"It Is Finished"
"It is finished." No one can really understand, really appreciate the death of Christ until they come to terms with these words. These words are why we cherish today; why this Friday is called good.' So we want to be very clear on exactly what Jesus meant when He said, "It is finished."
Jesus said, "It is finished," not "I am finished." This isn't a death cry. Jesus isn't declaring that His life is over. These aren't Jesus' last words. His last words were, "Into Your hands I commend My Spirit." Besides, last words are typically said quietly, sometimes with a last gasp of air. Not these words. Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus said, "It is finished," with a loud' voice. They use the word mega for loud.' Hear these words blaring out of a megaphone. It was not a weak, whimpering sigh or cry of "It is finished." But a mega-loud, "It is finished!" Can't you see the soldiers at the foot of the cross whirl about and look up? Can't you see Mother Mary and John jump back with a start?
Jesus roared, "It is finished!" He didn't roar, "I am finished." This wasn't the cry of a marathon runner crossing the finish line glad to be done. This wasn't the cry of a man relieved to be finished with the pain and the suffering. Although Jesus most certainly was glad, that's not why He shouted, "It is finished!" Jesus wasn't focused on Himself today. He wasn't caught up in what He was going through. Don't you remember? He told the Jerusalem women not to weep for Him. He forgave those who crucified Him. He entrusted His mother to John. He saved a thief, and He only asked for a drink of water so He could bellow the words, "It is finished." No, Jesus wasn't focused on self today, but you.
Did you gulp just now? I can understand why. Jesus focused on you today could be unnerving. You're not so sure you like that idea, are you? Because if Jesus is focused on you today then instead of saying, "It is finished," He ought to say, "You are finished."
I could certainly hear it this way. I could certainly feel rejected, through, finished on Good Friday. After all, didn't our sins bring this all about? Isn't that what we sing in our Good Friday hymns? "For it was my transgressions which brought this woe on Thee." "Wrath were my rightful lot." "It is for my sin for which Thou Lord must languish." Yea, all the wrath, the woe, Thou dost inherit, this I do merit." "And on His thorn-crowned head and on His sinless soul, our sins in all their guilt were laid."
If this nailing, this agonizing, this damning happens to the dearest Child of God because of our sins, what should happen to us the real sinners? We're finished; we're through; we're done for because we are the ones who have done the things for which Christ suffers. If God punishes His own Son so terribly, so completely, so excruciatingly for what He did not do, what will He do to us for what we have done and still do?
As we sing in another hymn, "Ye who think of sin but lightly/ Nor suppose the evil great/ Here may view its nature rightly/ Here its guilt may estimate." Here, on this blood stained cross with flies buzzing incessantly about, we see the real nature of all those sins we've made pets out of. They're really not cute, cuddly puppies. No, they're mangy, foul-smelling junkyard dogs. Our pet sins are really savage beasts for which we deserve to be beaten and crucified because we not only don't keep them on a leash we keep them as pets safe and warm in our homes and hearts turning them loose whenever we please.
As the painful, agonizing, wretched suffering of Christ comes to a close, He should turn to us and declare with anger, with loathing, with malice, with hatred: "You are finished! You good for nothing, God-forsaken piece of garbage. You did this to Me. This is what the sinning you engage in so casually, so callously, so continually really deserves. This is what all those sins you forgive yourself for so easily, so freely, really cost." "Oh! I was worrying again, wasn't I? O well I'm forgiven!" "Oh, I wasn't being a very loving spouse, parent, or child just then, was I? O well, I'm forgiven." "Oh! There I go again not being a very faithful church member. O well, good thing I'm forgiven."
Do you think your nonchalant attitude is shared by Jesus? Isn't His attitude better expressed by that bumper sticker which says, "Jesus is Coming Again.And Is He Pissed!" Ah, I've offended you by saying the word pissed' from the pulpit, haven't I? How dare I utter a vulgar word for angry in the holy sanctuary of God! How dare I defile this place of Divine Service with gutter language! I should be defrocked! I should be through! I should be finished!
