Sermon preached on John 19:17-30 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Good Friday Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 4/22/2011 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
“It is Finished”
It is finished. Three little words in the English. Actually, only word even in the Greek. A single word of Jesus from the cross. And yet what significance it contains. This is a rich word in the original. It has the idea of accomplishment. It’s bringing an end to something; completing something. So many of Jesus’ words on the cross spoke of his sufferings. This one spoke of his accomplishment. This one spoke of how he had finished the work his Father had given him to do. Finally, it was complete. The suffering was at an end. The cross was finally at its end.
And yet as we’ll see, this is not really a word of exhaustion. At the end of some long exhausting task, you might say something like this. I’m done. It might just mean you made it through. Certainly that’s part of what Jesus is saying. And yet surely this was not just a marker of completion for Jesus, but also for victory. Even one of a measure of peace. He had entrusted himself to his Father’s plan, and the plan had been accomplished.
That’s a striking perspective then. The world at that time might have looked at this moment as the height of Jesus’ failure. There are unbelieving scholars today who have suggested that. That the cross represented the crowning failure of Jesus’ ministry. But that’s not how Jesus saw it. When he said it is finished, he was saying, “Mission Accomplished!” Well, how? If the cross looks like defeat, how is this mission accomplished? How is this victory? How can he peacefully give up his spirit here? That’s what we’ll consider today. We’ll consider first what was finished here. We’ll consider six things that have found their finish here at the cross. We’ll walk briefly through six things that have been accomplished and put to an end by what Jesus did here on Good Friday. These things are interrelated, but they are different nuances brought out by Scripture about what happened on Golgotha. After that, we’ll spend a few moments assessing all this and applying it to our lives today.
So, let’s dig in. Jesus said, “It is finished.” What was finished? What was accomplished? Well, first let’s see that in light of prophecy. The prophecy was accomplished. The prophecy that spoke about Jesus’ suffering had come to its end; its conclusion; its fulfillment. Now, in general, we can say this of all the prophecies in the Scriptures about his sufferings. All his predicted sufferings had either come to pass or have been put into motion. Though, to be fair, there certainly are some remaining prophecies about his sufferings that had not yet come to pass. I’m thinking of prophecies about his actual death and burial. Those are to be imminently fulfilled. Certainly, in anticipation of those, Jesus statement of being finished would still apply. So, in a broad sense, we can see the accomplishment of prophecy with his word here. Even in the preceding verse, in verse 28, it says that Jesus knew all things were accomplished – that’s the same word as when he says it is finished. But then after it says in verse 28 that all things were accomplished, he proceeds with seeing that yet another scripture was fulfilled – his being given sour wine to drink. So, in other words, the fact that all things have been accomplished, doesn’t preclude a few final prophecies being fulfilled, like the sour wine, and his death, and his burial. I think the point is that all those prophecies about his suffering find their climax in the cross. They were about him coming to the cross and suffering in our place; for our salvation. Those had all come to pass. So to quote just a single prophecy being fulfilled.
Isaiah 53:5, But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by His stripes we are healed. And so all the prophecy about the cross and his suffering – finished.
A second thing that was finished and accomplished was Christ’s purpose. Christ’s purpose in coming to the earth. Why did Jesus become flesh? So he could give up his life on the cross. That’s the Bible’s record of Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth. Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” That’s Jesus purpose, and he accomplished it here on the cross. Or again, in 1 Timothy 1:15. There Paul says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. His purpose was to bring salvation, and that meant he had to go to the cross. And so for Jesus to say, “It is finished,” “It is accomplished,” is for him to say, “I did it!” He’s celebrating that he accomplished the plan he set out to do.
A third thing that was finished on the cross was the atonement. In Mark 10:25, Jesus predicted that he would have to give his life as a ransom for many. On the cross, Jesus was our substitute. We deserved God’s wrath. We deserved hell. But on the cross, Jesus experienced hell. He experienced God’s wrath. That’s why there was a strange darkness for three hours while Jesus hung there on the cross. That was a picture of God’s judgment. That’s the same reason Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!” That expressed God’s wrath upon him as he hung there on the cross. On the cross, he was the sacrifice. He was offered in our place, so that we could be forgiven. He took on our punishment. This is talking about a legal requirement. Justice had to be served. Our guilt had to be dealt with. But as he cries this cry, he celebrates that the atonement is finished! The sacrifice had been made. Legal satisfaction had been accomplished. His life was offered up to God. His death was imminent. It is finished!
