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It Is Finished! Wait...what is finished?

In John 19:30, Jesus’ final words on the cross before he died were, “It is finished.” To our ears this can easily sound like a cry of defeat – “I’m finished!” Or an outburst of relief – “Finally, my suffering is over!” But that would miss the triumph and joy of what these words actually mean. The phrase we get “It is finished” from in English is actually a translation of the Greek word, τετέλεσται. It means “to end, i.e. complete, execute, conclude, discharge (a debt)”. In other words, the focus is not on the cessation of an activity, but on its being ‘finished’ by virtue of it being ‘completed’. So, if my kids tell me they’ve ‘finished’ cleaning their room, they don’t mean (or shouldn’t!) that they’ve simply stopped cleaning, but that their room is now clean and so it is ‘finished’. And this is precisely what Jesus means by, “It is Finished!” By his death he means ‘the mission is complete!’, ‘the debt is discharged!’, ‘the task is done!’, ‘the race is won!’.

But that begs the question – What does Jesus 'finishing' his task mean for me? The short answer is – EVERYTHING! So, as we move through this week in anticipation of celebrating Good Friday and Easter, I hope you will be encouraged by these 3 ways Jesus' statement “It is Finished” radically changes the reality of all those who belong to Him!

  1. Their DEBT has been PAID IN FULL - It’s very easy for us to forget in a world that constantly talks about God’s love and God’s grace, but rarely his holiness that perfection is God’s standard. So Jesus says in Matt. 5:48, “You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This means that every word, every action, every thought, every attitude that is not totally and completely aligned with the perfect will and nature of God is an act of rebellion against God and earns His righteous judgment and wrath. And so all of us who are born sinning and continue to sin, live in a state of perpetual condemnation because of our failure to obey and love and serve God as he created us to do. This is sometimes portrayed in scripture as our ‘debt’ that we cannot repay, because even if we could be perfect for the rest of our lives – that would not erase the debt we’ve already accrued before Him. But, when Jesus said, “It is finished!” He meant OUR debt of Sin before a Holy God is now paid in full! So Paul writes in Col. 2:13-14 – “…having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” With Jesus’ death, he has fully and finally paid for all our ‘trespasses’ and canceled the ‘record of debt’ that stood against us! Our ‘trespasses’ and our ‘record of debt’ have now been paid in full through Christ's death! It reminds me of when we received a $400K plus hospital bill for our twin's NICU stay when I was making roughly $17K a year waiting tables - there was simply NO WAY I was ever going to repay it. Imagine my relief when the hospital sent us a notice saying that they were writing the WHOLE bill off – 100%! That’s only a dim and poor analogy for the debt Christ ‘finished’ on the cross for us.

  2. Their ENEMY has been DEFEATED – On June 6, 1944 the Allied Forces invaded Europe in what was the largest coordinated invasion in human history. Code named D-Day – this strategic offensive gave Allied forces a foothold in Europe and spelled the beginning of the end for the Nazi war machine. Though fighting would continue for months, the Nazi’s would never again control Europe and Allied forces would be proclaimed finally victorious less than a year later on May 8, 1945 in what came to be known as VE-day (Victory in Europe). Similarly, when Jesus said, “It is finished” he was saying that the enemy’s back has been broken! His hold on this world has been overthrown! So Paul writes in Col. 3:15 that it was through the cross that, “He disarmed the rulers and the authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” This means that God’s people today are no longer obligated to obey the ‘ruler of this world’ because Christ, through the cross, has conquered him! That doesn’t mean we don’t need to still fight that enemy, but that the victory is assured! It's been said that Christians today live between D-Day and VE-Day. Christ conquered the enemy for us on the cross, and because of that we can look forward to the day with confidence when the enemy will be no more!

  3. Their RELATIONSHIP has been RESTORED – I know it’s common to hear things like “we’re all God’s children” – but that misses the reality of our relationship with God in our natural state, which we see in scripture. By nature, our relationship with God is not that of loving Father and Son. No, scripture makes it clear that we are born into a state of hostility with God. He was our enemy, and we were his. So Paul writes in Rom. 8:7, “7 For the mind that is set on the flesh [that is our natural state] is hostile to God..” Why is that? “…for it [our natural selves] does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.” We were born rebels against the God who made us and were hostile towards him because we didn't want to obey Him. We had wronged God and had no intention or desire to make things right. And God would have been right to leave the relationship right there. He didn’t owe it to us to bridge the gap and restore the relationship, but He did. And he did it through Christ and his death on the cross! As Col. 1:21-22 tells us, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him…” Through the cross, Jesus FINISHED the mission of transforming people who were FOES of GOD into His FAMILY! He has accomplished, what humanity in its own power and left to its own devices could not and would not. So we have been restored to a family with a perfect Father, through the death of His Perfect Son, so sinners who were hostile to Him could dwell at his table forever!

So now what can we say to Jesus' words "It is Finished"? Hallelujah! What a savior!

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