“The Sixth Word: It Is Finished”
John 19:30 April 5, 2009
SI: We’re meditating on the words Jesus spoke as he was dying on the cross.
These are often called the Seven Last Words or the Seven Words of the Cross,
because Jesus spoke seven times.
On the cross Jesus was not only exercising his office as our Priest, giving blood,
he was also, by speaking these last seven words, exercising his office of Prophet.
He came to reveal to us the truth about God and our salvation.
Let us reverently and expectantly read the sixth word.
INTRO: Number of years ago, when lived in Florida, I found an old iron table
and four chairs in someone’s garbage. It had lots of coats of old paint,
the seat covers were faded and ripped, the table top was pealing up—
and the whole thing was filthy and covered with black mold.
But I could see that there was beauty underneath all that filth.
And we didn’t have a kitchen table—recent seminary graduate.
I took it home and got some steel wool, and after about 10 minutes realized
that it wasn’t going to work. So I talked to a friend who was a painter and he
recommended a very strong paint stripper and a pressure washer.
So that’s what I did. Spray on the paint stripper, hit it with the pressure washer,
and slowly layer after layer of paint came off down to the bare metal.
Took me a long time, but I stripped all four chairs, then table legs.
Some of the decorative metal work had broken off, took it to a welder.
Then I spray painted all the metal, had a carpenter make a new top—
which I stained and varnished. Allison made new seat cushions.
Finally it was finished and we set it up in our kitchen.
And with great satisfaction we sat down to our first meal—
and we ate at that table for many years.
Think for a minute of something that you have accomplished—small or big.
But something that you carried through step by step to completion.
Remember the satisfaction when it was finished.
When Jesus said, “It is finished” this was not the final sob of a defeated man.
He was not saying, Finally, it’s over. At last, my suffering is through.
Instead, he was making a triumphant declaration of a great accomplishment.
We know from Matthew’s Gospel that he said it with a loud voice—It is finished!
Christ was triumphantly declaring that with his suffering and death,
the work He had been sent into the world to do was accomplished.
Jesus was satisfied because He knew that God was satisfied—
so with satisfaction He declared—It is finished!
It’s one of the most amazing scenes of history, really.
Here was a man utterly weak, utterly helpless—not even able to scratch nose.
And he is saying: I did it! I’ve done it!
What had Jesus Christ finished? What had he accomplished?
There is one word that sums up all the Christ accomplished—atonement.
What does atonement mean?
Write the word “atonement” on your bulletin. Then write at-one-ment.
Easy way to remember what atonement means.
Christ’s work was to make you at-one with God.
Because we are by nature not at-one with God, separated from him.
The atonement was Jesus’ work of reconciling sinful people with a holy God.
We’re going to talk about what Jesus did to atone for us.
We’re going to see what God demanded and what Jesus paid.
But the point I’m going to push home over and over is this: It is finished.
Jesus’ atoning work is finished.
Nothing else needs to be added.
Christ reconciled his people to God on the cross. Period. Finished. Done.
And you can sit down at the table, and feast on that finished work.
Do you believe that? Do you believe that Jesus’ atoning work is finished?
Or do you believe that he has done some of the work,
but you have to finish it?
It’s a very important question.
Your answer to it will shape your experience of Christian life.
If you believe “It is finished”
you will walk in the sunshine of God’s grace.
If you believe it’s almost finished; if you believe you have to finish it.
you are going to live your Christian life under a dark shadow.
You must believe Jesus’ word—“It is finished.”
You must claim it, cling to it, and then work it out in your life.
Look at this subject unto two headings:
1. The Atonement Accomplished
2. The Atonement Experienced
MP#1 The Atonement Accomplished
What did Jesus accomplish? What was finished when He said, “It is finished”?
It might surprise you to know that it took the church 1500 years
to fully answer that question. And once the question was answered,
it has been under attack ever since.
I’m going to give you a brief history lesson:
In the early centuries the church taught
that by dying on the cross Jesus ransomed us from Satan.
Early church fathers explained it this way:
Ever since the Fall, the human race has been captive to Satan.
The Bible says we are under the dominion of evil one.
Bible calls him the Prince of This World, says he has the power of death.
Bible also says that Jesus paid a ransom. Ransom paid to set captives free.
So must have paid it to the Devil.
Jesus said, I’ll let you kill me, the Son of God, if you let my people go.
So Satan took Jesus’ life as a ransom, but didn’t count on fact he would rise again.
So for many, many, years, church taught this about the atonement.
What do you think of that explanation of the atonement?
The human race is under the dominion of the Devil.
Jesus’ death is a ransom—but it’s not a ransom paid to the Devil.
God doesn’t owe the Devil anything but a good kick in the pants.
Christians wrestled with this, and then around the year 1000 there was a
man named Anselm. He took a major step forward in explaining the atonement.
Jesus didn’t die to do something for the Devil, he died to do something for God.
