“It Is Finished!”
(John 19:30 – Midweek Lent 6 – April 6, 2022)
John 19:30 – So 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 crucified:
“Here, let me do that for you!” That is hard to hear when we feel like we can do it ourselves. If we are working on a project or solving a problem, and we feel like success is within our reach, we don’t want to just hand it over to someone else as if we are completely helpless. We feel a need to finish that project or solve that problem by our own strength and understanding. When it comes to matters of this world, often it is good for us to use our God-given strength and skills to accomplish what we can, to earn success, to feel good about ourselves.
But when it comes to matters of salvation and eternal life, we cannot not do it ourselves. In fact, as sinners before God, we could do nothing to earn forgiveness and eternal life. When someone asked Martin Luther what we contribute to our salvation, he said: “Sin and resistance.” As Scripture teaches, we were not born neutral toward God, or basically good-natured. Rather, we came into this world dead in trespasses and sins, at enmity with God, unable to obey His holy Law. As those under the control of Satan and our sinful nature, we were children of wrath. Therefore, even if we worked our hardest and tried to do our best, we could not bring ourselves into a right relationship with God; we could not do our part in getting to heaven.
Therefore we needed a Savior from our spiritually helpless condition. We needed the one who came to do it all for us. We needed the Son of God in our flesh, who cried out that sixth word from the cross: “It Is Finished!”
Jesus’ whole life was about doing it all for us. His Father had sent Him into the world to accomplish our salvation and win our eternal life by His perfect life lived for us, and His innocent death suffered for us, by which we are rescued from sin, death, and hell. To put it another way, Jesus accomplished all things for our salvation through His active and passive obedience for us.
Jesus’ Active Obedience was all that He did to fulfill the Law of God for us. It is that Law in which God demanded of His people in Leviticus 19:2: “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). It is that law which requires a sinless life of perfection in order for us to be right with God and thus able to live with Him forever. Jesus said in Matthew 5:20: “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, you have to be holier than the holiest person who ever lived. Jesus is not teaching that we will be saved by comparison to others, or if we do our best that will be good enough. God does not grade on a curve. 99.9% is not good enough; His Law demands 100% obedience, all the time. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:48: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
But who of us could live that absolutely sinless and perfect life? Have I exhausted my heart, soul, mind, and strength in constant devotion to loving God more than anything or else in life – even more than myself? Have I spent myself in constant loving service to my neighbor, thinking of his needs before my own, laying down my life for him – and not only if he is a friend, but even if he is an enemy, someone who is very difficult to get along with? For that is the constant, active obedience God’s Law requires of every one of us (Mark 12:30-31).
But there is one who has done it all for us. He could do it because He is not only a man, but He is God in our flesh. As Jesus cried out from the cross: “It is finished!” He could look across His entire life lived in this world say: “I have been perfect as My Father in heaven is perfect.” From the first moment in the womb of the Virgin Mary, He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He is the perfect Son of God who, in becoming the Son of Man, inherited no sinful nature from Adam. Therefore unlike us, Jesus could point to a perfect life of obedience to His Father at every step – as the perfect Son growing up in the home of Joseph and Mary; as the perfect Son being about His Father’s business in word and worship; as the perfect Son carrying out the will of His Father in His ministry. Never once did Jesus give in to the fiercest temptations of Satan. Never once did Jesus return evil for evil, even against his most hateful enemies.
Therefore in all His life, Jesus fulfilled the Law of God by His constant Active Obedience. To the very end, Jesus did exhaust His heart, soul, mind, and strength in constant loving devotion to God above all; and Jesus did spend Himself in constant loving service to His neighbor, even to the point of laying down His life for his enemies. That is why, having given His all, Jesus could cry out from the cross: “It is finished!”
But He did not do it for Himself; He did it all for us. He fulfilled the Law for us, the lawbreakers. He actively obeyed for us, the disobedient. He earned righteousness for us, the unrighteous. He did it all for us, so that it all could be counted to us as the one perfect life of obedience and righteousness that avails before God.
