The plan of salvation was predestined to the smallest detail from eternity past. The writers of the New Testament reveal how Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies recorded in the Old Testament.
In John 19:17, we read, "So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha."
The author of Hebrews applies Leviticus 16 to Jesus. Hebrews 13:11-13 says, "For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured."
Jesus was our sacrificial lamb, our sin offering. As our sin offering, He had to go outside the city, so He could redeem His people through His shed blood.
As an act of obedience, after enduring verbal and physical torment, Jesus took up His cross and headed out of the city, to the place where He would make the ultimate sacrifice.
He knew what lay ahead of Him, not only from the weight of the cross but also the weight of our sin. It's no wonder He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me," (Matthew 26:39).
Still, He went on to say, "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will," (Matthew 26:39).
John wants us to know that Jesus, knowing all that He would endure, bore His own cross, being obedient to the plan that was predestined from eternity past, to redeem His people.
We read in John 19:18, "There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them."
This points back to Isaiah 53:12, "… because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors."
In John 19:28, Jesus said, "I thirst."
The soldiers offered Him sour wine, the commonly consumed drink of His day.
We can see the connection to Psalm 69:21, which says, "They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink."
The item used to lift the wine-soaked sponge was a stalk of hyssop, which is the same type of branch used when Israel put blood on the doorposts of their homes in Egypt, sparing them from the final plague on Egypt, the death of the firstborn.
Jesus suffered both the spiritual and physical horrors of crucifixion.
Hebrews 2:17 says, "Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people."
So, Jesus, who took on flesh and shared our humanity, endured the full torment of the cross—for us.
His thirst was more than mere physical thirst. The weight of our sin acted as a barrier between Jesus and His Father, leaving Him with an emptiness He had never known.
Psalm 42:1-2 says, "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?"
And Psalm 63:1 says, "O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water."
Spiritual dryness will cause us to thirst. If this is our condition, we need only obey Jesus's words in John 7:37, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink."
The same Jesus who spoke these words to the Samaritan woman at the well said, "I thirst."
We can also see God's plan of salvation in Pilate's inscription. Verse 19 of John 19 says, "Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, 'Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.'"
John records that this inscription was written in Hebrew (Aramaic), the language of the Jewish people; Latin, the language of the Roman government; and Greek, the language of trade. Jesus died for all who would come to Him, no matter what their nationality or station.
Although the chief priests sought to have Pilate remove the sign, he would no longer be forced to comply with their wishes.
In John 19:22, he said, "What I have written I have written."
The Magi acknowledged that Jesus was a king when they came in search of Him.
When the angel Gabriel proclaimed to Mary that she would have a son, he said, "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end," (Luke 1:32-33).
Jesus, though the King of kings, didn't come with fanfare and celebration, but His second coming will be different. Revelation 19:15-16 states, "Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords."
Let's look again at John 19. Because Jesus's tunic was seamless, woven as a single piece of fabric, the soldiers at the cross cast lots to see who would win this treasured possession, not recognizing that the greatest treasure of all time hung dying right beside them. These soldiers had no idea they were fulfilling a prophecy made 1,000 years before. (See Psalm 22:18.)
Every detail of Christ's death was fully and completely a work of the One True God, who was, is, and forever will be sovereign over His creation.
Although we can do nothing to earn it, God pours out His grace on sinners who come to Christ for salvation and washes them white as snow. Such great love!
We see Jesus's love and compassion as He is dying on the cross. When He was gone, there would be no one to care for His mother. So, He appointed John the task of caring for her.
John 19:26 says, "'Woman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home."
Are we like the soldiers, consumed with the shiny baubles of this life, those things that are fleeting and have no eternal significance?
Or are we like our Savior, filled to overflowing with love for God and one another?
Jesus's great love motivated Him to take the full weight of our sin, to suffer the wrath of God on our behalf. He paid our debt in full. It is truly beyond our comprehension.
This work of Christ on the cross is complete. When Jesus said, "It is finished," (John 19:30) our debt was erased. There's nothing more to add; nothing else is needed. (See Ephesians 2:8-9.)
Even though we're saved by faith alone, genuine saving faith always produces fruit. We are to live for the good of others, doing nothing from selfishness nor conceit (Philippians 2:3-4); submitting to those in authority (Titus 3:1); and bearing with and building up one another (Romans 15:1-2).
While our salvation is not a result of works, works are an evidence of genuine salvation.
"So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead," (James 2:17).
"If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth," (1 John 1:6).
When God's light of salvation enters our dark heart, it comes alive, and the darkness is dispelled (John 12:46). Our outlook, desires, priorities—everything—changes. Sometimes all at once, sometimes gradually. It may ebb and flow with the seasons of life and with our circumstances, but it happens. However, if our lifestyle never changes, we can rightly assume the light has not dispelled the darkness.
God wants us to produce the fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23. We will do so if we "abide in the vine [Jesus]," as it says in John 15:5. His light will shine through us.
Jesus fulfilled the prophecies God had given hundreds, even thousands, of years before He came to earth. He paid in full the debt of our sin. Nothing more is needed to secure our salvation.
As believers, His light has shone in us. May it now shine through us, as it says in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."