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“I’m finished!” says the student who has checked over their test and made sure that they answered every question, filled in every bubble, crossed every “t” and dotted every “I”.
“It’s Finished!” says the crafter who has worked for years on a delicate embroidery project and they are sure they haven’t missed a stich.
“It Is Finished!” that’s what Jesus said from the cross moments before he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. What’s finished? Every little detail of the mission the father had given him. No detail, no matter how small, was left unfinished. Every prophecy of Scripture that applied to the Messiah, who he was and what he would do was fulfilled. Not one little detail was left unfulfilled.
Was he born of a virgin? Yes. Was he born in Bethlehem? Yes. Did he spend some time in Egypt? Yes. Was he called a Nazarene? Yes. Was his way prepared by a prophet like Elijah? Yes. Did his zeal for the Lord’s house consume him? Yes, he cleared the sellers from the temple courts twice. Was he a prophet like Moses, speaking messages from God and performing miracles? Yes. Was he betrayed by one of his own? Yes. Did his disciples flee when he, the Shepherd, was arrested? Yes. Did they pierce his hands and his feet? Yes. Did someone cast lots for his clothing? Yes. Did his tongue stick to the roof of his mouth because of thirst so that he asked for a drink? Yes. Were any of his bones broken? No. Was he with the rich in his death? He was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, who was rich. Need I go on?
It’s really amazing, isn’t it? Look at all the prophecies that were made about the Messiah. Look at how many little details were given. Think about the fact that some of these prophecies were given 700, even 1000 years before Jesus was ever born. Some of them were things that, humanly speaking, he had no control over, like the place of his birth. No mere human, even if they had studied and memorized every detail of every prophecy about the Messiah, could have arranged to fulfill each and every detail perfectly the way Jesus did. What mere human being, suffering the torment of crucifixion, would have the presence of mind to remember a little detail of prophecy like asking for a drink?
Jesus made sure that every little detail of every prophecy about the Messiah was perfectly fulfilled in his birth, life, and death. He wanted us to consider these things, even calling our attention to the prophecies of Psalm 22 by reciting the first verse of that Psalm from the cross, so that we would have no doubt that he is the promised Messiah who was to come. We need not look for another. It is finished. The prophecies of Scripture regarding the Messiah are all perfectly fulfilled in Jesus.
It is Finished! The work that the Father gave him to accomplish is complete. He doesn’t have to suffer any longer. He can say, “father into your hands I commit my spirit.”
What was that work the Father had given him? God requires the perfect keeping of his law. He requires that everyone love him, the one who gave them life and breath and all their possessions, more than anyone or anything else. He requires that everyone love their neighbor, including those who persecute them, as unselfishly and completely as God loves us. He requires that we not just avoid sin, but that we have pure hearts and motives, and that we never say anything that is unkind or untrue.
Obviously, we fail to do this. We lack the perfection that God demands. But how did Jesus fare? At his baptism, and again at his transfiguration the Father declared that he was well pleased with Jesus. Jesus challenged anyone to prove that he was guilty of sin. Even when people made up lies about him they couldn’t do that. The lies didn’t stick. When he could have lied and saved himself the torment of scourging and crucifixion, he told the truth. When the high priest put him under oath and asked him if he was the Son of God he said Yes!
Paul tells us that Jesus was born under the law to redeem us. He took on flesh and blood so that he could be subject to God’s demand for perfection, and, though tempted in every way, just as we are, he remained without sin. It is Finished! Mission accomplished.
But there was another part of the mission that the Father gave Jesus. Once his demand for perfection had been satisfied, there still remained his demand for justice. God’s laws were broken. Someone had to pay. The law demands it.
What does God say is the just punishment for sin? The wages of sin is death. The Bible defines death in a number of ways. It talks about physical death, and it talks about the second death. Because there is sin, there is physical death. God told Adam and Eve that if they sinned, they would die. The Devil said, “no you won’t”. But they did die, and so has every person who has ever lived, because all have sinned. But as bad as physical death is, the greater consequence of sin is the second death. John describes the Second Death as a lake of burning sulfur. Jesus describes it as outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. It’s suffering that comes from being separated from God. That’s the punishment we should receive, and which we justly deserve for our sins.
Jesus’ mission was to take on himself that punishment as our substitute. The Bible says that God laid on him the iniquity of us all. It says that Jesus was delivered over to death for, or because of our sins. He bore our sins in his body on the tree. As he called out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” an eerie darkness covered the land. Jesus was suffering the forsakenness, the darkness, the hell that we deserve for our sins.
Then, when Jesus realized that his suffering for the sins of the world was complete, that he had endured the punishment due for every sin, past, present and future, he declared “It is Finished!
It is Finished! God is not and will not punish you for your sins because he has already given your punishment to Jesus. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. It is Finished! There is nothing left for you to suffer or to do to earn your salvation. Jesus did it all for you. It is Finished! Satan can accuse you all he wants, God is not listening to him because his laws have been kept and his justice has been satisfied by Jesus.
As we look at Jesus on the cross through the eyes of faith, we are at first filled with sorrow. We realize that he is suffering because of us. He is there on the cross because of our sins. But, when we hear him say “It is Finished!” We rejoice because we know what it means. It’s not just that his suffering has come to an end. It means that his mission is accomplished. God’s law has been kept in our place. God’s justice has been satisfied. Jesus has paid for the sins of the whole world, which means, because I’m part of the world, my sins are paid for in full. There’s nothing left for me to do when it comes to my salvation, but to say, “Thank you Jesus for living and dying in my place!” It Is Finished!