THE PASSION OF OUR LORD:
DETAILING THE EVENTS OF OUR LORD’S SUFFERING AND DEATH
Session #21 (Most quotes are NIV)
JESUS DIES—FRIDAY 3:00 p.m., APRIL 7, 30 A.D.
Jesus died about mid-afternoon on that Friday. All four Gospels make a point of this, with Matthew, Mark and Luke all pointing out that Jesus “cried out with a loud voice.” It is only the Gospel of John 19:30 which says “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’”
“It is finished” is an important statement. In the Greek, it is only one word, “te-TEL-les-tai” (Τετέλεσται). It is a “perfect” verb form. In the Greek language, the perfect verb does not indicate the time of the action like English does. It indicates the RESULT of the action—in other words, how things are different NOW because of what happened THEN. “It is finished” in Greek has an on-going effect upon us today. He completed His work of forgiveness 2000 years ago, and Jesus has nothing further to do, but more importantly, neither do we!
Ah, but there is more. Archeologists have noted that all over the Middle East in little villages which yield materials from the first century, they have found numerous pieces of pottery on which the poor write contracts and agreements (when you’re dirt-poor, you use what you can!). On many of these agreements is scribbled over the top of the contract the word Τετέλεσται. Yes, it can mean “It is finished,” but at Jesus time the word was apparently used commonly to say “Paid in Full!” Jesus is then, in effect saying “Father, I came to the cross to make the payment for sin for all these people. I got the job done. The bill is paid in full!”
Shades of Isaiah 53:8 “For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.” To mention every Old Testament passage which was fulfilled on the cross would take months.
Acts 6:1-2 says“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jewsamong them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.’” Dr. Martin Scharlemann pointed out in class one day that “the ministry of the word” here was used in a technical sense: the original 12 Disciples (Judas had been replaced) had the task of going through the Old Testament one verse at a time—but with some “new eyes” this time, knowing that Jesus had come to fulfill the prophets—to see for the first time the full import of passages like Isaiah 53. They were the ones who had witnessed everything which Jesus said and did, and now it was time to put all the puzzle pieces together with the Holy Spirit’s help!
GIVING UP THE SPIRIT?
James Voelz raises an interesting point here. The NIV says “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.” Mark 15:37. But that isn’t a true picture of the Greek word, which is a compound of “out” and “breath” OR “spirit.” You could say “he breathed out his last breath.” But it can legitimately be seen as “he sent out his spirit.” Jim says (Mark, vol. 2, p. 1169) “a deeper meaning is preferable, one involving ‘breathing out’ his spirit/the Spirit in a way congruent with the wind blowing out (and doing so with power/force….)”
Luke uses the same word “sent out his spirit,” but Matthew 27:50 has a slightly different phrase: “he gave up his spirit.” But in Matthew the Greek words, according to Jeffrey Gibbs, Matthew, Vol. 3, p. 1557, are literally “He released his spirit.” And, as Gibbs points out, “This is not precisely a Greek idiom for ‘he died.’”
If the intent is to say that in death, Jesus was sending His Spirit into the world, this could be supported by a Roman Centurion at the foot of the cross watching all that had happened says (Mark 15:39) “Surely this man was the Son of God!” I know—it’s hard not to picture John Wayne saying this line! But the point it is that this is a hardened soldier (probably the equivalent of a Sergeant First Class or a Marine Master Sergeant—an E8, “a lifer”!) saying “Jesus was the Son of God,” an astounding statement considering the source. Where did he get such an idea? Certainly, it couldn’t come from anything in his background or experience. Did Jesus give it to him at death by “sending out His Spirit?” Remember Psalm 22? Verse 28 says “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord.”
Ok, that might sound a little crazy to you, but consider I Corinthians 12:3 “…no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Personally, I’m not ready to say that this is the meaning FOR SURE—but it is something to ponder: a Roman Centurion as the first Gentile convert to the idea that Jesus was God himself? It might very well be!
THE AFTERMATH: THE TEMPLE VEIL
All three Synoptic Gospels tell us the Temple Veil was torn (John skips the story). Matthew and Mark are more precise: it was torn from the TOP to the BOTTOM. While Voelz in Mark argues for the outer veil being torn, Gibbs says the Greek word used by Matthew is more aligned with the inner veil, at least in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament). Arthur Just, Luke, Vol. 2, p. 926, favors the inner veil mostly because the rest of Luke’s chapter seems to indicate the inner veil as holding the most significance. The Hebrew language was more specific about the veils, but all the Gospels are in Greek. Thus, there are TWO VEILS! Which one tore?
Before we answer the question, think of the TIME! This is 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. What is going on in Jerusalem at this exact time? The priests are in the Temple, officiating at the regular afternoon services (held each day at 3:00 p.m.) in which the sacrifices are being made in preparation for the Holiest Day of the Jewish calendar. Many Jews, which have come from all over the world, are crowded into the Temple to witness something which may be the only time in their lives when they get to see this ritual. It’s jam-packed with the devout Jews, offering prayers and observing all the proper solemnities. Then and there it happens: the veil is torn, top to bottom in front of all. This isn’t a distraction—it’s a catastrophe! At the death of Christ, it was shredded.
Isaiah 64:1 “Oh, that you would rend the heavensand come down, that the mountains wouldtremble before you!” There is some evidence that both veils had similar “Universal” themes. But the inner veil tearing makes the greatest impact, as the barrier between God and his people is ripped top to bottom. The area forbidden to mere man is wide open.
Mark 1:9-10 “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.”
Heb. 6:19-20 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.
And the Jewish Talmud specifically teaches that for the last 40 years of the Temple’s existence (30 A.D. Jesus is Crucified to 70 A.D. Temple is destroyed by Rome) “God would not accept the Yom Kippur sacrifice to atone for sin.” Orthodox Jews refuse to accept 30 A.D. as the date of Jesus’ death—that would mean that this phenomenon was linked to Jesus as the true Messiah! The Tractate Joma, 39b, gives more information: the doors of the Temple would open by themselves, until Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai rebuked them, saying: “Temple, temple, why are you alarming yourself? I know that You are nearing your destruction!”