Summary: Jesus has done everything. And He gives it all to you as a gift.
We know how satisfying it feels to do a job well done. At times, the harder the work, the greater the satisfaction. The more intense the toil, the greater the joy of completion. A doctor saves a life and restores health. A worker finishes a difficult and complicated project. A woman gives birth after hours of exhausting labor. Not only do we experience an enormous sense of relief, but pride and joy in seeing a job well done.
So in our mind’s eye, we now go to Golgotha’s stony slope, at the foot of the cross. There we see Jesus. You see Him struggling to breathe. It looks as if the weight of the entire world is on His shoulders, for it is. He has been there several hours on the cross, and now we hear Him say, “It is finished.”
Yet, they are not sad and mournful words. It’s not as if He had said, “I’m finished,” or “I’m done for,” as someone might say in fear when the dark shroud of death descends on him. Those words--despite Jesus’ weariness and anguish--were words of triumph and words of great satisfaction. For He had finished all that His Father had sent Him to do.
Yes, Jesus completed His entire ministry on earth, His preaching and teaching, and He had finished His whole work of obeying and fulfilling God’s Law. But even more important, He had completed what He needed to do to redeem the world. He could, indeed, look with satisfaction on this work and say with pride, “It is finished.”
It’s as Isaiah wrote: “He will prolong His days, and the will of the LORD will succeed by His hand. Because of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied. Through His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:10-11). Now Jesus has earned, won, and redeemed the whole world, a work that only God in the flesh could do--a work too great for any mere man to even begin to do.
If anyone ever had the right to say “It is finished,” it was Jesus. Yet, He does not say these words to express His own pride and satisfaction. He speaks them, or better said, He speaks it--for in the original language it was just one word--as a short sermon for us. Why? So we sinful beings might have comfort, true assurance, and salvation. And so we meditate on Jesus’ brief sermon: “It is finished.”
First, what is finished? What Jesus finished was nothing less than redeeming sinners, that is, paying for their sins. That’s what Jesus finished. The wages of sin are high: the wages of sin is death, and nothing less. And when the Scripture says that, it means not only the death of the body, but also the eternal death of soul and body in hell. The wages of sin is the endless wrath of God against sinners and His eternal separation from them.
It was those wages that Jesus received in full. He didn’t just die. He hung nailed to the cross, the focus of an entire lifetime of humility, rejection, and persecution. On the cross, He suffered the pangs of hell in full.
Jesus did this as the Substitute for sinners. He satisfied the holy and righteous anger of God toward the world by stepping in the place of sinners, sinners like you, sinners like me. Jesus did this even though He was fully innocent.
Jesus was without sin. But that’s only part of the story. Although sinless, Jesus became “sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). That’s why your sins and my sins have been paid for in full, so He could make us righteous and we could spend eternity in God’s presence.
That’s why when death glowers over us, we can approach it without fear, even with a sense of victory and satisfaction. Now we can’t smile at death because we have lived a wonderful life. We can only do so because Jesus has made our life acceptable to God the Father.
Well, what else? What did Jesus finish? Our justification, and no less; for our God has forgiven our sins. Because of Jesus, we are guilty no more. He has absolved our sins and crimes, and they have been erased from God’s courtroom record. God sees us as perfect and sinless, without spot or wrinkle. Because of Jesus, our consciences have been washed with pure water and cleansed from dead works to serve the living God.
How thoroughly is that work finished? Fully and perfectly; that’s how well Jesus finished the work He was sent to do. Yet, the work isn’t simply finished, the work has been finished. That means the effects of Jesus’ work goes on and on, that it impacts us to this day.