It is Finished!
It’s Good Friday 2000 years ago. Jesus hangs on a cross. Crucified at nine in the morning, it is now three in the afternoon. Six hours. Crucified prisoners often lasted much longer than the six hours Jesus hung there. That’s why when Joseph asked Pilate if he could take Jesus’ body and bury it, Pilate was surprised to learn Jesus was already dead.
It is critical that we remember Jesus was in complete control of the timing of His capture, of His scourging, and of the time of His death. “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (John 10:18) The Lord of heaven and earth could have at any time called for those 12 legions of angels to rescue Him (Matthew 26:53). But He did not call for them. He determined to complete the course set out for Him from the foundation of the earth.
Before we move to the last words He spoke before dying, let’s reflect on what else we know was happening on that hill. Here is what the prophet David tells us in Psalm 22: All who see me mock at me, they make mouths at me, they wag their heads; “He committed his cause to the Lord; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
And a stunning description of His death comes from the book of Wisdom – written about 100 years before Christ was born:
“Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.” (Wisdom 2:12-20)
The gospels give us additional information. They tell us of Jesus’ agony from the whip that tore slices of flesh from his body. We know of His desperate loneliness as He sensed the Father had forsaken Him. We know of His overwhelming thirst. And we know of the crowd’s jeers: “Jesus,” they said, “There is no help for you in God! . . . “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself . . . “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us” . . . (Luke 23:37, 39) . . . . “Ha! You who were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself . . . .and come down from the cross.” (Matthew 27:40)
Perhaps no other statement of Jesus on Golgotha’s hill means so much to so many people as His cry: “It is finished.” Millions of Christians through the millennia have focused on those words – on that PROMISE – Christians whose lives before Christ were lived as complete reprobates, shameless sinners. It was for them, before they met the Savior and their lives changed – as has yours and mine – it was for them as St. Paul wrote: “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
Because of our conscious and even unconscious rebellion against God and His infallible Scripture declared us to be children of the devil. Most people, I am certain, recoil at that truth that we were each children of the devil. But that’s what God Himself called us. Here is the Lord Jesus to the pastors and teachers of His day: “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God” (John 8:43-47).
And God's Spirit moved on the apostle John to write: “ . . . the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil . . . . By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious, anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God . . .” (1 John 3:8-10)
I remember very well my days before Christ. And if you do not remember your early days ‘BC” – Before Christ, then I implore you – I urge you, I plead with you to go back in your mind to those days when you also lived your life as you chose to live your life because when we recognize just how BAD we were, we can better understand just how MERCIFUL is our God.
I was very happy in those days to live as I chose, without even a transient thought about God. I’ve told the story before, and I mention it again only briefly to further illustrate my point. I was 20, maybe 21-years-old. While I sat in my car waiting for the light to turn green a thought suddenly dropped into my mind: “What if there is a God?”
It had been years and years since I’d even considered that possibility. I enjoyed being an agnostic. If I wasn’t sure God existed, then I could ignore Him. But the suddenness of the question got me thinking. What if God DOES exist? However, as I pondered the thought I realized if I accept His existence then I would have to change my lifestyle – and I did not want to change my lifestyle. Listen – sin is fun. Scripture even tells us that. Here is Hebrews 11:24-25 – “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.”
Of course, I did not know then – and neither did you – that the pleasures of sin are passing – and what ALWAYS remains are ashes and death and heartache and hopelessness. So, as the light turned green, I brushed the question aside and said to myself, “There is no God.”
Let’s then go back now to Good Friday 2000 years ago. Jesus, God's beloved Son, hangs from rusty spikes hammered into a splintered cross. And He said: “It is finished! And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30) When Jesus spoke those three words, He did not whisper them. He did not say them with weary resignation, with a sense of defeat, as if to say to His Father, “I tried my best. I did all that I could do. I guess now it is finished.”
No, I cannot help but imagine in my mind’s eye that Jesus arched His back, lifted His face toward heaven and shouted with such a voice of triumph that even the centurion stopped what he was doing, and in amazement stared at Jesus who had just trumpeted:
It is FINISHED!
