It Is Finished
It Is Finished
It Is Finished
It Is Finished
It Is Finished
“It is finished.” This is the second to last utterance that comes from the mouth of Jesus Christ, before He breathes His last. All that remains for Him to say is, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” Then he bows His sacred head and God the Son … dies.
“It is finished”
What an experience He has been through. It is noon on Friday and when you look back over the previous hours, you cannot be surprised that He is finishing His life, after a relatively brief time on the cross. Criminals who were thought sufficiently worthless as to be executed in this most brutal of ways could hang on such crosses for days before death. Jesus is ready to breathe His last in a matter of hours.
Oh, what has happened in the last day – within the space of less than 24 hours.
See Jesus, with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. There, while Jesus pours out his heart to the Father – staring full into the cup of suffering he knows is coming, - sweating, as it were, great drops of blood, marking the intensity of His prayer –
See the Snake of torches and lanterns slithers its way out of the city, winding its way up the hill and into the garden, the sound of weapons clanging with each step. At the head of the snake is Judas Iscariot – his friend – to betray Jesus with a kiss. Jesus is arrested.
Throughout the night he is dragged from one official to another –
He is declared innocent, but the very judge who should have defended justice, chooses political expediency instead – and hands Jesus over to the bloodthirsty wishes of the hyped up mob.
Treated like a circus clown – “Hail King”
Flogged with such brutality that many a lesser man had died from that torture alone.
Forced to carry his own cross, on a back laid open because the whips had torn the flesh clean off.
Spikes hold him to the cruel wood – and he struggles for every breath - Jesus looks down at the scene below and what does he see?
Soldiers who care so little about his agony – they are playing games to see who gets his clothes. Passers by, going about their business, who can’t resist the temptation to stop and hurl insults: “You who said you would re-build the temple in 3 days – you have nails, you have wood - - go to it!”
“He saved others – himself he cannot save”
There is no comfort from the earth.
There is no comfort from heaven: The sky is black, heaven is silent, which leads the Second person of the trinity to cry: “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?!”
(ESV) 20 Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.
“It Is Finished” – Fitting last words – but what does Jesus mean by these words?
Does he mean “My life is finished”? – I cannot hold out much longer – I know this fleshly frame has little strength left.
Does he mean, “My suffering is finished”? Finally the cruelty is coming to an end – the crowds have abused me, the governor has denied me justice, the soldiers have tortured me and my own disciples have abandoned me - - and finally, the end has come – the suffering is finished”?
Does Jesus mean by these words that the example of my life is finished? The cover story in the current issue of Newsweek magazine is entitled, “Forget the Church, Follow Jesus”. The author, Andrew Sullivan represents many people in our society: he claims to follow Jesus, but he rejects the Church and the doctrines of the historic Christian faith. In the article, he writes that the heart of Jesus’ crucifixion was the example he was setting of how we ought to love our enemies and forgive those who harm us.
“Jesus did not want such an outcome, but accepted it and loved those who murdered him.”
According to this writer and so many people that he speaks for, the center of the cross, summed up in these words of Jesus that we are focusing on is this: “It is finished – the example that I have come to set of loving enemies – that example is finished – now my followers should go and do the same.”
But Oh, dear friends – these dying words of Jesus go so much deeper than that. I said dying ‘words’ – actually it is one word in the Greek: “tetelestai”. The word points to someone carrying out a task, completing a goal, fulfilling religious obligations.
(ESV) 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
(ESV) 28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”
The idea here is ‘finished’ in the sense of completion – the goal has been reached. Tetelestai is in the perfect tense: an action accomplished in the past with continuing results. This cry of Jesus on the cross is NOT a whimpering relief and the suffering finally being over - - No, No, NO – He is shouting in TRIUMPH – that the MISSION HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED - - and the VICTORY IS WON!
The plan of salvation – conceived within the Trinity – Planned in eternity, before the foundation of the World – now enacted in history - - and now completed – there is nothing more to add – IT IS FINISHED.
And the implications for you and for me are simply staggering.
From the time of Adam and Eve, when the first humans fell into sin – plunged our race into destruction and death and judgment - - there have been sacrifices. God himself made the first one for them – killing an animal to clothe the couple with skins. Their son Abel brought the firstborn of his flock to the LORD.
Sacrifices have been made throughout history – not only because people didn’t know God – and were trying to impress Him with their efforts - - Throughout the unfolding of history – sacrifices have been made for precisely the opposite reason – because we DO know what God is like - - He is Holy; We are NOT. We are guilty before the sovereign Judge of the universe, and “Without the shedding of blood – there is no forgiveness of sins.”
