“It Is Finished!”
(John 19:28-30 – Good Friday – April 2, 2021)
John 19:28-30 – 28After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29Now 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. 30So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Dear redeemed in Christ, who was crucified for us:
When God had created all things, at the close of the sixth day, He beheld all that He had made, “and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Then God rested from His work. It was finished. There was no more to be done; it was a perfect creation! Now, God’s perfect creatures could enjoy their Sabbath rest, walking in peace and fellowship with their Creator, rejoicing in the eternal life He gave.
But here, on this sixth day of the week, Good Friday, we see God in our flesh hanging on a cross. Why was He, through whom all things had been made perfect, now suffering and dying on the accursed tree? It is all due to sin. In the Garden, Satan had overcome by a tree, tempting Adam to eat; and in Adam’s sin all have shared, and as the wages of sin all must die.
But here on the cross, we see our Creator and Life-Giver, who became our Redeemer and Life-Restorer. We see Him paying the ugly price for our sins, winning salvation for a fallen world of sinners. We hear Him crying out in agony under divine justice and wrath, as He receives the punishment our sins deserved.
And then, having paid in full for all our sins – having given His life as a ransom to redeem us from sin, Satan, death, and hell – we hear Him crying out in victory for us. Just before He bows His head and enters His Sabbath rest, we hear Jesus crying out these three words of truth we will consider today: “It Is Finished!” There was no more to be done. He has fulfilled all things as our perfect Savior!
Jesus’ whole life was about fulfillment. He came to fulfill the will of His Father who sent Him, to win our salvation. He came into the world to fulfill all that had been promised and prophesied by God since the beginning, since the fall of mankind into sin. As Jesus once said: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18).
In Jesus, all the Old Testament promises and prophecies concerning the Savior of sinners, all the sacrifices and ceremonies that pointed to His once-for-all sacrifice of atonement, find their complete fulfillment.
When Jesus hung on the cross on Good Friday, dying for the sins of the world, He was that Seed of the woman God promised to Adam and Eve after the fall. Jesus’ heel was bruised by Satan in all His temptation, suffering, and death in our behalf; yet as He cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” His heel crushed the head of that evil serpent, once and for all. For by redeeming us from sin, Jesus released us from Satan’s hold; and Jesus redeemed us from sharing in his condemnation, in that everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).
Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament picture-types, which foreshadowed His sacrifice. God once set His people free from bondage and slavery in Egypt, saving them from death by the blood of the Passover lamb. Now Christ, our true Passover Lamb, has been slain. As He cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” by His blood we have been set free from bondage and slavery to sin and death. 1 Peter 1:18-19 reminds us: “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold… but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
Again, Moses once lifted up a bronze serpent on a pole in the wilderness, so that all who were bitten by serpents, and dying due to their sin, could look to that image of salvation and live. Jesus fulfilled this too, as He said: “Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). So the Son of God in our flesh was lifted up on the cross, nails piercing His hands and feet. He hung there gasping for breath, taunted by enemies. He hung there under a dark sky of divine judgment, forsaken even by His Father for our sins. But when at last He cried out “It is finished!” all our sins were paid for; divine justice was satisfied. And with sin removed as the cause of death, death also was removed. As we look to Jesus in faith, He restores us in eternal life.
By His death on the cross, Jesus has fulfilled all things, reconciling us to God, allowing us to come into His most holy presence in peace. In this regard, consider one more Old Testament picture-type which He fulfilled. On the Day of Atonement in Israel, the high priest would enter the most holy place with the blood of sacrifice. That blood would be sprinkled on the mercy seat covering the Ark of the Covenant, in which the tablets of the Law were held, the commandments given through Moses. Thus at the mercy seat of God, the blood of atonement covered the people sins against His holy Law; and the High Priest declared His forgiveness to the people. Then, on that Day of Atonement, the sins of the people were confessed over a scapegoat, which was then taken far away into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Thus God pictured for His people the complete cleansing and removal of their sins.
But now Christ has fulfilled that picture-type as well. On the cross, as our Great High Priest, He Himself became the sacrificial Victim. He entered the Most Holy Place in the presence of His Father, making atonement for our sins. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” His blood had covered all our sins against God’s holy Law; and now, from the mercy seat of God, Jesus declares us perfectly forgiven. As our Scapegoat, Jesus had borne all our sins away from us, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), never to be seen by God, or counted against us.
