When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:30
Jesus. Tender shoot. Ugly. Hated. Pushed away. Pain-sufferer. God-damned. Stabbed. Wounded. Bled-out. Dead. Not the adjectives we would probably dream up to describe the kind of Savior we want. Jesus is not the kind of Savior Who shows up to set things right according to our moral standards. He is not bigger and meaner than our enemies. He definitely does not appear to be stronger than God's enemies. He seems more our worst nightmare than a fulfiller of our wildest dreams.
So, what good is Jesus to us? He suffers horrible pain and death. He comes to serve (even His enemies) and not to be served, and even that seems, in the end, to be too much for Him. Anyway, we do not need someone to cater to our every craving and desire. Those are a dime a dozen. We would be better served by a conquering hero.
If we really think about it, maybe Jesus is not even worthy of the title "Savior." Perhaps it is time that we could locate someone else. A Savior more suited to what we want, what is best for everyone concerned. Yes, that is probably better, that we procure the services of another Savior. A stronger Savior. A leaner, meaner, tougher man more suited for the job. Someone who can take on bullies and save us from their violence. Somebody who can cut us loose from fear, shame, guilt, and insecurities. Of course, that disqualifies Jesus outright. He is so ugly. He is so unpopular with the kind of people we want to rub elbows with. Heck, what are we going to do with someone like Jesus who cannot even manage to put on the happy face of our religion?
Instead, we are told:
"He was wounded for our rebellious acts. He was crushed for our sins. He was punished so that we could have peace, and we received healing from his wounds ... He was abused and punished, but he didn’t open his mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He was like a sheep that is silent when its wool is cut off. He didn’t open his mouth. He was arrested, taken away, and judged." – Isaiah 53:5, 7-8
How can the puny, pathetic man described here by the prophet be our Savior?
We need a God who will drop a judgment bomb on everyone who points a judgmental finger at us, blames us for their failures, or scares us into doing something we do not want to do. What good is Jesus then, if He cannot even accomplish one of these things for us?
Finally, what need do we have for a butchered lamb? Foolish Jesus, He does not object to the kangaroo court that convicts Him. He does not complain when the soldiers mock and torture Him. He does not plead His innocence to the governor. So, really, what good is He to us?
At Golgotha, Jesus saves us from sin by becoming sin for us. Jesus takes all our messes, all our shame, all our guilt, all our fears and insecurities and He allows them to kill Him instead of us.
He is not going to speak up in our defense when we are accused of breaking the Law. We want someone who is going to help us slip the noose. We want a Savior who will spit promises of revenge before the last nail is hammered in the cross. Jesus does not do any of those things. What kind of Savior can He be for us when He will not even show some courage in the face of annihilation?
But, that is the point. That is the "good news" of the Gospel. Jesus is not the Savior we want. He is the Savior we are given. He is the Savior we need. Jesus is obedient even "unto death" for our disobedience. He is obedient to what God tells us to do in His holy Law, but will not do. We cannot. We must not. We do not want to.
Jesus is faithful because we are faithless. We sit mute before the Law's accusations. We are silent before our Judge. We are speechless and numbed by God's condemnation of our sin. But, Jesus shouts God's love for you even when He is brain dead on the cross. He is Savior in the way of Blood-shedder. Death-conqueror. Hell-emptier. Grave-gripper.
At Golgotha, Jesus saves us from sin by becoming sin for us. Jesus takes all our messes, all our shame, all our guilt, all our fears and insecurities and He allows them to kill Him instead of us. He bears our sin. He suffers our death. He bleeds our blood, receives our execution, and descends into our death for us. He has done it all for us. He has done it.
Now, when we look at the cross and we behold Jesus nailed to that cursed tree we are set free to confess to our brothers and sisters, and in the face of the whole dog-eat-dog, you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-your-back, tit-for-tat, score-keeping world, "It is finished!"