Good! Good! Now you know how Jesus should feel towards you for defiling this holy sanctuary not by your vulgar expressions but by your lustful, disgusting, decadent thoughts. Now you know how Jesus should feel towards you for not only uttering offensive words but doing offensive things against your parents, your spouse, your children, your neighbors, your coworkers. Now you now how enraged Jesus should be at your defiling of the Divine Service by coming when your feel like it and thinking you're holding preaching and the Word of God sacred by doing so.
You who are so zealous to protect this holy house from a word related to urine should think how your real sins caused God the Son to have sweat, blood, and spit rubbed in His most holy face. You deserve to hear Jesus say today, "You are finished," but you don't. Jesus doesn't say, "I am finished" or, "You are finished," He says, "It is finished!" This is a cry of victory, a cry of triumph, a cry of satisfaction, and this too is startling.
Here is a Man dying painfully, forsaken by friends, jeered by enemies, naked, helpless and apparently defeated. But what does He bellow? What does He roar? "It is finished!" The loudness of the cry wasn't the only thing that startled those around the cross. What He said also shook them up. "It is finished," wasn't what they expected to hear from a badly beaten, almost tortured to death, Jesus.
Since we know that Jesus isn't talking about His life or His suffering as being finished, what could He be speaking of? The Devil isn't finished. We know from the rest of the New Testament that he still prowls the earth seeking someone to devour. It's true; the Devil's head was crushed at the cross, but he's not finished in the sense he's no longer around. The same is true for Death. It's true; the sting of Death is removed, but it's not finished. The Grim Reaper is still harvesting bodies.
What Christ Jesus finished on this Friday is the work of redemption. He finished paying the bill of sins. There is nothing left to be paid. There's no balance due. There's no debt hanging over your head for your sins. There is nothing, not one single thing that you or anyone else has to do or suffer to pay for sins.
We translate, "It is finished," but the Greek literally means, "It has been forever finished." Picture a line leading up to a period. Love's redeeming word started when God the Son placed Himself in the womb of the Virgin Mary. From then on He lived His entire life under the obligation of keeping God's laws and under the weight of our breaking those laws. He was a Man of our sorrows and acquainted with our griefs. All the sorrowing, all the grieving that our sins deserved, Christ Jesus endured throughout His life. Then on Calvary's cross He paid the last measure plunging into the depths of hell suffering an eternity in it during three dreadful hours of agony.
And He finished it. The line of sorrow, of suffering, of grief that stretched from His incarnation till Calvary is finished, ended, period. But there's more. In Greek it's not just "It has been finished," but "It has been forever finished." This form shows not only a line leading up to the period but one leading away from the period stretching out to infinity. It being finished never ends.
You know what that means? Christ isn't just declaring that His payment for your sins is finished but that He has paid the bill for eternity. That means no one, not the Devil, not the world, not your conscience can wave a bill for sins committed in your face and say, "Pay up!" Oh all of these will try: The Devil will continually throw sins, usually a particular one, in your face. Your spouse, or child, or coworker may say to you, "I'll never forgive you for that as long as I live!" And even your own conscience is going to say, "I can never forgive myself for that!"
You know what Good Friday says to that? So what? God doesn't check the ledgers of the Devil, your spouse, coworker, child, or even your own conscience when He deals with you. God doesn't look to anyone else's books when deciding whether or not you're paid in full. The only accounts God checks are His own. And on this day almost 2,000 years ago, God the Son checked the accounts of the whole world, yours included, and shouted, "It is finished! Everything is paid in full." He could care less about the books the Devil, those in world, or you yourself keep. And that's what your attitude can be too! God's accounts are the only ones that matter, and He tells you today that His accounts are paid up; the books have been closed.
Do me a favor. Go home and get out your payment book for your car or home. Turn to the last payment and ask yourself, "Am I going to keep paying on this once it is finished?" If you try, the bank or the finance company will think you're crazy. You can't pay anymore on something that is paid in full. You can't start back up what is finished. There are no payment coupons left in your book from God. Even your sins today, be they big and beastly or petite and pets, don't add additional payments. So there's nothing left for you to do. I guess you'll just have to enjoy the debt free, guilt free life that Jesus finished paying for today. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Good Friday (20110422); John 19:30