No wonder the ground shook and the curtain in the Temple in front of the Holy of Holies was ripped in two, opening to even the common people like you and me DIRECT access to the very Throne of God!
I don’t think anyone on earth knows the full extent of what Jesus meant when He said, “It is finished.” But I will tell you some of what it means as the Scripture explains it. When Jesus finished His work on Golgotha, He gave all who come to Him for forgiveness of their sins – He gives them the right to become a child of God. No longer a child of sin, a child of rebellion, a child of the devil – but a child of Almighty God, adopted into His family.
Wow! Think of that for a while.
Scripture assures everyone who puts his or her faith in Christ’s sacrificial atoning death on that cross: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
Oh, I love to remember the day when I told Him I was His! Do you remember the day YOU told Him you were His? Even if you were baptized as an infant, there must – there HAD to have come a time when, as an adult, you committed yourself to Him. As St. Paul wrote: “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
When it was finished, Jesus gave sinners the right to be called children of God.
But there is more. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He set us free from the fear of death because we now belonged to him: “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (Hebrews 2:14-15) No wonder St. Paul was able to say: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57)
Christian, are YOU afraid to die? Why? There is no real ‘unknown’ about death. I mean, what is it we REALLY need to know except that the true follower of Christ will know eternal joy and peace and love in that place we call heaven? No pain. No sickness. No loneliness. No fear. No heartache. And we will enjoy our ‘forever’ with our family and friends who also died with Christ in their hearts.
St. Paul said it well, and so can you and I who walk with Christ in ongoing repentance, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” (Philippians 1:21-23) And this: “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-9)
“It is finished.” So, what else did Jesus mean? I think there is still more:
My sins earned me God’s wrath, and like the sword of Damocles, it hung over my head. “He who believes in the Son,” Jesus said, “has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36) But when Jesus declared, “It is finished,” God directed His wrath onto the crucified Jesus. That means that you and I who so worthily deserved God's wrath are now safe.
Isaiah wrote these words 700 years before Jesus died on that cross: “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)
Now as I said at the beginning of this message, who can really know ALL that it meant when Jesus said, “It is finished”? But of this much we can be sure: First, as God's children, we have DIRECT access to God and His Throne. We are not like Queen Esther who – although she was the king’s wife – feared entering His inner court uninvite (Esther 4). No, we have no reason to fear entering His inner room because He has invited into His very Throne Room every man, woman, and child who has sought forgiveness of their sins through faith in the sacrificial atonement of Jesus.
Next, those in Christ are no longer children of Satan, children of darkness. When Jesus spilled His blood on Golgotha and said, “It is finished” He meant it. His work of salvation was finished. And no power on earth or in hell could – or can – change it.
Because -- it is finished.
People have told me God is a myth, a fable created by the weak, the desperate, the superstitious, the ignorant. But those who say such things have never met my Jesus, have never felt His presence so close you can almost hear His heartbeat, have never heard Him whisper: “Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you. I have done it, and I will carry you; I will bear you and I will deliver you.” (Isaiah 46:4)
I know who I was and where I was headed. And you know who you were and where YOU were headed. But if you are a really a Christian, God changed your life as He changed mine.
People might ask you why you are so passionate about Christ. But how can we NOT be passionate about the one who finished all life-giving, soul-reconciling work on our behalf when He died on that cross and rose again three days later for our justification? How can we not be passionate about the One who has never stopped loving us, no matter what we did, where we’ve been? Even at our worst, His love for us never diminished one iota.
That is certainly one reason Jesus reached out His nail-pierced hand and pulled us from our trajectory toward certain self-destruction. He saved our lives even when others might have thought our life was not worth saving.
And best yet, what He did for us, He wants to do for anyone. Our Jesus has never refused the desperate cry of any penitent. All you and I need to do is thank Him and offer Him our lives in growing obedience.
Won’t you do it now? For the first time, or the hundredth time won’t you do it now?