Only By The Lord's Marvelous Doings
He Bore The Cross On His Own Back
1. Please look at verse seventeen. The scripture says, "Jesus bore the cross on his own back and headed for 'the Place of the Skull,' that is, to the place called in Hebrew Golgotha," (verse seventeen).
2. "[He] bore the cross on his own back." It isn't [in the causative], "He was made to bear his cross." The Lord carried his own cross. The will of Jesus is in this [act]. He has the desire to fulfill the will of his Father God. Jesus willingly bore the cross in order to obey the will of God the Father and to become the lamb of God which takes away sin. He bore the cross on his back in order to atone for our sins. He bore our sin on his back.
3. Furthermore, there is an obvious omission here [in this text]. One event is omitted, which all the other gospels do tell about. It is the event where Simon the Cyrene was made to bear the cross, (Mark 15:21 and parallel accounts). Simon the Cyrene may certainly have carried the cross a portion of the way. But, that does not mean that a human being gave his efforts towards [God's] work in the atonement for sin. That's why John omitted it. [He left it out] in order to emphasize that from start to finish Christ accomplished [God's] work in the atonement for sin "by himself." The Lord accomplished the work of salvation without human assistance.
4. Thus, we need to keep in mind and remember that John recorded that "Jesus bore the cross on his own back" and omitted Simon the Cyrene. Salvation comes one hundred percent through Christ's work and doing. There is no room for humans to add anything to it. People are only saved because of the atonement for sin that Jesus accomplished on the cross. People can only accept it and give thanks for what Christ has accomplished for them. They can only believe in the forgiveness of sin and receive it. And that's it. With that alone, through what the Lord has done for us, people can enter into fellowship with God and have a part in eternal life.
5. "How embarrassing that sounds to me!" -- In missionary work, I have heard statements like that so many times and still do. When making an effort and a person is good, even a little, a person will be accepted by God. It may be easy to understand when the message is put like that. But, we must turn our attention right on this scene which John is describing. Please look at it. In this passage it is not just that human beings lend no hand to the son of God's work in salvation. It is not just that they are not co-workers [in the work of salvation]. Instead, in this scene it only exposes humanity's shamefulness and ugliness. It only exposes [humanity's] sinfulness.
6. When Christ hung on the cross that he had borne, and when he was willing to pour out his life bearing [the cross] in substitution for humankind's sin, what were the people doing at the foot [of the cross]? They were dividing up the clothes Jesus had worn. When Christ was suffering, the people were only thinking about what they could win or lose for themselves. Since they couldn't split his garments, they drew lots. What a contrast there is between the figure of the Christ loving the people and being willing to give his whole life for them and the figure of the wretched and shameful human beings scrambling for his clothing at the foot [of the cross]!
7. But, isn't this the real world of people? Humankind's sin does not show itself only in outright hostility and hatred. Worse, whenever [we] don't detect love, there it is. In not seeing how we are being loved, we are only mindful of thoughts like "Hey, I lost" or "Gee, I won." Isn't that where the most shameful figure of ourselves lies? Christ bore the cross upon himself and was crucified because that's how we are, for this arrogance of ours, such that we think we will be saved by some small effort we have made and not even realizing our own wretched figures. All by himself, he accomplished for us the work of atonement for [our] sin.
8. Let's direct our eyes on the figure of this Jesus Christ on the cross. Let's turn our ears to his voice. What does the Lord say? On the cross Jesus said, "I thirst." "After this, Jesus knew that all things had at this moment been accomplished, said 'I thirst.' Thus, the words of the scripture were fulfilled," (verse twenty-eight).
9. When we read the word of God, it brings to our minds the words of Jesus that we read previously. The Lord Jesus once used the word "thirst" that he spoke here in a different scene. When he was traveling in the Samaritan region, he spoke to a woman he had met there. Jesus met her by a well and began to explain from the water of the well by telling her, "Whoever drinks this water will thirst again. But, whoever drinks the water that I give will never thirst. The water that I give is a spring within the person and water leading to eternal life gushes forth," (John 4:13-14).
