Summary: perhaps the most important three words ever spoken in human history were spoken on the cross by God the Son - It is finished!
It Is Finished
Good Friday Sermon
April 22, 2011
John 19:28-30 ESV 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.
Here in this passage, we have perhaps the most significant three words ever spoken in human history. “It is finished.”
About the only other three words that might compete for the title of the most significant three words are what we’ll remember on Sunday. He is risen.
But here, on Good Friday, we see one of the reasons we call this Good Friday. After all, how is the kind of torture Jesus endured good? How is the mocking and the cruel crucifixion of Jesus, something we can call good?
But these are the things that happened on that original Good Friday, and it’s good because of what Jesus said, just prior to giving up His spirit. It is finished.
What Jesus finished at that moment, just moments before He gave up His spirit and died, was scripture calls the atonement. What was finished at that moment was our redemption, the sacrifice required by a Holy God for the eternal forgiveness of sin.
Tonight, let’s think about the significance of these three words, and the deep, rich, amazing story of our salvation etched in those three words, spoken by Jesus from the cross as He died.
Here’s Jesus, the sinless One,having been through a day full of torture and abandonment. Torture including a flogging that made much of his body an open wound, even before he was nailed to the cross. Torture that included pressing a circle of thorns, mockingly called a crown, into his head.
Torture that included having heavy nails driven through his wrists and into his feet. Torture that included being raised up on a wooden crossbeam, and the full weight of his body hanging from those nails as they tore at his flesh. Torture that included being on public display as He suffered. Mocked and scorned as He hung on the cross died.
Abandoned by some of his closest disciples. And forsaken, even momentarily, by God the Father. All this - witnessed by many, including some of his followers and his own mother. A horrible scene – something out of a horror movie. Worse than we can imagine.
But the amazing thing is that this was all part of God’s plan. It was a plan made necessary by human sin and rebellion. It was a plan made possible by the amazing love and grace of our great God. It was a plan essential for our eternal life.
From before the beginning of time, God had a plan to save his human creatures from sin and death. We know this for many reasons, but not the least of the reasons we know this is because Jesus Himself told us so. Jesus said in:
John 10:17-18 (NASB95) "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. "No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father."
So, here we see that Jesus wasn’t in this alone. Jesus sacrificed Himself willingly. He said it was on His own initiative. But we also see it was in cooperation with God the Father. “This is the commandment I received from My Father.”
Oswald Chambers wrote The death of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment in history of the very mind and intent of God. There is no place for seeing Jesus Christ as a martyr. His death was not something that happened to Him— something that might have been prevented. His death was the very reason He came.
With this critical understanding of the nature of this sacrifice, we can put to rest the false characterization some have made of the crucifixion. In denying what theologians call substitutionary atonement, some have said recently that this idea makes it sound as if Jesus is somehow protecting us from God. That is, they think this idea suggests that a nice Jesus saves us from a mean and cruel God.
Because of this wrong understanding, they throw the baby out with the bathwater, dismissing the whole idea of substitutionary atonement, despite the fact that it is clearly the dominant metaphor, in the many ways scripture presents the salvation story.
Yet, some Christian writers have labeled this understanding toxic, mis-representing what substitutionary atonement really is. A Christianity Today writer explains why this is a false understanding.