“It is finished!” At the moment Jesus cried out this word of truth, the veil in the temple that separated the Most Holy Place from sinners was torn in two from top to bottom. It signified the end of the old covenant and temple, the end of all the sacrifices and ceremonies. At the cross, all those were fulfilled in Christ. Now by His sacrifice, the great gap between sinners and the holy God has been bridged. Now, the way into the Most Holy Presence of God is opened to us.
So Jesus’ whole life was about fulfillment as the Savior of sinners. He came into the world to fulfill all the Law and the Prophets. He came to fulfill the whole will of His Father who sent Him, in every thought, word, and deed. As Jesus preached the holy Law of God, He taught its true meaning as He said: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). How can fallen sinful man be perfect? How can you and I, steeped in Adam’s sin and our own sin, ever claim that sort of heavenly perfection? How can we, who are inclined to sin every moment of our lives, be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect?
We hear the answer on the cross as Jesus cries out: “It is finished!” In this word of fulfillment, He declares the perfection that perfects us. Here is where we must look – not to ourselves, but to Him who is our perfection before God the Father. Jesus kept the Law perfectly for us, down to the least jot and tittle of the Law’s pen, down to the tiniest nuance of its commandments, in every thought, word, and deed. He perfectly loved God with His whole heart, soul, and strength. And He perfectly loved His neighbor – and that includes you, me, and all people. Jesus fulfilled all these things so that He might give His perfection to us freely as a gift. Jesus is our perfection.
“It is finished!” There on the cross, Jesus was declaring the fulfillment of all that His Father had sent Him to do, the fulfillment of all that had been prophesied and promised, through His perfect life, and His innocent suffering and death for us.
“It is finished!” We dare not add anything to this word of fulfillment – not our prayers or acts of penance, not our holiest thoughts, words, or deeds. These add nothing to what Jesus alone has finished. Yet this is the inclination of sinful pride. The religion of man is based on the idea that God has not done enough, and that we must add to and finish what Jesus only started. “God has done His part, now you must do your part.” Faith plus works. Christ plus something more; and inevitably, the emphasis always ends up being on the “something more” you must do. But here we have God’s warning in Galatians 5:4: “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”
“It is finished!” Let us take to heart those words of our Savior. For by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, we stand justified before God. As our Great High Priest, seated in the Most Holy Place at the right hand of His Father, Jesus presents you and me holy and without blemish, washed of all sin by His blood, and covered in His perfection.
Hebrews 10:19-23 says: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”
“It is finished!” How we need to cling to those words each day. For we live each day with the struggles against sin and temptation. We live each day with the burdens of trials and tribulation in this world. We are not yet perfect as we will be in heaven. We are not yet in that perfect home of righteousness we long for.
Yet already in Christ, our salvation is perfect. God says so in His Gospel. He have been given that full assurance of faith by the Holy Spirit, whom He has put in our hearts. We have been washed with the pure water of Holy Baptism, cleansed by the blood of His Son. Therefore we have confidence to enter His Most Holy Presence. Day by day, we lay all our sins at the foot of Jesus’ cross in repentance; and we hear His absolution, the full forgiveness of our sins. Day by day, we drown our sinful nature through baptism, dying with Jesus to sin; and in the power of His resurrection, we arise in the new life He has given as the children of God.
And so, our Creator has become our Redeemer. He who once made all things perfect, has now made us His perfect new creation in Christ. Now, we can enjoy our Sabbath rest in Him. We can rest our souls in the peace of His forgiveness, and the joy of His salvation and eternal life.
On that Good Friday, that sixth day of the week, Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” Then He bowed His head, committed His spirit into His Father’s hands; and His body entered its Sabbath rest in the tomb. But that would not be not the end. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” it was in view of what would take place on at the dawn of the first day of the week, the great day of His resurrection, the great day of all things made new for us.
So also we join Jesus in committing all things to the care of our Father in heaven. Even in the hour of death, we commit our spirit into the hands of Him who did not spare His Son, but gave Him up for us (Romans 8:32). We rest our whole being, our body and soul, in His care. For we know that, because Jesus has fulfilled the will of His Father for us, death is not the end. God’s eternal and loving plan for us in Christ will find fulfillment in the dawning of that new day, when He brings us into the new heavens and new earth He is preparing (2 Peter 3:13). And there at last, in the great resurrection, we shall be perfect even as He is perfect!
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.