It Is Finished
Posted by Timothy Wambunya, 8 Apr 2020
Today's Lent post comes from Timothy Wambunya, who considers what it means that Jesus's work on the cross is finished.
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ 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. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken,’ and, as another scripture says, ‘They will look on the one they have pierced.’
What has Jesus finished?
Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30
‘It is finished.’ This phrase was the conquering cry of our Lord Jesus Christ as he died on the cross for all who would ever believe in him. These three words remind us that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has done everything that he needed to do for our redemption.
The finished work of salvation
John writes that before the Roman ‘colonial’ soldiers arrested Jesus, he prayed his last public prayer to the Father saying ‘I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do’ (John 17:4). Jesus specifically asks the Father to glorify him (recognise him) for finishing the work that God had given him to do on earth. This event was a ‘triumphant climax’ that merited a special ‘milestone.’
Doctor Luke and Apostle Paul remind us that the work Jesus (the Son of man) had been sent to do was ‘to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10), to be ‘a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith’ (Romans 3:25), and to reconcile sinful people to a Holy God. The Apostle Paul adds when writing to the Corinthians: ‘All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Only God in the flesh could undertake and complete such a unique role.
Further completed was the fulfilment of all Old Testament prophecies and predictions of the coming liberator (Messiah). Beginning from the book of Genesis to Malachi, over three hundred detailed prophecies predicting the coming of Jesus are fulfilled. From the ‘offspring’ who would ‘crush the serpent’s head’ (Genesis 3:15), to the suffering servant in Isaiah, to the prediction of John the Baptist, the ‘messenger’ of the Lord who would ‘prepare the way’ for the messiah — all are fulfilled and finished at the cross.
The completed victory
Although the redemption of humankind is the most crucial finished undertaking, many other things were completed at the cross. The sufferings Jesus endured and especially in his last hours, were finished. God’s will for Jesus was finished in his perfect obedience to the Father. Jesus himself alludes to his ‘obedience’ to the Father when he says ‘for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me’ (John 5:30). Then again, he adds, ’I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me’ (John 6:38).
Most importantly, Satan and the power of sin was finished. No longer would humankind have to feel the pain of the ‘flaming arrows of the evil one’ (Ephesians 6:16). This agony is now totally extinguished by the shield of faith in Jesus, who has finished everything. By holding up the ‘shield of faith’ in the Jesus who finished the work of redemption, we can, by faith, live as new creations in Christ. Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross was the beginning of new life for all who were once ‘dead in your transgressions and sins’ but who are now ‘made alive with Christ’ (Ephesians 2:1, 5). Moreover, lest we forget ‘it is by grace, you have been saved’ (Ephesians 2:8).
Whatever needs to be done has been done by Christ. The debt is paid; forgiveness is offered to all. Nothing remains for us to do but to put our trust in the finished work of the cross which God has accepted. It is finished. No ‘if’ or ‘but’ or ‘maybe’ — victory over sin and death has been won for us. Therefore, it is finished indeed.
Questions for Reflection
1. How did the achievement of the cross upset the expectations of Jesus’s enemies?
2. Why could his death not be the end of the story?
3. What impact does it have on our Christian lives when we forget his finished work for us?
Almighty God, redeemer of humankind,
whose Son Jesus Christ finished the work for our salvation on the cross,
paying the full price for our sins,
and offering us the gift of eternal life:
grant that we, who proclaim his death for our salvation,
may also heed his call to take up our cross and follow him;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
Timothy Wambunya is the Bishop of Butere in Western Kenya. He is the founder and chair of trustees of the African Institute for Contemporary Mission and Research (AICMAR) and editor of The Big Issues Impacting the Growth of the Church.
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