Seven Last Words From The Cross:
It Is Finished!
Maundy Thursday - March 24, 2005
Our text for meditation, from John’s Gospel, the 19th chapter, verses 28-30. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said ( to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst." A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, "It is finished," and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28_30 ESV) So far the text.
We pray Luther's Prayer before the sermon: Eternal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, give us Your Holy Spirit who writes the preached Word into our hearts. May we receive and believe it and be cheered and comforted by it in eternity. Glorify Your Word in our hearts and make it so bright and warm that we may find pleasure in it, through Your Holy Spirit think what is right, and by Your power, fulfill the Word, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son our Lord. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus declares, “It is finished!” What is finished? He’s finished, He gives up His spirit. In other words, He dies. Is that what He means?
These words of Jesus from the cross have important meaning to you and to me and to every Christian. In fact, they have incredible meaning to everybody who isn’t a Christian, if they would only believe them - for without faith in those words, there is only hell and torment waiting for the unbeliever.
Last Wednesday we focused on the fact that Jesus was True Man. We also briefly noted that Jesus was True God. However, it was God in human flesh who had to live under the law as a man to fulfill the law for us. It was God in human flesh who had to be obedient as a man to the point of death, suffering as a man our guilt and God’s wrath against sin.
In our text today, we can see that as God in human flesh, Jesus, the Christ, is intimately aware of His situation. He wasn’t some man lost in delirium, as some watching beneath the cross that day figured when He cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabbachthani.”
“It is finished,” He says. He has fulfilled the Scriptures, that which was foretold of God’s Messiah, in everything. In Peter’s first sermon after Christ’s resurrection, he said, "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:22_23 ESV) Peter further said a little later in that sermon, “But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” (Acts 3:18 ESV)
Jesus, knew that He had accomplished all that the Father had required of Him. God had sent Him into the world, born of human flesh, to accomplish salvation. He had to be born at a specific time so that the players were in place who had cold and hardened hearts, so that they might put Him to death. He had to endure all that was required by the Father to make atonement, or satisfaction, for your sin, my sin, and the sins of the whole world.
Jesus had prayed in the garden on the evening in which he was betrayed, after instituting the blessed meal of His Divine grace. He took some disciples with Him. "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done."
Jesus knew what was coming. And now, in these words, “It is finished,” He proclaims it is accomplished. He has fulfilled all the requirements of the Law and suffered all that we by our sins have deserved. He has done everything so that you, me, and all those who trust in Him might be saved. It IS finished.
Paul says it this way, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4_5 ESV) Of course, there are some who do not believe Jesus’ sixth word from the cross. Many Christians deny this word of Christ which says, “It is finished.”
They deny Jesus’ word by claiming they must do their own part to get into heaven. They make your salvation contingent on your life, your holiness, your doing better as you live out your life.
If God’s intention were such, then Jesus could have lived perfectly and only suffered partially. Hey, then the Father could have said from heaven in answer to Jesus prayer, “Not a problem son, you won’t have to do it all, I’ll let you know when you’ve done your part.” Then, when God the Father gave Him the cue, He could have proclaimed different words from the cross, “You Pharisees, Chief Priests, teachers of the Law, see now how I do come down from the cross, just as you said I should to prove I was God’s Son? I have done my part, now, you finish your part.”
You know what though? Even as the church leaders beneath the cross that day thought their works were earning them heaven, it is also a temptation to us. It is a temptation to deny Christ’s word, “It is finished,” and to rob God of His work. If we believe our work is necessary even for a little bit, to gain salvation, it is nothing more than an attempt to empty the cross of its power to save. This is a grievous sin.
What is more, even to believe Jesus’ word from the cross, to have faith that it is finished on the cross, to believe that in Christ our salvation is accomplished - this too is God’s work. Christ gives us His Holy Spirit who works fatih in us, that we might trust His Word - that salvation is indeed accomplished for us.
If we are honest, these words of Christ should the greatest comfort, especially when we look at our own lives. Our lives are hollow and pitiful, we have to proclaim with Paul that even when we know what is right to do, we fail to do it. We fall short! We miss the mark! We sin!
Hear the words of Christ, “It is finished.” His perfect life, given up to suffering the pains of hell in being forsaken by from the Father, and in suffering the pains of torture and death, have paid the price demanded by your sin and mine. It is finished - forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation were purchased that day by Very God of Very God, begotten of the Father from all eternity - God the Son.
It is finished. On that day, Christ purchased the great gifts. His love gave Him the desire to endure the pains of the cross. Today, the gifts He purchased with His suffering and death on the cross that day, accomplishing the work of your salvation, are delivered to you by Christ Himself.
It is finished - hear His word, take comfort in them, for His speaking to you gives you your greatest desire - sins forgiven.
It is finished - His body broken, and His shed blood are delivered to you in the meal set before you. He feeds you Himself, giving you to drink of His salvation, strengthening your faith and giving you your inheritance of eternal life.
It is finished - salvation and heaven are yours. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
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