A fourth thing that is finished is sin. Sin was put to an end at the cross. Let me clarify, since obviously this world still has sin in it. I mean that the burden of our sin as believers was dealt with. It was removed and put on Christ. This is similar to the point I just made, but worth bringing out specifically. 1 Peter 2:24 says, that Christ, “Bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.” Related to this, Paul now tells us in Romans 6:11 that we should now consider ourselves dead to sin in Christ. He says that and then goes on to acknowledge the existence of sin that still occurs in our lives. But right after that he again affirms that we have been set free from sin. The point then is this: the cross represents that freedom from sin. At the cross, Jesus fundamentally dealt with the problem of sin. He put an end to it. It is finished. Yes, we still are allowed for a time to battle against it in our sanctification. But the decisive victory against it still happened at the cross. When Christ comes back and completes our sanctification, it will be fundamentally because of the cross. Because he dealt definitively with the problem of sin there. There he put it to an end. Sin is finished!
A fifth thing that is finished and accomplished is the law. Paul says in Romans 10:4, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Now, again, let me clarify. God’s moral law is always binding upon us all. All humanity is always under obligation to keep the law. And yet we don’t keep it as a covenant of works. Nor does it serve to bring legal condemnation upon us either. Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 5:17. There he said he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law. It’s not that Jesus does away with the law. No, as Romans 7:12 says, the law is righteous and holy and good. But the law could also be used to condemn sinners. Yet the law could also be used to show us our need for Christ. Christ kept the law perfectly. And he suffered the punishments in our place for those who broke the law. In other words, what the punishments for sin demanded by the law, he took in our place. So, Jesus kept and fulfilled the law perfectly. The law then leads us to our need for this in Christ. Christ accomplished all the law’s righteous demands in our place. That’s what the cross represented. At the point of death, he could declare that he obeyed the law perfectly, and suffered the curse of the law completely. At that point, it was finished. Those who are in Christ could no longer be condemned by the law. Yes, the law would still be of use to us. But not to condemn us. In that sense, the law is fulfilled and its power to condemn finished.
A sixth thing that is finished is Satan. Now, again, we know that Satan is still allowed to have some influence in this world. He and the other fallen angels are allowed to still tempt and accuse mankind for a time. We know that his final end is coming soon. That will happen at the final Day of Judgment. But Scripture still shows the cross as the decisive victory over Satan. It’s in terms of Satan’ defeat in which the Bible makes the earliest prediction of the cross. Genesis 3:15 predicted that the seed of the woman would do battle against the seed of the serpent, the devil. Genesis 3:15 talked about this future battle between the Christ and Satan. It said that Satan would strike his heel, but that the Christ would strike Satan’s head. Satan’ strike was the cross. But it was only like a hit to his foot. Christ crushed Satan that day on the cross. That’s why Revelation 12:11 can say that we overcome Satan by the blood of lamb. Hebrews 2:14 says that through Christ’s death he destroyed the devil. Satan’s ultimate defeat came at the cross. Their all his accusations against the saints are proven invalid. There the strong man was bound so that the gospel could go out; so that tempter could no longer deceive the nations. So much more could be said on this point. The cross was the definitive blow of Christ against Satan. He is put to an end. Satan is ultimately finished!
So that’s six different aspects of what was accomplished and finished by Jesus on the cross. So much more could be said. But, let me begin now to offer some assessment and application of this. First let me note the completeness of all of this. If Jesus said it is finished, then it is finished. It’s complete. That means it’s not lacking. Of course, who else can you trust so fully when they say that? Who else can say this, save the Son of God, and you know it’s true? Maybe you’ve asked your child to go clean his room. He goes and does it. He then all too quickly comes back and says, “It is finished.” You are probably a little suspect. You might not believe he’s all finished. You probably then go and check it out with him. You see how he just quickly stuffed all the toys under the bed instead of putting them away. Of course, maybe you’ve been that child yourself. But this is not like Jesus’ acclamation here. When he says it is finished, it really is finished. It really is complete. Salvation is accomplished. There’s nothing lacking in our salvation. There’s nothing left to be accomplished in it. In the cross, we can find the perfect atonement that we so desperately needed.
There’s an important application when we realize this completeness. It means there’s nothing for you or I to add to it. We can’t help Jesus save us. There’s actually no need to help him. It’s done. It’s finished. This is an all too common tendency for humans. It can be hard for us to accept that we don’t have to earn our salvation or contribute to it. It’s humbling for us to realize that we don’t in any way save ourselves. All our lives we’re earning this or that. But not our salvation. It is finished!
