This Lesson is part of John’s Gospel Easy Notes Series.
It was a cry of triumph. It was a cry of victory. All that needed to be done for man’s salvation was done. There is nothing more any one of us can add to it.
“Jesus died with a shout of triumph on his lips. He did not say, “It is finished,” in weary defeat; he said it as one who shouts for joy because the victory is won. He seemed to be broken on the Cross, but he knew that his victory was won.” – William Barclay
Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37 and Luke 23:46, record that Jesus cried out with a loud voice but it is only John who has recorded what he said. The Greek word tetelestai literally means “done.” Everything Jesus came to do was accomplished; there was no unfinished business left for him on earth to do.
Was It Easy?
It cost Jesus everything. See him in the Garden of Gethsemane. As a human being he recoiled from going to the cross. “Abba, Father,” ‘he said,’ “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will (Mark 14:36).” Thrice he prayed thus. He was in great anguish. An angel from heaven came to him to strengthen him. His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44). The struggle was so intense. Hebrews says, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears (Luke 5:7). Amazing!
But he obeyed. He submitted himself to his Father’s will. Just like Isaac allowed himself to be bound on the wood on the altar (Genesis 22:9), Jesus stretched out his hands on the cross for the nails to pierce them and be hammered into the wood.
Always, people ask the question “Why the cross? Was there no other way for God?” The answer is that Death could not be defeated in any other than by the death of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead.
For the first time, Satan could not hold someone a prisoner of death. He had no legal claim on Jesus (see Acts 2:24). The soul who sins shall die says the Bible (Ezekiel 18:20). Now Satan became a true murderer (see John 8:44, 10:10a) because he engineered the killing of the Son of God whose blood was innocent. The Son of Man had tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9, 14, 15) that he might destroy the devil who holds the power of death .
Therefore Jesus cried on the cross, “It is finished.”
What Was Finished?
- The Old Testament was looking forward to the coming of Jesus right from the promise of Genesis 3:15.
- His birth of a virgin was predicted (Isaiah 7:14).
- His place of birth was predicted (Micah 5:2).
- Who he is, was predicted (Isaiah 9:6).
- Jesus cleansing the temple, zeal for the Lord’s house (Psalm 69:9, John 2:17).
- He would teach in parables (Psalm 78:1, 2, Matthew 13:34, 35).
- Palm Sunday was predicted (Zechariah 9:9).
- His betrayal by a familiar friend was predicted (Psalm 41:9, Zechariah 11:13).
- He will be lifted up on a cross (Numbers 21:9, John 3:14).
- His crucifixion, even before that method was ever invented by the Persians (300—400 B.C)and perfected by the Romans, one thousand years before the event David described it in Psalm 22. See verses 1, 6—8, 13—18 especially.
- Preservation of his body after death and resurrection (Psalm 16:9—11 and 17:15)
- “It is finished” rendered as “for he has done it” (Psalm 22:31).
He was the high priest. He was the sacrifice at the same time. All the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed to the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. He was rejected, despised, a Man of sorrows. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him (Read Isaiah 53, written 700 years before Christ).
All those came to a fulfilment in Jesus. Some Bible scholars say that around 300 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus during his life on earth. The mathematical probability of all those predictions to come true in one person is mind-boggling.
The Torn Curtain and Access to God
When Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, “It is finished,” the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:45). It was a huge curtain almost 60 feet high. God tore it apart. The Holy of Holies was revealed to all. This was the most sacred part of the temple to which only the High Priest could come in after it was completely covered by smoke of the incense and with sprinkling of blood once in a year on the Day of Atonement. Others had no access to that part of the temple. If violated, death penalty was the result.
But God tore the temple curtain apart to let the world know that access to God was made possible through the curtain of his body which was torn apart now. A new and living way through the blood of Jesus was opened for us to go to God 24 x 7 ((Hebrews 10:21, 22).
What do we wait for now. If we sin, there is only one thing to do. With a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) confess approach the throne through the blood of Jesus. You will find a cleansing fountain (1 John 1:7), and a faithful high priest there who will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Is that that simple? Yes.
Do you need to add your good works to it? No.
Do you need to beat your body? No.
Do you need to give money to the church, or missions, or to the poor for forgiveness of sins? No.
You just need to have faith in his blood (Romans 3:25).
That is all that is needed. Nothing more!
Not Enough But Now Complete
Old Testament sacrifices were not enough. They needed to be offered endlessly. But in some mysterious way, Jesus was made sin. He knew no sin: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This is why Jesus felt forsaken on the cross (Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:46). All the guilt of sin, all the debt that we morally owed God because of our sin, all the sins of all mankind right from Adam to the last person to be born on earth were placed on him. Yes, my sins were put on him. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24)” said Peter.
