Word Study: It is Finished

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WORD STUDY – IT IS FINISHED (Aramaic) משׁלמ
Luke 23:28: “But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.”

John 19:30: “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”

In the last few studies I have been researching the last moments of Jesus before his death on the cross. I am trying to show that He did not fear his impeding torture or death but like so many martyrs before and after Him He faced his impeding torture and death, not with fear, but with compassion and love for the ones and/or purpose He was willfully giving up his life.

To follow this train of thought leads me to believe that Jesus did not die as a result of the wounds of his beatings or the pain of the cross, but He died of a broken heart. Look at Luke 23:28, where Jesus addresses the Daughters of Jerusalem. Daughters of Jerusalem or Zion is a common phrase in the Old Testament, particularly in the Song of Solomon. In the Hebrew and Aramaic it is a colloquial express not really a reference to women but to the feminine aspect of women. The loving, caring and nurturing nature of women. Men are also capable of loving, caring and nurturing but it is often associated with women where men are associated with protection, provision and discipline. Thus Jesus was speaking to those in Jerusalem who had a tender and compassionate heart. He foresaw the coming destruction of Jerusalem just forty years after his death. It would be their children who would grow to adulthood when Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Romans.

Consider this, here Jesus has been tortured, mocked, ridiculed, and is now being forced to carry a heavy cross to be crucified and what are His thoughts, it is on those parents, those mothers who will bear children that will die a horrible death when the Romans come to conquer. Most really had no idea what He was talking about as he was speaking of an event that would be forty years into the future. Sort of like prophesying today in 2017 of something that will take place in 2057. Why would He speak of something that most people would not even know what He was talking about and even if they did they had no control over it and would likely not experience it themselves. I believe it could only have been a cry of the heart of Jesus. Jesus, as God, could not understand what real physical suffering was. Now for the first time God in the form of a human with a physical body could actually feel what physical pain was like, now He knew first hand what suffering in the physical bodies that He created was really like. He was heart broken over the physical pain that all humans and at the moment the people who would die horrible painful deaths forty years in the future would suffer. In the midst of His suffering He cared only for those who would suffer like He would.

Now He is placed on the cross and in only six hours he died. Jesus would have been in prime physical condition, young and healthy particularly with all the exercise he got from walking. Some men would last for ten days on the cross. Many lasted for days even after a beating like Jesus received, yet he died only in a matter of six hours. Even Pilate who ordered the men’s legs to be broken so they would expire before sundown was surprised to learn that Jesus was already dead and they did not need to break His legs. Hanging on the cross a person could breathe in but they could not exhale unless the used their legs to lift themselves to exhale. This is why they would break their legs so they would suffocate.

Why would Jesus have died so quickly? I say it was because he bore the weight of the suffering of the world. If His heart ached over the suffering of a future generation that would die a painful death then how much would hanging on the cross, feeling the tremendous physical pain, the mental anguish of being mocked and rejected by the people He loved weigh upon Him and knowing that those he loved have and would suffer like He was.

Finally, He said: “It is finished.” This is a very curious word in the Aramaic, it is the word mashelem. It comes from the root word shelem which is the same root word that shalom or peace comes from. The Mem in front of shelem in the Aramaic indicates a Pael infinitive. Unlike the Hebrew there is no infinitive construct or absolute in the Aramaic. However, similar to Hebrew the object may come either before or after. The object of this infinitive is It.

First just what does shelem mean? It can mean to be finished, but generally it has the idea in Aramaic to mean submission or a complete submission. Then what is the object pronoun it? That is debatable. Logically we think it is Jesus saying He is about to die, but He was not yet dead so why use a perfect tense, why not say it is now almost finished. Something was completed before He expired and it was submission. A God who could not die had voluntarily taken on a human form so He could know what death was like. He carried out his mission to the very end, He submitted to all that a human being experiences while on earth. We can never accuse God of not knowing what physical pain is like, what rejection, mocking and persecution is like and what death is like. He went through a complete cycle of submission in the flesh up to and including facing one’s own certain death.

But why did He die so soon? Medically speaking there is something called a stress-induced cardiomyopathy, death from a broken heart. Dr. Stroud in about 1847 introduced the idea that Jesus died of a broken heart. This has since been picked up by Protestants and written about in Christian literature. People do die of a broken heart. My parents were married for 67 years and were rarely apart from each other. They always got along and had a love relationship all those years. They slept in the same bed all their years and only toward the end did my mother confess to me that my father was not quite up to it in bed, but continued to hold each other every night. When my father passed away, my mother who had some health issues but nothing that was immediately terminal just went into a coma four months later. Her body shut down and she passed away from what we call “old age.” I call it a broken heart.

Jesus asked the Father to overwhelm His with his love and compassion for mankind but as he began to really experience the pain of mankind, it just broke His heart and on the cross when He physically understood the pain and suffering of mankind, His heart could not take it.

It was not the Romans, the Jews or His enemies that killed Jesus, it was His love for us and the pain of our sinful state that caused his heart to rupture.

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