Anselm explained it this way: God’s honor was offended by the Fall.
As an offended King, could do two things—demand punishment of human race.
Or, he could accept something else to satisfy his offended honor.
Since Jesus was completely sinless and didn’t deserve to die—
God accepted Jesus’ death to satisfy his offended honor.
So our sins that have dishonored God are covered up
and that way our good works can shine and earn us a place in heaven.
Anselm got the big thing right.
The atonement was something that God required.
But got some important things wrong.
500 years later, during the Reformation, Martin Luther and John Calvin,
through careful study of Bible brought those final pieces together.
They said Anselm was right, the atonement is directed toward God, not Satan.
But Jesus did not die to satisfy God’s honor. He died to satisfy God’s justice.
Sin is breaking of God’s law. As Judge of all the earth, God must punish sin.
At the same time he loves the human race, wants to save it.
So the atonement is the Son of God becoming a man and then willingly
suffering the wrath and curse of God for sin in the place of sinners.
It is punishment in our place. Vicarious, substitutionary punishment.
Also said, the atonement is not just Jesus’ death—it’s also his perfect life.
It’s not enough for us just to be forgiven. That just gets us back to zero.
Zero is not enough for salvation. God requires perfect obedience.
He requires a perfectly obedient life. Our good works are filthy rags.
So Jesus gives us his perfect life that becomes our record before God.
Now, let’s bring all this together:
Jesus said with a loud voice: “It is finished.”
By that he meant: I have finished living a life of perfect obedience.
My life is almost over, and as I look back over it I can see that in spite of
tremendous temptations, by the help of the Holy Spirit and by relying
on God’s Word I’ve done it.
You know the old cliche that your life flashes before your eyes.
Don’t know if that is true or not—but do know that when people are dying,
if they have any sensitivity at all, usually have regrets.
Things they wish they had done or not done.
How often have you heard of a person who finally says, “I love you” on deathbed.
He’s never said it before, but finally he does.
Of course that is a good thing, but it means there were lots of wasted years.
Jesus Christ had not regrets. Every action, every word, every thought
conformed perfectly to the two great commandments:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind,
and love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus said, I did it and it’s finished. I’ve lived that life for my people.
Now they can get my record.
Nothing more needs to be added.
And of course, when he said: “It is finished” also meant—
I’ve finished suffering God’s wrath and punishment for sin.
We’ve looked at his suffering in fourth and fifth word.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
We saw how that was Jesus descending into hell.
The refreshing, comforting, merciful presence of God was removed.
He experienced in those three hours of darkness, the infinite punishment
of divine justice for the guilt of sin.
It is finished. All the punishment for sin is finished. It was heaped on me.
I suffered it. I suffered it willingly out of love for sinners.
If an artist friend was painting a portrait of your child as a gift,
And she called one day and says: It’s finished. I’m bringing it to your house.
What would that mean? Mean it’s finished! There’s nothing more to be added.
If you said—This is nice but the shading to upper lip not right, let me get a pencil.
That would insult the giver and ruin the gift. It’s finished, nothing to add.
If you went to help a friend load a moving van and said, What can I do?
He said, Nothing. It’s finished. What would that mean? It’s finished.
The heavy lifting has been done. No more furniture to be moved.
If you said: Here, honey, let me help you change that dirty diaper—
and she said: Thanks a lot, but it’s finished. What would that mean?
Means you’ve timed it perfectly. Means she’s done the dirty work, off hook.
And when Jesus said, It is finished, he meant it is finished.
He finished living a perfectly beautiful life which he gives you as your own.
And there is nothing for you to add. Trying to add to it ruins it.
Means he has finished doing all the heavy lifting.
Nothing more for you to bring to God to be reconciled.
Means he has finished doing the dirty work of the cross.
There is no more punishment that you have to suffer.
In the Greek NT, “It is finished” is just one word, “Tetelestai”
Ancient manuscripts with this word written across them—Tetelestai.
Do you know what those manuscripts were? They were bills.
Tetelestai was a way of saying: Paid in full.
If your bill is stamped: Paid in full, what do you owe? You owe nothing.
And that changes everything.
Brings us to second point
MP#2 The Atonement Experienced
If you really believe that Jesus has finished it,
how does that change the way you live and experience the Christian life?
Three things: It changes the way you see your sins, your obedience, and your self.
First: It changes the way you see your sins.
When you believe that it is finished, you see your sins as far less of a problem
than they have ever been, but on the other hand you see them as a much
greater problem than ever before.
Your sins are far less of a problem because they can never condemn you.
In that sense, you could say that your sins are not a problem at all.
Jesus has finished it. He has paid the price, he has satisfied God’s wrath.
There is no punishment left to be paid.
So you are completely forgiven and accepted in God’s sight.
But on the other hand, your sins a much greater problem than ever.
Because now when you sin, you are sinning against the one who died for you.
You are sinning against the person who went to hell for you.
You are sinning against love.
So your sins are worse than ever.