“The Old Testament sacrifices were never complete. There was always need for more, and more, and more. Not one, or all of them together were enough to blot out the consequences of sin for ever. But the supreme sacrifice of Christ is enough. Instead of the fire of God’s condemnation consuming the fire as it did in the Old Testament, the sacrifice consumed, completely used up, the fire. The wrath of God upon sin was completely exhausted by the infinite value of the offering of Jesus Christ. His was a perfect, complete sacrifice to which nothing needed to be or could be added. All that God required to atone for sin was met. His righteousness had been satisfied.” – Paul Tucker
In contrast, people always wanted to do something for their sin. Even today we find people offering animal sacrifices not knowing that the once for all sacrifice has been made. So many people visit places of pilgrimage, so many people offer money to get their sins forgiven, so many people help the poor in the hope that they will earn merit with God, so many people trust their own goodness to be acceptable to God. Nothing doing! It is all in vain. The only thing acceptable to God is the blood of Jesus. When you trust in that precious blood, God sees us in Jesus, the only righteous Man. And that righteousness is given to us all who trust in his blood.
His Perfect Obedience Was Finished
You look at the life of Jesus. You cannot miss one thing. It was life of obedience one of full dependence on his Father in heaven and helped by the Spirit of God remaining in him.
“Throughout the first years of his life he privately obeyed, honouring his father and his mother, during the next three years, he publicly obeyed God, spending and being spent in his service.” — Charles Spurgeon
The obedience was perfect in submission to his Father’s will. No one could accuse him of sin (John 8:46). Satan could not (John 14:30). Pilate found no fault in him (John 19:6). Judas said he had betrayed innocent blood (Matthew 27:4). The centurion said, “Surely this was a righteous man (Luke 23:47).”
God was completely satisfied with the perfect obedience of his son. His justice demanded that sin be punished and on Jesus was placed all punishment. What is the meaning of this?
In simple terms, you are free from the demands of God’s justice when you trust in the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. All that God’s court demanded Jesus paid in full. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).” “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).” This is faith in his blood (Romans 3:25).
Children of God, you who by faith received Christ as your all in all, tell it every day of your lives that “it is finished.” God neither asks nor accepts any other sacrifice than that which Christ offered once for all upon the cross.”
“Oh! You may be assured of it today—if you believe in Christ you are saved. “But I feel imperfections. Yet, but what of that? God does not regard your imperfections, but he covers them with Christ’s righteousness. He sees them to remove them, but not to lay them to your charge. “But I cannot be what I would be?” But what if you cannot? Yet God does not look at you, as what you are in yourself, but as what you are in Christ.”– Charles Spurgeon
To sum up,
There is nothing more you can add to what Christ did, accomplished, and finished on the cross. Simply accept it in faith.
The Idol of Self-Righteousness Has to Be Destroyed
Take some time. Pray to God the Holy Spirit to show you the self-righteousness in your life. If you earnestly ask him, he will show that to you. It will be a painful experience as he throws light on your attitudes, behaviour, conversation, secrets, pride, prejudices, and even the “self” and “wrong motives” in your preaching, singing, or even witnessing to Jesus.
The first time I ever read about self-righteousness was in the biography of a missionary who served the Lord in the Himalayan foothills. After twenty years of work, the Lord showed him that all his efforts were based on self-righteousness. It was his statement, “The last idol to be destroyed in the human heart is self-righteousness [quoting from memory]”. As I read it I was shocked. How much more will be shocked as we allow God to turn the scanners on to see what is inside our hearts?
Here is another famous quote on self-righteousness as an idol:
“Self-righteousness….is the largest idol of the human heart – the idol which man loves most and God hates most. Dearly beloved, you will always be going back to this idol. You are always trying to be something in yourself, to gain God’s favour by thinking little of your sin, or by looking to your repentance, tears, prayers; or by looking to your religious exercises, your frames, etc; or by looking to your graces, the Spirit’s work in your heart. Beware of false Christs. Study sanctification to the utmost, but make not a Christ of it.” — Robert Murray M’Cheyne
Jesus had his eyes on the goal. He looked to the cross and looked beyond its shame (Hebrews 12:2).
He said he his food is to do the will of God who sent him and to finish God’s work. One of our problems is that we look at all the problems of world and do nothing. Even Jesus did not attempt to meet the needs of all the world.
He limited himself to what God wanted him to do and complete (John 17:4). Sometimes you get burnt-out in Christian ministry because you are doing too many things which God never asked you to do.
Jesus never acted on his own. Did he not say “By myself I can do nothing” (John 5:19, 30)?
We all should be able to say at the end of our lives, I have finished the work you gave me to do. Paul also expressed the same thought, “I have finished the race (2 Timothy 4:7).”