The clouds began to gather in the sky blocking the sun’s light and causing shadows to fall on the crowd that was gathered to watch the afternoon executions. Large hollow areas in the cliff, below the bluff where the crucifixions were being performed, gave the appearance of a large skull. A breeze began to blow as several of the women pulled their shawls tighter into their bodies and turned away from the wind. Mourners wailed as Jesus writhed in pain. Agony gripped Him as He dangled from nine inch Roman spikes that impaled His hands to the roughly peeled wooden cross beam. Several soldiers sat on the ground with their legs folded, casting lots for his garments.
Weary, from the all night proceedings and after being flogged within an inch of His life, Jesus did not have a great deal of strength left to fight for life. He desperately tried to push up on His legs attempting to ease the pain but the throbbing continued radiating down the entire length of His body. On His head a make shift crown of thorns had been driven through His scalp. Above His head was placed the plaque that Pontius Pilate ordered written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin that read “Jesus Of Nazareth, The King Of The Jews”.
Jesus looked up towards heaven and cried out “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Many in the crowd and some of the soldiers mocked Him saying “He saved others but He could not save Himself”. Hearing this, Jesus asked the Father to forgive them, cried in a loud voice “It is finished”. Then, bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
The last words of Jesus are so important to understand. The Lord had had a tough time trying to get His disciples to understand why He was willingly allowing the Romans to kill Him. They were expecting their prophesied Messiah to be a conquering King, the Lion from the tribe of Judah. Instead they got a lamb being led to the slaughter. Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, before He dies, leaves them all with one last clue; he quotes the beginning of Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
God inspired King David to write this psalm about 970 years before the birth of Christ. The psalm has been troubling to Jewish scholars who can’t seem to merge the two distinct profiles of the Messiah. For thousands of years Jews had been awaiting the day their Messiah would come to crush their opposition and usher in the kingdom of God. However, God’s plan was so much better as His One and Only Son would come twice. By quoting psalm 22, Jesus was alerting and pointing His followers to the psalm where they might discover His real mission and identity.
The seventh verse of psalm 22 goes on to describe how people would mock Him. “All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying ‘He trusted the Lord, let Him rescue Him, since He delights in Him’”. After being falsely accused by the Sanhedrin, Jesus is mocked by the soldiers of the governor inside the Praetorium. There He is stripped, clothed in a scarlet robe, given a crown of thorns, a reed is put in His hand, He is spit upon and struck in the head. “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’” Matthew 27:39.
Remembering that psalm 22 was writing by David 970 years before Jesus’ birth and before the art of crucifixion had been invented, now look at verse 16 “For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierce My hands and My feet;” If that is not painting a clear enough picture of the Lord’s crucifixion lets add some highlights; verse 18 “They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Other psalms of interest: psalm 34:20 (not one of His bones would be broken), psalm 41:9 (Christ would be betrayed by a friend), and psalm 69:21 (Christ would be given vinegar and gall).
So this last clue from Jesus, as important as it is, pales in comparison when we read His very last words “It is finished”. At that moment all of the world’s sin was cancelled, paid in full never to be seen again. The bible teaches us that salvation is a gift from God and it’s not something we can work towards. But as with any gift you must reach out and receive it!