It is finished!
Easter week is here again. As ever from many cards in the shops, someone visiting from outer space could be forgiven for thinking it is about eggs, fluffy ducklings and the like. The events in 1st century Jerusalem hardly get a look in, if at all.
These words, “It is finished” – we can read these in the crucifixion account in John 19.
What was Jesus declaring as he cried this out, amid all the pain and agony?
He was not shouting, “I am finished!”
Have you ever had a time in life where you basically said or felt “I’m done, it is over”?
This was not such a moment for Christ. Yes, he was physically broken, weak, thirsty, in intense pain. But he was not defeated nor a failure.
It is true on the night before, the reality of what he would be going through caused real angst, “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). But nevertheless on a previous occasion, it is recorded that he declared,
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life so that I may take it up again… I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18)
It might seem like the religious authorities opposed to Christ had got the upper hand and also that he was useless before the full might of Roman execution. But he was not finished…
He was not shouting “it is finished – it has failed!
Some have argued that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher trying to herald in a new order. When the Jewish nation did not respond, he even went to the cross still believing that God would answer. But God didn’t. Hence they see the cry that Jesus makes from words in Psalm 22 as fitting their theory, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus did cry out those words, in moments that we cannot even begin to imagine – not just the physical pain but also what it meant to take the ‘sin’ of humanity upon himself. Yet his mission had not failed. Though his followers all ran away when he was arrested, though John in his Gospel records very few of family or friends being at the cross; what Christ came to do had not been a failure…
He was declaring, “It is finished, it is done!”
“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished”. With that he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30)
Matthew in his Gospel records at that point, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51)
This huge, thick curtain separated off the Most Holy Place from the rest of the Temple and so from the people. The Most Holy Place represented God’s presence. Only once a year would the high priest enter through the curtain area on the Day of Atonement. After a whole ceremonial procedure beforehand, he would go into seek forgiveness/cleansing for the nation. And it had to be done every year.
Jesus’ death on the cross paid for atonement once and for all. As Isaiah prophesied, “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him…” (Isaiah 53:5). In the New Testament we can read, “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, his body…” (Hebrews 10:19-20). The writer here uses the imagery of the Temple and what happened with the curtain to point others to the work of Christ.
- The ultimate penalty of our wrongdoing is paid for by Christ
- The power of the need to do wrong is broken through the work of Christ on the cross
- The proof that this is true is in His resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15 we can read, “the sting of death is sin” (v56). Jesus conquered death. He also conquered the power of sin.
There is forgiveness available in Christ and being made right with God and other people.
Of course, such a truth is not an excuse for us to act however we want, saying ‘Christ died for me, so it is covered’. Nor does it mean where wrongs have been done against other people that there should not be justice. Plus in asking the Lord’s forgiveness for things, it may come to our minds, that in receiving forgiveness there are things we need to go and put right with others.
It is finished! How will you and I live in the light of this, not just this Easter but in the months to come?