Living Into Christ’s Victory

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Recently I watched an episode of one of my favorite shows that portrayed one of the main character’s losing his father to a heart attack.  The episode included the raw emotions of each of the main characters and how they each handle grief in different ways, but it also shared about just how much stock we take in of the parting words of our loved ones, as each character prepared to share their testimonies of what words of wisdom were left behind.

When my Pap passed away suddenly after a tragic accident the day I was moving home from the church camp I used to work for, I remember wracking my brain the entire 3-hour drive home as I tried to remember what words were last uttered to me by my beloved grandfather.  To this day, I simply cannot remember.  I am blessed, however, to remember the many sweet moments that he and I spent together, including our conversations when he picked me up from college each weekend my freshman year.

It’s not only us, in the 21st century, who take stock in the final words of our loved ones.  The Bible shares with us the final words of some of the most well-known characters of its pages, including Moses as he blessed the tribes of the Israelites before he climbed Mount Nebo to see the promised land that he would never enter for the Lord would bury him there in Moab.  We also learn of King David’s direct orders that he gave to his son Solomon before breathing his last.

Some of the most famous final words ever spoken are recorded 28 generations later, as a simple carpenter gave up his spirit while enduring a publicly humiliating death.

Living Into Christ's Victory | Ready-Made Ministries

Final words often give perspective to life and reveal what is truly important.  Some words are inspiring, while others are tragic.  All are valuable.

After many of the disciples had spent nearly three years of their lives with Jesus, where they enjoyed fellowship around evening campfires, walked the Judean countryside together, witnessed and even conducted miracles themselves, only one of them remained to witness the crucifixion of their closest friend.

That disciple was John, one of the sons of Zebedee, who was called from his fishing boat along the shore of the Sea of Galilee to follow Jesus.  In a number of accounts found in the four gospels, John is listed as one of the closest of the disciples to the Lord, even calling himself “the disciple Jesus loved”.  It only seems fitting that John would write one of the most intimate accounts of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection.

In John chapter 19, John shared his eye-witness account of the final moments of Jesus’s life before his death on the cross.

Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said, ‘I thirst’.  A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.  When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”        – John 19:23-30

In His last moments, straining against the weight of His bloodied body and the weight of the world’s sins, Jesus used the piercings of the nails to lift his body upward, allowing his rib cage to expand so that he can utter three powerful words as His last.  These words, “it is finished” are words that ring throughout history.

Author Adam Hamilton says in his book, Final Words From the Cross, “Some have heard this statement as a cry of defeat from a disillusioned prophet, as if Jesus were indicating that finally, his suffering was over – something like the cry of a referee in a boxing match after he’s given the ten count.  But several things mitigate against this interpretation” including that much of the significance of this statement is lost when the Greek is translated into English.

When Jesus cries out “it is finished” on the cross, the Greek word used is “tetelestai” which means to bring to a close, to complete, to fulfill.

What makes this exclamation truly unique is that the Greek tense that Jesus used.  The verb tenses are the most important and most communicative part of the Greek language.

In the final words of Jesus that John records in his gospel, Jesus speaks in what is called the “perfect tense”, which is very rare in the New Testament and has no English equivalent.

The perfect tense is a combination of two Greek tenses: the Present tense and the Aorist tense.

The Aorist tense is something that happens at a specific point in time; a singular moment.

The Present tense is something that continues on into the future and has ongoing results and implications.

The combination of these two tenses in the Perfect tense as used in John 19:30 holds an overwhelming significance to believers.  When Jesus said “it is finished”, what he is actually saying, “it is finished and will continue to be finished”.

So, if the Greek translation of an eye-witness account provides both a momentary and everlasting victory, this cannot be the words of Jesus “tapping out” as if to say, “I’m done – I can’t take this anymore”.

Jesus told his disciples on multiple occasions that he was going to Jerusalem to die.  The events of His arrest, torture, and crucifixion did not come as a surprise to Him.  These events played a part in His purpose.  This was no cry of defeat…

Will Willimon, a United Methodist professor at Duke Divinity School in North Carolina, has compared these final words of Jesus to that of what Michelangelo may have said while he looked up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel after he had completed the final brushstroke: (with a sigh) “It is finished!”

Something so beautiful that it takes your breath away was finished on that cross in Calvary.

This was a victory.  One that we are invited to participate in, even 2,000 years later.

John reminds us of this invitation, as he writes following seeing the risen Lord –

The disciples saw Jesus do many miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book.  But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that by believing in Him you will have life by the power of His name.         John 20:30-31

John also wrote in his first letter, a depiction of the victorious life of those who believe in Jesus Christ and what He finished on the cross.

For every child of God overcomes the world.  We achieve this victory through our faith.

In 1 John 5:4, John calls us not only the “children of God” but also “overcomers”.

The Greek word for “overcomer” literally means victor.  We are victorious through our faith in Christ.  We also have victory in Christ’s death and resurrection.

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.      Galatians 2:20

Through His death, we are overcomers – we are victorious!  Not because we have conquered Him, but because He has welcomed us to share in His inheritance – an everlasting life, free of sin, and free from death.

The invitation to live into Christ’s victory is new each morning.  He’s done the heavy lifting for us, so all that is needed to accept His invitation, the eternal RSVP if you would, is to believe that His words, “it is finished” weren’t that of a man dying a criminal’s death, but that of the Son of God, the One who created you for a great purpose, and the One who loved you enough to endure the suffering and humiliation of the cross so you wouldn’t have to.

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.            I Corinthians 15:57

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