"It Is Finished!"
A sermon based on John 19:28-30
Friday, April 6, 2012 – Good Friday
Crucifixion was a horrible way to die. It was torture. As you slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists excruciating pain shots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. As you pushed yourself upward to avoid this stretching torment, you would place your full weight on the nail through your feet. Again, the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves in your feet.
As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push yourself upward. Hanging by your arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. You would have to fight in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Occasionally, you might be able to push yourself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.
It was undoubtedly during these periods that with some difficulty Jesus uttered the seven short sentences spoken from the cross that are recorded in the Bible. And we'll review all seven "Words of the Cross" in a moment. But for now, we focus on just two of them, recorded for us in John 19:28-30…
28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
John says, "Later," after he spoke to Mary and John, after the three hours of darkness, after three hours of torment hanging on the cross, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." John is the only one to record these words of Jesus from the cross, perhaps because he was the only one close enough to hear that quiet voice that must have been little more than a tortured whisper. "I am thirsty."
Jesus had a real thirst because Jesus had true humanity. His suffering was real. Like anyone dying, his lips grew parched and his tongue dried up. With the blood he'd lost being scourged, with the wrenching pain he felt as his limbs were almost pulled out of their sockets, with the pressure on his lungs and heart, the agony was very real.
But Jesus suffered much more than physical pain as excruciating as it must have been. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Jesus suffered the torments of hell itself. In Luke's account of the rich man and poor Lazarus, the torments of hell are represented by a violent thirst in the complaint of the rich man that begged for a drop of water to cool his tongue. Jesus suffered that thirst of hell. He was separated from God the Father. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)
But why did Jesus have to suffer all this? We want to object, "It's so unfair! After all, he was innocent!" But when we stop to think about it, we realize that Jesus was guilty. He was guilty of our sins. Not all people deserve to be executed for crimes against the state, but all deserve death from the hand of God. It was not just the sin of the Jews, of Pilate. Pf the soldiers, but of us. Our sins caused his thirst… Our sins caused his pain… Our sins caused his hell and his death…
As John watched Jesus suffer such agony with his own eyes, his heart must have been crushed realizing that his sin put Jesus there. But in the same moment John also heard with his own ears a reminder of God's great love…
I. All Scripture is Fulfilled
29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished."
Before when it was offered, Jesus refused any pain killers because he wanted to take the full brunt of the punishment we deserve. But now that his sufferings were over, he accepted the drink. Perhaps one of the centurions nearby felt pity on this dying man and hoisted a sponge on the end of a spear. And as soon as Jesus sucked the spoiled wine now turning to vinegar, with his lips moistened he no longer spoke in a whisper, but loudly, and clearly called out, "It is finished."
But what was finished?
The attacks of his enemies were finished? His sufferings were finished? His life was finished? But is that all Jesus meant? Listen again to what John said, "Later, knowing that all was now completed… so that the Scripture would be fulfilled…"
Jesus had fulfilled all of Scripture—all of the details of all of the prophecies. Like placing the keystone in an arch everything now fit together perfectly. It was now complete. It was now finished.
When Jesus said, "I am thirsty," we can't help but think of Psalm 22 which said, "My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth," (Psalm 22:15) and Psalm 69: "They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst." (Psalm 69:21) Jesus fulfilled these prophecies and every prophecy and type.
Over the past six weeks we've studied many of those prophecies: The ram sacrificed in Isaac's place, the ladder to heaven Jacob saw in his dream, the one who fulfilled the law's demands, the bronze snake lifted up on a tree to save those who believe in the promise, the one who brought the new covenant—all fulfilled in Christ on Good Friday.
Last night we recalled the Passover lamb whose blood painted on the doorposts saved the Israelites lives and see Jesus fulfill that type as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and by whose blood God's wrath does pass over us.
And even the finer details of prophecy were fulfilled—now finished and made complete: He rode into the city on a donkey, he was betrayed by a close friend, sold for thirty pieces of silver, deserted by his followers, mocked and ridiculed, stripped of his inner garment that was gambled over, pierced in his hands and his feet, with no bones broken.
And we could go on and on with examples like these. Jesus completed every prophecy and every type. Jesus fulfilled all of Scripture. Jesus knowing that all was now completed and that all of Scripture had been fulfilled was right in saying, "It is finished."
II. Our Salvation is Procured
The prophecies of his suffering and his work were now finished. His mission on earth was finished and soon his life would be finished (at least for a time). But that's not all. You see, because these things were finished much more was finished too. Let's look at some more Scriptures that Jesus finished.
Genesis 3:15 promised, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." That first gospel promise made to Adam and Eve had now come true. Satan struck Jesus' heel by having him nailed to the cross, but in that same act, Satan's power was finished. It was finished because Jesus did away with sin.
Daniel prophesied (in 9:24) "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness." Roughly 500 years after the temple was rebuilt ("seventy 'sevens'"), sin was finished—it was killed on the cross with Jesus. God will no longer pass judgment upon human beings on the basis of sin. All sin has been removed. Your sin has been removed.
You know, in Greek, the phrase "it is finished" is just one word: tetelestai. In ancient archaeology they have found some papyrus tax receipts tetelestai written across them, meaning "paid in full." Christ made the payment for our sin in full. His redemptive work is complete; an accomplished fact. There's nothing left for us to do.
Thus, the most important moment in history came to completion. "30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." Jesus gave up his spirit. He chose to die; an act of the will. No one took Jesus life from him, but he laid it down of his own accord, willingly offering himself to complete the mission once and for all.
With what strength he had left, he called out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46) and cried out with a loud voice, with the triumphant cry of the dying Victor!
A rather unconventional pastor named Alexander Wooten, was once approached by a young man who asked him, "What must I do to be saved?" "It's too late!" Wooten replied, and went back to his work. The young man became alarmed. "Do you mean that it's too late for me to be saved?" he asked. "Is there nothing I can do?" "It's too late!" said Wooten. "It's already been done! The only thing you can do is believe." Jesus did it all. No human needs to complete or finish what he has done. "It is finished."
Jesus completed his life of perfect obedience to God the Father. He completed the task which was set before him—the task of redeeming the world. All that remained now was God's stamp of approval on what he did. That would come Easter morning… But for Jesus' part he was done. All of Scripture was fulfilled. Mission accomplished! The victory is won! Our Salvation is complete! "It is finished." Amen.