Some of us might recall a Christianity Explored video that we watched that referenced this verse. It compared Jesus’ cry of “It is finished,” with the movie Saving Private Ryan. That movie is about how a number of soldiers who were sent on a dangerous mission to save one man, Private Ryan. Long story short, all these soldiers give up their lives to ultimately save this one man. Private Ryan was told by one of the dying soldiers, “Earn this. Earn it.” In other words, live your life in such a way to warrant all these men dying for you. The young Private Ryan had to have those chilling words before him the rest of his life. But, how could you possibly live up to that? But Jesus doesn’t give his life for you and then tell you to earn it. Jesus gives his life up for you, and says, “It is finished.” Nothing more to accomplish. Brothers and sisters, God is satisfied with the work of Christ on the cross. We should be too. God’s grace in Christ is sufficient for us. Believe and trust in this gift.
A second assessment of Jesus’ cry here is the peace in it all. Despite all the suffering, his final tone at his death turns peaceful. As he dies, his life is not ripped away from him in defeat. No, what does he do? Verse 30, he peacefully bows his head and gives up his spirit. He gives it up. Like the gift which it was. He gives up his life. What wonderful language used to describe his death! His life wasn’t taken, it was given. That’s of course what Jesus said earlier in the Gospel of John. John 10:18, Jesus said that no takes his life from him. No, he said, “I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” We see that here, in how his death is recorded. He gave up his spirit. He does this after he declared it was finished. He couldn’t give up his life until it was finished. But now that it was, he peacefully gives it up. Now he could safely die at this point, because he completed all his work. An application that comes from this is that we too can have confidence at our deaths. We too can have peace at our deaths. We can peacefully give up our Spirit at the point of our deaths. Because we know the he has accomplished everything we need. Because we know that we will go to be with him in Paradise.
A third assessment of Jesus’ cry here is that it’s a cry of victory and jubilation. I point this out, because in a Good Friday service we often have a very somber tone. Well, rightly so, in one sense. Many of Christ’s words on the cross express the height of suffering he went through. He went through those things because of our sins. A somber response has a certain appropriateness to it. And yet this word on the cross is a word of victory. It is a word that celebrates. It is finished! So our Good Friday services should also express this tone of victory. Tonight we don’t just remember his death. We celebrate his death! We rejoice along with him that it is finished!
And so if Christ could have a shout of victory, there is application here for our life. In Christ, we have victory and jubilation. If we are in Christ, his cry is our cry. His cry of victory is our cry of victory. His accomplishment becomes our accomplishment. We have victory in and through him. That’s what our faith in him is all about. We unite together with him by faith. We trust that this victory achieved on the cross is something he gives to us. Because of this we can have a victorious Christian life. Sometimes that’s a label that’s used incorrectly. I’m not suggesting that once you become a Christian you can just “name it and claim it” and have all your problems in this life solved. But we can have a victorious Christian life. We have this victorious life in the sense that we live out the victory Christ won for us at Calvary. We said what that victory was. It was victory over Satan. It was victory that achieved atonement, the forgiveness of our sins. It’s victory over the condemnation of the law. Victory over the punishment of death. A victory of righteousness in a law fulfilled for us. Victory in that we have now been reconciled with God through the perfect atonement of Christ on the cross. This is our victory. This is what Christ accomplished. So it’s how we can live our lives now. Our lives can be lived out in Christian victory.
This means many tangible things. It means that we don’t have to go around making excuses for our sins anymore. We have had victory over them, and we should have that perspective when we deal with our sins. That we can have real victory over them. I’m not saying we should have a perfectionist doctrine. But I’m also saying we shouldn’t have a pessimistic doctrine about our sin. Because Christ dealt with sin on the cross, we now have the power and ability to really put off sin in our lives. We are not dead in our sins any more. We have victory over them. Let’s stop living like we are already defeated when dealing with certain chronic sins in our life. Let’s approach them as the victors.
And if a sin does come into your life, and Satan tries to dishearten you because of it, you can point to this victory. You can overcome his accusations by trusting in the blood of the lamb. You don’t have to believe his lies. You don’t have to be discouraged. Rebuke him in the name of the Lord and trust in the victory. You don’t have to hang your head in shame when you struggle with sin. No, you can confidently assert that God’s grace, his victory, is sufficient for you.
Christ’s victory means we have victory. Let’s live this out. It means that we can have real victory in our discipleship. That we can really be growing in his grace. That we really can have victory over sin, Satan, and death in our lives. Aren’t those our real enemies? Aren’t those who we really need victory over? Christ achieved this victory in the cross. He told us this with the word, “It is finished.” Let us trust this word. Let us celebrate. Amen.
Copyright (c) 2010 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.