Good Friday service recalls Christ’s ultimate victory over spiritual death
His last words from cross resonate today
Merdies Hayes | 4/14/2017, midnight
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:44-49).
Christians believe that this statement was not a cry of defeat, but a profession of victory. It was not the cry of being conquered by death, but of conquering death. It was not a cry of a person who was a victim of circumstances, but one who is in control of His circumstances. In other words, as a master who would dismiss his servant from his presence, Jesus dismissed His own spirit and went to be with God as he spoke the words of Psalm 31:5. When the centurion at the cross witnessed Jesus’ victorious cry, the officer recognized the difference between Jesus and every other dying man he had seen. It was at this moment that the centurion reportedly said, “surely this was a righteous man.”
“It is finished.” (John 19:28-30).
In the Gospel of John, Jesus spoke frequently about this moment. He would say “My hour has not yet come” or “the hour is coming.” Christians look at these statements as if Jesus was hearing the chimes of a clock that no one else could hear. He knew of the time and place of His death. The life of Jesus, or the sum total of His ministry and mission, was leading to one final cry of “Tetelestai” or “it is finished.” From His birth, through boyhood, manhood and public ministry, Jesus’ focus was to finish the work assigned to him by God.
At the very heart of Christianity stands the cross. On Good Friday, the Gospel message is that God brought forth redemption from sin through the crucifixion of Christ, therefore Christians believe the cross exists as a distinctive feature of their faith. The atonement of Christ has been understood to reflect several perspectives on the overall work of redemption.
For 2,000 years, Christians have interpreted Jesus’ atoning death on Calvary’s cross as the “perfect sacrifice.” According to Hebrews 10:10, it was a sacrifice that the various Old Testament practices could only point to but never accomplish. Jesus’ sacrificial death was unique in that it consisted of a “once for all atonement” that effectively brought about the forgiveness of human sin. Moreover, in offering Himself on the cross, Christ served as both priest and sacrifice or, specifically, He both officiated and offered Himself. Therefore, in light of Christ’s crucifixion at the hands of Pontius Pilate, there is no other sacrifice for sin available to or needed by mankind.
Jesus’ suffering as forgiveness
Christians identify the cross of Christ as God’s way of dealing finally and fully with the problem of human sin. Christians profess that Jesus’ atonement took away sin (John 1:29) and brought about full access to God and pardon and remission from all transgressions. In God’s forgiveness via the cross, theologians believe this results in the complete removal of all alienation between God and the sinner as Calvary’s atonement cleanses a person from all sin, thus providing true forgiveness, peace and the restoration of a spiritual union with God.