Passage (John 19:28-29):
28 After this, Jesus, knowing[a] that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!" 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Have you ever set a goal and seen it to completion? I hope you have.
For some of us it is hard to do this, because we are perfectionists. We want to do everything just perfect, and so we feel like it is never quite the way we want it. But I bet most of you have set a goal, worked toward the goal, finished the goal, and saw it to completion from beginning to end.
When I visit Pete Vulgamore, or drop by Bushy's shop for that matter, I like to look at the cars they are working on. Pete does such a good job at restoring these old vehicles, and they are just amazing to look at. Recently I saw there were three vehicles in the alley behind his house he was working on. The first was this old rusty piece of metal that vaguely resembles what used to be a car. The second was an old wagon that needed to have a major mechanical overhaul. The third was that red truck that I just love.
What amazes me is that the beautiful red truck, probably, at one point, resembled that old rusty piece of metal that used to be a car. But Pete deftly works with the car, and step by step moves it toward restoration.
Now in my imagination, as I think about Pete working on that red truck, there was some point where all the restoration of that truck was done. And in that moment, I imagine Pete just stepping back and looking at that truck for a bit, and saying to himself, "Yep, I think that is it. That is what I wanted." Then I imagine he called Pat out to take a little drive in that beautiful red truck.
One goal that I have had for several years was to have Jennifer and I have our cars paid off and our student loans paid in full. For the last couple of years I doubled up Jennifer's student loan payments, we used our tax rebates and returns to pay off student loans and cars as well. Finally, I transferred some money from our savings account about a week and a half ago, and paid off the last of the student loans. I had to sit by the mailbox for a second and smile and nod. Yep….got 'er done. We accomplished what we set out to do. Now I am eagerly awaiting that letter from the USDE that says, "Paid in full".
It is something like this, this sense of completion and accomplishment, that we hear from Jesus through his sixth word from the cross.
The sixth "word" or phrase or saying from Jesus as he hangs on the cross is "It is finished". It is finished. This word can also be translated, "It is accomplished" or "It is completed" OR "It is done".
"It is finished" translates into three words in our language, but in Greek, the language most of the New Testament was written in, it is not actually three words but one word. That word is TE-TELL-e-STAI. It describes an action that has been totally completed from beginning to end. The root of the word in Greek is TE-LOS which describes aiming toward an end or a goal.
Before we get more into what this word really mans in the context of Jesus' dying on the cross, we need to briefly discuss what the words "It is finished" do not mean.
This passage does not mean I give up. Jesus is not saying he is worn out and just wants to quit because he cannot do any more or go any further.
"It is finished' does not mean I am done for. It is not the death gurgle attempting to warn people that he was soon going to die and we should all pay even more attention to him and offer more care.
"It is accomplished" does not mean that I am going to take a break now.
"It is finished" is not a word of surrender. Because these words are not surrender it is not Jesus telling anyone that they won, or that they got their way, or anything like that. Jesus willingly went to the cross. He willingly submitted to that death so that he could save us.
No the words, "It is finished" mean none of these things. In fact, in many ways, the second to last word from the cross means the opposite of many of these commonly held assumptions.
If one is to understand the words, "It is finished", it needs to look at this passage through the eyes and ears of the original readers. Specifically, we need to look at this passage through the context of the gospel of John, and plumb the depths of what God was trying to communicate through him. When we do so, we come up with three guiding metaphors, or word pictures, that help us to understand what God is doing here.
Let us look at them step by step.
As we do this, and we do a little research, we come to understand that this word TE-TEL-e-STOI had some common usages. One of them actually had to do with commerce. Specifically it was written across a debt or a bill when it was completely paid off and the transaction was complete. When Jesus cries out TE-TEL-e-STOI he is crying out "PAID IN FULL".
He is declaring that the work is complete that he set out to do on the cross. He has taken upon himself the punishment for our sin. As the Scripture says," God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
The Bible is clear. Sin costs us. It has a price. It separates us from God. Throughout the history of Scripture we see this. People offer sacrifices for their sins. In the Lord's Prayer we pray, "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors".
The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And there is a price to pay for that.
Jesus goes to the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. To take the responsibility for our sin upon himself, so that if we trust him, then we can spend eternity with Him. As the Old Testament prophecied, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."
