required to complete the proof of His Messiahship.

Observe, He makes no specific request, He merely utters the word, "I thirst"--and leaves it to the unwitting agents, in fulfilling the words of an old prophecy, to hand him "the sponge filled with wine vinegar." "And NOW," we read, "when Jesus had received the vinegar"--when prophecy and type, to the last jot and tittle, had been completed--"when he had received the drink," He turns to the Church He had ransomed--His Church on earth, His redeemed Church in glory--and He cries, "with a loud voice"--as if a signal to take their harps and tune them for song, He gives them the key-note of the everlasting anthem--"It is finished."

(2.) Christ in these words addresses ALL MANKIND! There is not a human soul that may not take comfort and hope from the joyous tidings of a completed salvation. He spoke "with a loud voice," as if He wished the whole race to hear it. It was the sound of a great jubilee-trumpet proclaiming that "the year of its release had come!"

The vision until now before His divine mind, had been a world advancing to its doom!--a world in tears, from which rose the wail of never-ebbing anguish!--an orphan world--miserable and naked, that had forfeited home, and father, and peace!--a diseased and dying world--an immense hospital, in which nations and their millions were perishing. Now, from that cross of shame, and yet of triumph, He seems as if He exclaimed--"Weeping world! I dry your tears; bondaged world! your captivity is at an end; bankrupt world! the debt is all paid; orphaned world! I can now tell you of a home and a Father; diseased world! rise from your prostrate couch of suffering and death--tear off these bandages of sin and corruption--go forth 'walking and leaping and praising God!'"

Yes! though, in the first instance, He addressed His Church--the Church which He had redeemed with His blood--He addressed the world also. See that bleeding Savior, suspended midway between heaven and earth!--hear Him, with His hands outstretched, as if, in the yearnings of compassion, He would embrace mankind, saying, "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth," (Isa. 45:22).--"Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

In another striking and solemn portion of Scripture, God is represented as addressing the sinner by a solemn oath. He swears by His own eternal existence, "As I live, says the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." But that incarnate Jehovah--that suffering Immanuel, stretched on the shameful tree, seems to change the form of solemn utterance, and thus to address us--"Not 'as I live,' but 'as I DIE,'--I have no pleasure in your death, but rather that you would turn from your wickedness and live!" "It is finished!" as if He said, "What more can I say, what more can I do, than these words imply?--a full, free, completed salvation. 'It is finished!' Look at the superscription on my cross. It is written 'in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin,'--finished for all--suited for all--offered to all--Jew and Greek, Barbarian and Scythian, bond and free!"

SINNER, in the depths of your sin and degradation and misery, behold that suffering Victim, and hear the words uttered for you, "It is finished!" SELF-RIGHTEOUS MAN, patching together these miserable fragments of your own merits, come to that cross, and hear the utterance of that spotless Surety, who not only has "finished transgression," and "made an end of sin, and made reconciliation for iniquity," but who has "brought in an everlasting righteousness!"--come, and take that seamless robe of obedience which He offers you, as He cries, "It is finished!" Come, BACKSLIDER, with your heartfelt sorrow; come, PENITENT, in your bitter tears; come, RUINED one; LOST one--helpless, hopeless, perishing--yes, come, dying one; come, like that repentant felon--lift the eye of faith and hope to the bleeding Sacrifice--and hear those words which formed for him the golden ladder-steps which led him "that day" to be "with Jesus in Paradise," "IT IS FINISHED!"

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