Do me a favor and read John 19:16b-30. I’ll wait.
Done? Let’s move on.
Everything during this time is leading up to those final words from Jesus. Everything is leading up to this final proclamation from Jesus that, “It is finished.” Words that spoke of the pain, the suffering, the enduring and long-drawn-out sacrifice…and yet words that speak of hope, joy, and eternal grace – and to some, they might find those words to be somewhere in between and leaning into frustration, annoyance, and even anger.
So what does “It is finished” mean?
From one standpoint it’s three words that put an end to suffering. There’s no debate here – what Jesus endured was absolutely horrific. What we didn’t read is that all of this torture stated by being beaten and flogged. And before that it was a betrayal. So he is betrayed, handed over to the Roman authorities, stripped down to not much clothing, and beaten to within an inch of death. Then, he’s paraded in front of the crowd – and then sent to his death. But before death could come the torture would continue.
We read in verses 17-18 that “Carrying His own cross, Jesus went out.” It was a Roman practice that a criminal, in which Jesus was deemed to be, to carry on your back the very beam of the cross you would be nailed to. Jesus carried this massive beam through the crowds on the street. He carried it through their shots, their cries, their laughter, their vocal abuse and whatever else they shouted and did. And this wasn’t a short distance either. It was just over .2 miles from the Praetorium, where it began, to the location of Golgotha, where it would end…but that’s a straight shot length. That’s as the “crow flies”. So instead of a .2 mile straight shot Jesus had to weave in and through the streets of Jerusalem. Up and down hills, left and right along cobbled streets. Over a half a mile long…which may not seem bad until we remember that he carries not only the beam, but the heaviness of the words from those around him, the betrayal, and the lashes that cut through flesh and muscle. So while we can speculate that the beam possibly would have weighed somewhere between 70 to 90 lbs…it wasn’t JUST the beam. The weight of the world, and her sin, was upon him. Once to Golgotha, to the place where he would be crucified, the crucifixion would begin. Laying down on your back, and upon the cross, Jesus would have nailed driven through his wrists and feet – and then, once nailed, the cross would be raised up and inserted into a hole that was already dug so that the cross, and victim, were raised high. And it is in this position, hanging from nails that pierced skin, flesh, bones, tendons, and nerves, that you would wait to die.
It is now that Jesus waits. It is now that Jesus sees the Roman soldiers play games for his clothing. It is now that Jesus, with loving and encouraging words, asks his mom to take in his disciple. It is now, as Jesus feels, and sees, his death coming closer that he asks for something to drink. It is now, that Jesus says, “It is finished” and gives up his spirit.
To some, “it is finished” is comforting because it shows Jesus’ humanity as he has been enduring so much pain. To some those words speak of the declaration that you cannot hurt me anymore, you cannot beat me anymore, you cannot take anything else away from me because my very life is now gone. Death is no longer at the door – death is consuming me. To some, it’s Jesus declaring, “You cannot berate me any longer. You cannot physically, mentally, and emotionally hurt me like you have. I have endured so much – that nothing else can be done.” But is that what “it is finished” means?
To some, those words might feel like God is saying, “I’m done with humanity…look what you made me do! I’m done with you, I’m done with your sin, I’m done with your anger, your hatred, your spewing of vile – it’s finished! I gave you my Son! I gave you a chance to return to me, to learn from him, to watch him, to follow and abide by him but, instead, you have chosen to hate, harm, and crucify him. I give you time, hope, joy, peace, and love…and you repay me with evil!” So, to some people, this may be the feelings they have. Which may seem legitimate. Because we DID do that! Here was, is the Son of God. And he came to bring us back to the Father and how do we repay his love, his grace, his mercy, his life? By killing him!?
And to those people who feel that way – I get it. But…that’s not what’s happening here. This isn’t a moment of anger or hatred or rage or righteous indignation or a “washing my hands of you” moment by God – this, rather harshly and very much needed abuse, crucifixion, and death, is a moment done at the hands of humanity and yet led by, and allowed to happen by God as it declares and eternal act, of love.
See, those words of “it is finished”, while yes deal with pain and suffering, they even more so declare that the very work of Christ…IS FINISHED. That this cross was the ending of his reason to come. So what was the work of Christ?
Christ left his throne on high so he could take on the wrath of God’s anger towards sin – and that while his anger wasn’t towards his Son, Christ, by taking on human form, was able to take upon his shoulders our sin, and God’s wrath.
The “it is finished” with Christ was that God’s condemnation TOWARDS sin was no more.
The “it is finished” is Christ declaring that no more would my sin, your sin, our sin, keep us away from God as Christ stepped in, has become our mediator, and reconciled us with God.
The “it is finished” is Christ declaring that he is the “propitiator” – the appeaser of God’s demands for the payments of, and for, sin.
The “it is finished” is Christ’s final breath declaring that the people of God are now redeemed, restored, set free, given a future, and adopted as sons and daughters.
“It is finished” declares that this was willfully done. That it was by choice. It wasn’t forced, he wasn’t coerced…but he willingly took the steps that would lead him to his death…one that declares the work of GOD and not the work of people.
The “it is finished” recognizes, and declares, that Christ came for a purpose, a reason, and that that time…is done. Christ wasn’t just some random super nice guy who loved people. Christ wasn’t just a Rabbi or a teacher who had a cult following – Jesus Christ was, and is the Messiah. The Son of God. Second in the Trinity. The one whom all was created through and for and the payment, the final one, the last one…was not only paid but it was “paid in full.”
With his last breath, as the nails in his hands and feet held him against the wood, with dried blood, with lungs and legs on fire from the tension, from the trying to breathe while hanging, before offering up his spirit…he declares that the sins of the people of God are now paid in full for God had made him, who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
And with that, after all that Christ suffered, he bowed his head and willingly gave up his spirit…for you.
It is finished.
The mission of God to redeem his people, is finished.
The removal of a perfect, sinless life, for the sins of you and I, is finished.