A helpful way to understand this is to understand the view of sin as slavery. According to this helpful word picture, our sin has put us in a place where we are in slavery. When people entered slavery at the time of Jesus, they were there, most often, to pay a debt that they could not pay. When someone was set free from slavery, it was often by someone who would come to the creditor that held the debt, and paid the price on that person's behalf. That person was called a redeemer, because he took a situation that was useless and hopeless, and redeemed that person's life to give them a second chance.
Sin has cost us by separating us from God, and making our lives enslaved to sin, the flesh, and the devil. But when Jesus dies on the cross, he pays the price that can set us free from the power of sin and death. The question is, will we accept it? Will we take this gift?
So It is finished means PAID IN FULL, but we look at this word and the context it is in it tells us even more.
To understand more about what is going on when Jesus is on the cross, we need to look at John 1. John 1 begins with the language of creation. It says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Then in verse 14, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us". After that verse 29, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
Jesus comes into the world to recreate the world. Jesus comes into the world to make the world new again. The make us new creation. To help us discover what we were made for. To give us purpose, hope, life, and life abundant. Our sin, the things we have done wrong, has marred us. It has beaten us up. It has left us helpless and heartless and hopeless.
When Jesus says, "It is finished" or "It is accomplished" he is saying that this work of recreating the world anew, where we have hope for a reconciled relationship with God, where we can find hope for eternal life, has been accomplished through his work on the cross.
God's whole goal through creation is for people like you and I to be in right relationship with him. When mankind fell by choosing to sin, he needed to make a way to be reconciled to him, while also being truthful and just enough to allow sin to have its consequence of death. Jesus died for us on the cross to create a new reality between us and God.
This work has been began in the garden of Eden as Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, was anticipated by the Law God gave Moses, predicted by the prophets, and hoped for by generations.
As I said, since we first chose to sin, God has been at work making a way where we can be reconciled to him through becoming a new creation. That work is completed through Christ's work on the cross. Now, because "it is finished", we have the opportunity to be made anew in our lives and our relationship with God. 2 Corinthians 5 puts it this way, "17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!"
Which brings me to our final point. When we hear "it is finished" we hear "paid in full" in relationship to all our sin. When we hear "it is finished" we hear "new creation" as we see that God's work of making of this old world a new world is completed through Christ's reconciling and saving work on the cross. But for me the most exciting news coming from the words "It is finished" is that Christ is exclaiming a cry of victory. He is saying that although there are battles that will still be fought for me and you against sin, the flesh and the devil, that the war is won when Christ gave his life on that cross for you and for me.
All of Satan's efforts to separate us from God, to keep Jesus from a sinless life and to tempt him, all of his effort to work evil and destruction receives its ultimate blow through Jesus' death on the cross.
Satan's ultimate destination is hell, and he wants to take everyone with him. The Bible says he is a roaming lion seeking whom he may devour. The gospel of John says he is a thief who comes to kill and destroy, but Christ has come to give us life and give us abundant life.
Are there still battles to face? Yes. Is there temptation still in front of us? Of course there are. But the war has been won. Romans 16:20 says that Satan will soon be crushed underneath our feet. How awesome is that.
When Jesus says "It is finished" it is a victory cry. He is demonstrating in his moment of greatest weakness, he has defeated the devil while he was at his strongest.
They arrested Jesus. They beat him. They mocked him. They hung him on some boards. They hung him there to die. And the world thought Jesus was done for. Satan thought he had won. Everyone believed that Jesus had been defeated on that cross. But Jesus says something different.
When he says "It is finished" he says the victory is won. He says that it is all a part of his plan. He shows that he has tricked the Devil. And Satan's plan to defeat the Messiah has been a part of Jesus' plan to conquer sin and death all along.
"It is finished" is not a cry of surrender or resignation. Those words are the words of a conqueror. One who has the power to overcome sin and death. Who is strong enough to suffer through the cross, and make it a moment of victory. One who is strong enough to make a way of salvation for sinners like you and I.
So, the question is, what will you do with this Jesus? Will you follow him as your Lord and Savior? Or are you going to fight against him?
What will you do with this Jesus? Will you trust this one who rules the world to rule your life, or will you keep pushing him away, unwilling to be reconciled with him. Or will you say to this pushing him back and away, "It is finished." I hope you will. Amen.