JOHN 19 28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that 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.
IT IS FINISHED! What is finished? Let me unpack that phrase for you this morning. What was finished? As we have worked our way through John’s Gospel we have seen Jesus talk about his death several times.
Back in John 10 Jesus talked about the Good Shepherd who saves his sheep by dying for his sheep.
JOHN 10 11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Jesus is clearly looking forward here to his death on the cross on behalf of his disciples, his sheep.
14 ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Amazing love, O what sacrifice, the Son of God given for me. My debt He pays, and my death he dies, that I might live.
17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life …. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.
The Jews didn’t crucify Jesus. The Romans didn’t crucify Jesus. No created human being could possibly have laid a hand on the Son of God, the creator of the world, if Jesus Himself had not chosen to lay down his life out of love for us all. The Good Shepherd saves the sheep by giving His own life for ours.
Then in John 11 Jesus explained that his hour had arrived
The hour which Jesus had been anticipating every day of his life was getting very close indeed. It would be a vital hour not just for Jesus but for the whole world, the whole of humanity in every age.
John 12 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.
The judgment of the whole world would hang on that one hour. That hour would bring hope to the world facing the judgment of God. It would be the hour when the devil was finally defeated and the grip of evil on the world would be broken.
But for Jesus it would be the hour of his departure – the hour Jesus had to leave the world.
John 13:1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
So for Jesus this would be the saddest hour, the hour he would be leaving – the hour his life would end – the hour the Son of God would give His life as a ransom for many – the hour Jesus would give up his life. The hour Jesus would show the full extent of His love by dying on the cross. The most important hour of Jesus’s life would not be all the times he spent with his disciples, but the hour he said goodbye to them. Jesus later compared it to an hour like childbirth.
John 16 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: now is your time of grief,
It would be a critical hour for the world. Like the hour of a new birth. The hour when a new era and a new age would spring into being. And afterwards there would be joy, but at the time during the birth there would be only suffering and pain and grief. This was the hour Jesus had been preparing for all through 33 years.
The hour to be lifted up
John 12 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
It is bad enough to anticipate a visit to the dentist or a hospital appointment, or an exam or an interview. Imagine spending 33 years looking forward to your death. And not just a quiet peaceful slipping away, but the terrible agony of being crucified. Being rejected by your own people, betrayed and deserted by all your friends, falsely accused, unjustly convicted, mocked and tormented and finally lifted up nailed on a cross to die.
Being lifted up reveals who Jesus is
John 8 28 So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.
In a mysterious way, his death on the cross will reveal that Jesus really was who he claimed to be – the Son of God. “I and the Father are One.” The cross is the supreme demonstration of God’s love for the world. And that is why the cross is the symbol of the Christian faith. People are not drawn to Jesus by his words or his miracles alone, but especially by His death on the cross.
John 12:31 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’
Being lifted up brings salvation
Jesus said this to Nicodemus.
John 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’
Jesus was recalling events which happened to the Israelites as they were wandering in the wilderness. The bronze snake on a pole was a symbol of salvation. Moses lifted it up, people looked at it and trusted in God and they were healed. So for us the cross of Christ is the symbol of salvation. As we look to it and put our trust in all that Jesus accomplished by dying in our place, so we are saved.
Nobody except Jesus expected that the Messiah, the Son of God, would have to die. Only Jesus realised that it was essential for him to choose to go to the cross, willingly, to die. Because the hour to be lifted up was also,
The hour to be glorified
John 12:23 ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
The hour when the Son of man would be glorified would be the hour in which he died! Here was the principle we see in nature, the seed which dies in the ground in order to produce a harvest, the caterpillar which dies to become a butterfly, the “seed principle” that life only comes through death. That would be the hour in which Jesus would be glorified. The hour He died. Sometimes we think of the resurrection as the point at which Jesus was glorified. But it is the moment in which the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies which is the moment of glory. The death of the seed in the ground may not seem as beautiful as its life in the flower, But the death is essential if more seeds are to follow.
John 12:23 ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
It was in the hour of his death that Jesus would be glorified and that God would be glorified. That was the hour he had come for. Not for the triumphant entry on Palm Sunday. Not even in His glorious resurrection. But in His death. This may be hard for us to appreciate. For us Jesus’s suffering and death seem to be a total defeat. But Jesus is telling us that it is His DEATH which brings victory over the devil. It was Jesus’s DEATH which paid the penalty for sin and frees us from the powers of sin and death and the devil. Jesus’s death is his glorification.