10. The Lord was looking at the thirst of life within her. When a person is separated from God the source of eternal life, no matter how much of the waters of this world one seeks, the person cannot help but experience the thirst of life, the [most] fundamental thirst. Therefore, he spoke of the water that leads to eternal life in which one will never thirst. The Lord was trying to give her this, the water that comes from fellowship with God, the water of eternal life that gushes forth like a fountain as it comes from God.
11. Yet, the one who declared, "Whoever drinks the water that I give will never thirst," says in this text, "I thirst." The scripture says before that that "He knew that everything had now been accomplished." In other words, what was supposed to be accomplished was starting to be accomplished through the fact that Jesus himself "thirsts." In order for us to be pardoned for our sin and to live according to the water of life through fellowship with God, Christ had to experience God's condemnation upon himself, be cut off from the fountain of life, and suffer the thirst of life.
12. Then, Jesus cried out, "It is accomplished!" Yes, Christ all alone accomplished it all. By his thirst Christ accomplished our salvation. Humanity did nothing whatsoever to collaborate with him. All of it was Christ's own marvelous doing. This is what forgiveness of sin is. This is what eternal life means. It is not something one is supposed to acquire by human effort, but something we are just supposed to accept and be thankful for. We live through [his] life, just by believing and accepting [him].
Love One Another
13. Thus, there is no deed by any human that can be expected to add to Christ's work of salvation. But, it is not that there is nothing left that humans are expected to do. Not to be saved, but in another sense [a deed] is left. We can see that from Christ's words on the cross. We skimmed over one of the episodes written in verses twenty-five through twenty-seven. Now, I'd like for us to go back to it once more.
14. "Near the cross of Jesus, his mother and the sister of his mother, Mary wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene were standing. Jesus saw his mother and the beloved disciple near her, and said to his mother, 'O woman, behold. [He] is your son.' After her he said to the disciple, 'Look. [She] is your mother.' From that time on, that disciple took the mother of Jesus to his own house," (verses twenty-five through twenty-seven).
15. That hour when Christ was about to complete the work of salvation, there were four women at the cross. Also, one disciple was standing [there] with the women. He was just there. He could not do a thing. He just stood still at the cross of Jesus.
16. But, this disciple is called "the beloved disciple." "Beloved disciple" means "the disciple whom Jesus loved." That disciple is John, the character who recorded a gospel. About himself, John uses the name, of all names, of "the beloved disciple." Going further with this, in front of Jesus' suffering, he can just stand still, but he uses [that name] about himself. He knew [something]. [He knew] that I can't do anything but still I have been loved by [my] Lord and even now [I am] the disciple who is loved by [his] Lord.
17. So, from the cross Jesus spoke to "the beloved disciple" (because he was "the beloved disciple!") as follows: "Look. [She] is your mother." We must not just take this as his saying, "Please take care of my mother for me." John did not record this to tell us something like that. The words of Jesus have great significance for both the beloved disciple and even more for us afterwards. The truth that we see here is the new family being built. After Jesus says from the cross, "O woman, behold. [He] is your son," they become a new family.
18. You might say that this truly expresses the figure of the church. Everybody, here we are unable to lay even a finger on Jesus' sufferings. That's us, we can't do a thing, we're at a stand still at the foot of the cross. But, just like that, we are loved by the Lord. From upon the cross Jesus is speaking to us as his beloved, "Look. [He] is [your] child." and "Look. [She] is [your] mother."
19. Thus, it is us who are made the new family through His voice from the cross. It is the church. We do not assemble here because we just like each other and hit it off so good. We are assembled together by the Lord, are made a new family, [and so we] accept and live the words of Jesus to "Love one another." It is not so that we are saved. There is nothing we can add to be saved. As partakers of the salvation that Jesus alone accomplished, as persons loved by Jesus, we live by loving one another, forgiving one another, and accepting one another. That's exactly what we are expected to do at the foot of the cross.