We have some neighbor children who often play in our yard and garage.
I’ve told them—You can play here. You can play with stuff in garage.
But if you take stuff out, put it back.
There have been a few times when I have seen something in the yard,
like a skateboard or basketball, and I’ve called to one of them and said—
pick this up and put it away and they’ve just stared at me.
Once or twice they have just turned their backs and walked away.
That really irritated me—but that’s all—just irritated me—because not my children.
But if I had said to one of my own children—pick that up for me—
and Will or Eliza or Adrienne just turned their back and deliberately disobeyed,
that would be terrible to me. Much worse than neighbor’s kids’ disobedience.
Because I’ve given my life and my love to my children.
If you believe that Jesus has finished it, you will see your sins differently.
Much more ashamed, because you are sinning against the one who loved you.
And you won’t be able to live with that.
You’ll be driven to confession and repentance. And if you aren’t,
it’s a pretty telling sign that you don’t really know Jesus at all.
Second, Jesus’ finished work changes the way you see your obedience.
As a Christian you obey because it’s finished, you don’t obey to finish it.
Jesus sets an incredible example for us by his obedience.
In Jesus’ greatest acts of obedience he was always quoting Scripture.
Have you noticed that? When he was tempted by Satan in desert—Scripture.
When he was challenged by religious leaders—Scripture.
And even on the cross, in his moment of greatest pain he quoted Psalm 22.
When you are in pain, you don’t compose your mind and say—How should I act?
You just react and your deepest self comes out.
What came out when Jesus was in pain? A heart saturated with Scripture.
He was perfectly obedient and he got the power for obedience through
his reliance on Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
So that’s what you have to do if you are going to obey God—
Saturate yourself with Scripture and listen to promptings of Holy Spirit.
If Jesus needed the Word and Spirit to obey, how much more do you?
You have no hope of obeying God unless you follow Jesus’ example
But if you stop with Jesus as your example, you will never hold up.
You’ll find yourself sinking as you try to prove yourself worthy.
If Jesus is just your example, you will always be trying to finish
and it will grind you down because you will never do enough.
You won’t be able to say no to people. You’ll be overcommitted.
You’ll wonder why you always feel guilty even when doing what the Bible says.
That’s why you need this word from the cross.
Because it reminds you that Jesus is more than your example, he’s your substitute.
And as your substitute he says: “It is finished.”
You have to obey. You can’t live with disobedience.
In spite of all the struggles and hardships and disappointments, must obey God.
Must use the means of grace he has given you to obey—Word and prayer.
Must be on your knees, must listen to Holy Spirit, must follow Jesus’ example.
But also have to believe, Jesus has finished it.
He has done everything you will ever need to be right with God.
Tim Keller makes a fascinating comparison between Buddha and Jesus.
Buddha’s last words were, “Strive without ceasing.”
Jesus’ last words were, “It is finished.”
Don’t you dare keep striving, I’ve done it all for you.
And that changes everything. Makes your obedience an expression of your love,
rather than an exhausting attempt to earn God’s favor.
Third, Jesus’ finished work changes the way your see yourself.
You see yourself as more wicked than you ever dared to admit,
and at the same time more loved and accepted than ever dared to hope.
Some of you are self-beaters, some are self-provers.
Some of you are devastated by criticism.
When you make a mistake, or do wrong, you beat yourself.
You never feel good enough and live in a perpetual state of guilt.
Jesus says: I was beaten for you. Is that not enough?
I was mocked. I was crucified. Why are you trying to atone? It is finished.
How dare you hate yourself if you are a Christian.
Don’t you see how you are loved?
Some of you are self-provers. You’re driven.
You see the failures and weakness of others so clearly and look down on them.
You’ve met standard morally, financially, martially and that sets you apart.
Jesus says: Don’t you see you contributed nothing to your standing with God?
I did it all and I finished it. I lived the life you couldn’t live. Died for your sins.
You brought nothing but wickedness and pride.
How dare you look down on other people if you are a Christian.
How dare you think that your success or morality proves anything at all to God.
Do you see how both self-beaters and self-provers are exactly the same underneath?
Both believe that Jesus has done something, and then I have to finish it.
I have to punish myself for my failures, I have to bring my successes to God.
“It is finished.” That means you see yourself as a saint and a sinner at same time.
Humbled and lifted up. Wretch and Prince.
A person who believes “It is finished” will be the most humble person
and the most confident person at the same time—because knows depth of his sin,
and at the same time how greatly he his loved.
Do you believe it is finished?
Are you working that out
so that you see your sin and your obedience and your self differently?
Here’s how you get there: Rejoice. Sing.
Rejoice in Jesus’ finished work for you.
Bring it home to your heart through worship.
Lifted up was He to die, “It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in heav’n exalted high: Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Come to the Table. Come humbly and come with rejoicing
for the great finished work of Jesus. And then, as you go into this week,
let his word from the cross echo in your mind—It is finished.