Right at the beginning of the Gospel, John the Baptist had foretold that sacrifice for sin. John testified that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God. But the most important message John brought was this.
John 1 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. Jesus was the Son of God. But most important, Jesus came to be the Saviour – to set people free from the penalty and the punishment of their sins. Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
The title, “The Lamb of God”, would have reminded any Jew of at least three parts
of the Old Testament and each of those tell us something about the ministry of Jesus. Firstly, the Lamb of God is a reminder of the Passover Lambs – the lambs which were sacrificed so that the Israelites would be spared when the angel of death passed through Egypt and the Tenth Plague killed every firstborn child and animal. Only the children of the Israelites escaped and that was because they had sacrificed a lamb and smeared the blood of the sacrifice on their doors. That was what persuaded Pharaoh to let the people of Israel leave Egypt. In echoes of the Exodus, the Lamb of God brings salvation and freedom to God’s chosen people.
Secondly, the Lamb of God would remind any Jew of the lambs which were sacrificed on different occasions for the forgiveness of sins. Two lambs were sacrificed every day at the Tent of Meeting, making a way for people to meet with God. But then also on the Day of Atonement, just once a year, only one man, the great High Priest was allowed into the most holy place in the Temple, the Holy of Holies, to present this sacrifice for sin. This sacrifice of atonement dealt with all the sins of all the people.
But then there was a third understanding of the Lamb of God in the Old Testament. The Jews did not understand its significance, but this would become very important in the ways that Christians understood the ministry and especially the death of Jesus. This was the Lamb of God in the prophecy of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah chapter 53. Seven centuries before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah looked ahead to this individual, and even compared him to a lamb.
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
This servant of God would be rejected and ultimately sacrificed, which is exactly what Jesus foretold many times about his own life and death
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.
But this sacrifice was God’s way of dealing with the sins of the world.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
And this sacrifice by the Lamb of God indeed took away the sins of the world
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The sacrifice of the omnipotent Father is as great as the sacrifice of the helpless Son. God’s deity is divided! The Holy Trinity, God the three-in-One, is split apart by OUR sin as Christ the Son shares our rebellion and separation from God the Father!
And at the end of all this we find Jesus saying just one word, which translates into English as, “It is finished!” What did Jesus mean by those words?
Not “I’m finished” but “IT is finished”
Not “I’m done for”, not “I’m done in”, but “It is done”, “I’ve done it!”.
It is completed. It is accomplished. It is finished!!
Jesus’s death on the cross was God’s plan of salvation. That is what was completed – THAT is what was finished! The cross was all part of God’s master plan for salvation. But we can only understand the cross if we see it in cosmic terms. There on the cross Jesus was dying for sin – paying the penalty WE should pay for our rebellion against God, for our disobedience and pride, taking on Himself OUR punishment. That is what was finished as Jesus died. That is what was completed!
Looked at in terms of “the shortness of time” the life of Jesus ended in failure. But looked at from the perspective of the vastness of eternity” the cross wasn’t failure – but success! It wasn’t defeat but victory!!! The cross was the ultimate victory over sin, over death, over the devil. It is finished! It has reached its end. It is completed.
I hate paying bills – but there’s a tremendous satisfaction in handing over the money and seeing that stamp “paid in full”. They used to have tax bills in Jesus’s time, and they used to write over the bills in Latin “consummatum est”, or in Greek “tetelestai” “paid in full”. And that’s what Jesus cries here on the cross. “Telelestai”, “paid in full”. With sin’s account settled, our debt of guilt was indeed wiped out! It is finished!
This is the great difference between the Christian religion and every other religion in the world. Every other religion can be summed up in just two letters but the Christian faith needs four!
Every other religion says ‘DO! D_O. Do this, do that, do the other and you will find salvation”.
But Christianity says “It is DONE! D_O_N_E. It is accomplished. It is finished!”
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood: Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
Lifted up was He to die, ‘It is finished!’ was His cry:
Now in heaven exalted high: Hallelujah! what a Saviour!