top of page
  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Mercy and Justice at the Cross

‘It is finished’. - John 19:30

These are perhaps the last words Jesus spoke as he expired on the cross. The most obvious reason for them is that his life is coming to an end. His life is finished. All our lives must finish; they must run their course, and then we must expire.

But Jesus means more than just that his life is finished. He means his mission is finished too. What he came into the world to do, he is doing, and in a moment will have finished. Back in John 17, Jesus said, ‘I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do’. This is what flashes into his mind as he breathes his last breaths now, on the cross. Death usually means mission-fail, but not here.

The work the Father sent him to do – which brings the Father glory – is completed in the act of dying on the cross. So how does the death of God’s Son glorify the Father? The answer is, that in the death of the Son, God’s mercy and his justice are simultaneously upheld.

Without Jesus’ death, God could not show mercy because it would undermine his justice. But mercy is a significant attribute of who God is. How could he be glorified in his mercy unless his mercy could be displayed? And how can his mercy be displayed unless, in his mercy being shown, he can simultaneously ensure that his justice is not undermined, or his holiness trodden under foot.

The cross is the key. God’s justice, for those on whom he has mercy, is satisfied when he pours out his punishment on his Son in the place of the sinner. That is the mission Jesus came to accomplish. He died so that mercy might be shown to the unjust and the rebel sinner. ‘But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions’. Ephesians 2:4-5.


bottom of page