Not only did Jesus accomplish all things for our salvation by His Active Obedience, but also by His Passive Obedience. This means all that He suffered in our place as our Savior from sin. Again, as Jesus cried out from the cross: “It is finished!” He could look across His entire life and think of all that He suffered in His state of humiliation, as the one bearing our sins to the cross. From the beginning, we think of His poverty and lowliness as He was born in a stable and laid in a manger. And this continued throughout His life, as Jesus said: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). And we think of all that Jesus continued to suffer in His humiliation as He was tempted by Satan, despised and rejected of men, opposed by enemies, betrayed by a friend, put on trial before false witnesses, unjustly beaten and mocked, and finally sentenced to death.
In all this, too, Jesus was obedient. Even as He actively obeyed His Father in perfect love, He passively obeyed in willingly suffering all this. Again, He did not do any of it for Himself; He did it all for us. And it did not stop until He had given His life for us. Philippians 2:8 says: “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Jesus’ Passive Obedience reached its culmination at the cross, where He went in obedience to His Father’s will to drink the cup of suffering for the sins of the whole world. There, the Father laid on His innocent Son the iniquity of us all. There the perfect Son was forsaken of His Father for us. There Jesus felt the curse of the Law as the one cursed for us. There, He felt in His body and soul all the punishment we deserved for our sins, pouring out His life unto death.
“It is finished!” The Law of God and all righteousness has been fulfilled for us in the perfect life of His Son. The penalty of the Law has been satisfied and the wages of sin has been paid for, in the innocent death of His Son for us. At the cross, we see God’s great Exchange fulfilled; For He made His Son to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
And now that He has done it all for us, He gives it all to us. It says in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” For why did the Son of God leave behind the riches of His heavenly Kingdom and come into this world as one who was born, lived, and died in such poverty and lowliness? Why did He humble Himself in obedience, even to the point of deepest poverty and suffering on the cross as the one bearing all our sins? Was it not so that He could lift us up in the riches of His grace, as heirs of His Kingdom and glory? Through baptism and faith, God has given us all the riches of His salvation.
First, by all that Jesus accomplished for us, we are made rich in His forgiveness and holiness. Do we grieve over sins of commission in our lives – the things we have done that we should not have? Do bear a burden of guilt and shame, and wish we could go back and undo the wrong? Do we grieve over sins of omission – the things we have not done that we should have done? Do we bear a burden of regret, and wish we could go back and do things the right way? As we confess our sins, God assures us that, because of the finished work of His Son, all wrongs have been removed in Christ; for the blood of Jesus cleanses us of all sin. And all that has been left undone has been fulfilled in the perfect life of Christ. As the baptized children of God in Christ, the perfect life of Jesus from conception to death covers our entire life, so that God sees us as His holy children.
Therefore, by all that Jesus accomplished for us, we are made rich in daily life. How often, we realize we cannot do it all, even in matters of this world. We find ourselves weak, hurt, confused, and helpless at times. Yet as we cry out in our need, He who lived, died, and rose again for us, is watching over our lives. Jesus is interceding for us at His Father’s right hand; guaranteeing that He is working all things together for our good. Our life is in His loving hands, day by day. He is fulfilling all His plans for us in both good times and bad times. We have His promise in Philippians 1:6: “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” God, who brought us to faith by His Spirit, is continuing to strengthen us in faith as He brings Christ’s salvation to us in Word and Sacrament.
Finally, by all that Jesus accomplished for us, we are made rich in eternal life. How often, in the face of death, we feel our utter inability to do anything – for a loved one or for ourselves. Yet Jesus, who died and rose again for our salvation, is preparing a place for us in His Father’s Kingdom. Even in death, He will do it all for us, bringing our souls to Himself; and at last resurrecting with perfect bodies. Then at last, we will live with God in heavenly perfection.
“It is finished!” We hear our Savior’s shout of victory from the cross – the victory He won for us. When it came to salvation from sin and death, we were completely helpless to do it ourselves. But because Jesus lived, died, and rose again for us, we freely receive all the riches of His salvation and eternal life. Let us entrust our lives to Him who has done it all for us; for He who gave His all for us, now give His all to us.
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.