See the smoke rising from altar after altar – in the time of Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – signals from people who recognize “We are not as we should be”. Oh we may not offer animal on altars in North America today - - but don’t think for a moment, that we do not offer up sacrifices for our sins. We know we are not right. We know, in our heart of hearts, that in the problems of the world – we are part of the problem and not the solution. That’s why so many people give
History moves on. God calls the nation of Israel to Himself, rescues the people from slavery in Egypt with his MIGHTY, MIGHTY hand – the sacrifices do not stop - - they increase. God calls an entire tribe to give itself completely to an organized system of sacrifices. Aaron and the high priests and the Levites – every morning and every evening offer a lamb, while great sacrifices are offered on special occasions every year. Bulls groan, the blood of rams flows, the necks of doves are wrung.
Every year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest, represents the people and himself, when he goes inside the veil into the most holy place of the temple, to sprinkle the mercy seat with blood. The next year, he does the same thing … and on and on.
Imagine the scene in Solomon’s day – when the temple is dedicated and TENS OF THOUSANDS of animals are slaughtered - - blood running like a river through the trenches of the temple.
The people of God cry out, “How long, O Lord, how long? When will the sacrifices be enough?” But of course, it can never be enough - - the blood of animals can never satisfy God’s wrath for the sins of human beings - - all these are are I.O.U.s - a postponement of judgment.
Now here is Jesus, the Son of God, not with priestly clothes or jewels sparkling in his breastplate – he has put on human flesh. His altar is the cross, His body and soul the victim, He himself is the priest and here – on this splintery implement of torture, He offers up himself – behind the veil, as it were.
He offers himself as the SUBSTITUTE. One of the distinguishing marks of the Evangelical Church throughout its history is the belief that Jesus’ death had the character of PENAL-SUBSTITUTION – that Jesus gave himself as the substitute – He took our place and gave His life to pay the penalty for sin that WE OWED.
Almost from the beginning, this view has been attacked and rejected by people inside the church. Some say, “That’s way too violent!”
Some say, like the authors of a book I once read, “That model of what the cross accomplished is irrelevant for our world today, where less and less people have any understanding of blood sacrifices.”
Others, like Steve Chalke, in his book, ‘The Lost Message of Jesus”, say, “It’s not fair for God to punish His innocent Son for our sins - - Why … it’s DIVINE CHILD-ABUSE. That doesn’t fit the character of a God of love.”
I’m not sure I trust anyone who writes a book entitled, ‘The LOST Message of Jesus”. I would like to say, “Oh, so the Christian Church for hundreds and hundreds of years … lost the real message of Jesus - - - and you found it, did you? Well, isn’t that special”.
What do these people say the cross does accomplish – what was finished there? “Well,” some would say, “Sin has become a power that enslaves us. Somehow, the cross frees us from sin’s captivity”
Or, “Jesus, dying on the cross – shows the love of God for us in such power – that now we cannot help but be convinced of His love.”
Now there is truth in both of those answers, but they still don’t get to the heart of what Christ did. And if you want to talk about Divine Child Abuse – a God who would send His eternal Son – to endure a suffering of torture so great that we cannot even fathom it – and would do it simply as a Divine Act of Show and Tell – “This is how much I love you” - - - That is what I would call Child Abuse. If there was any other way to do what needed to be done, you can be sure that the God of heaven would have found it.
No, let the Bible itself explain what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Paul describes it very clearly in
(ESV) 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men …
All of the ‘little’ imperfections that we so quickly make light of – or justify … my
(ESV) 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
PROPITIATION - - Big word means that God’s wrath has been turned away from all who believe in this finished work. Do you see what that means for us? Precisely because this was an actual, not imaginary or hypothetical death,
Precisely because his was an actual, not an imaginary or a hypothetical, sacrificial death in which he vicariously bore their curse, paid their debt, endured their judicial rejection by God, as evidenced by his cry of dereliction from the cross, and died their death, Christ actually accomplished and procured everything essential to the salvation of the elect. In sum, he did not simply open the way of salvation to all men and promise to aid them if they would also do something to procure it and keep it their own. Nor did he simply make the salvation of the elect possible. Rather, he actually did everything necessary to the infallible securing of the salvation of the elect, his people, his sheep, his own—even those whom the Father gave to him. Murray says here that Christ’s atoning work was “so perfect and final that it leaves no penal liability for any sin of the believer.”
“It is finished” means the work is done – never to be repeated or added to - - Christians do not and cannot add to Christ’s work by our suffering either in this life or in a purgatory to come - - Because it is FINAL -
The debt was now, to the last farthing, all discharged. The atonement and propitiation were made once for all, and for ever, by the one offering made in Jesu’s body on the tree. There was the cup, hell was in it, the Savior drank it — not a sip and then a pause; not a draught and then a ceasing, but he drained it till there is not a dreg left for any of his people. The great ten-thonged whip of the law was worn out upon his back, there is no lash left with which to smite one for whom Jesus died. The great cannonade of God’s justice has exhausted all its
ammunition, there is nothing left to be hurled against a child of God.
Sheathed is thy sword, O Justice! Silenced is thy thunder, O Law! There
remaineth nothing now of all the griefs, and pains, and agonies which
chosen sinners ought to have suffered for their sins, for Christ has endured all for his own beloved, and “it is finished.”