"It Is Finished!"

John 19:30

Tom Pennington  •  April 12, 2020
Audio   •  PDF
  • Share:

I hope you'll take the Word of God, I hope you have your copy of the Scriptures with you. It's so important that, even though we're not together, even though we're seated in different places and listening along with the worship, that we don't disengage. It's so easy in our culture. Whenever we watch something, our minds sort of disengage and we become spectators. Well, even though we're doing it remotely, this is still worship. We still worship our Lord together. So, I hope you'll join with me now as we turn to the Word of God together.

So, take your Bibles, and I want you to turn with me to John's Gospel, to John chapter 19. As you're turning, let me just note that these are certainly unusual times. It's the first time in my life that I have ever been in a Resurrection service without others with me. My entire life, I grew up in the church. My dad was a music director, and so I was always in the church on Resurrection Sunday, always worshipping with others.

Perhaps this is a first for you, or a rare occasion for you as well. But this is the meaning of the day. This is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But to really understand why the Resurrection is important, you have to go back to Friday. You have to go back to what unfolded there, to the events that we have heard about, that we have sung about this morning, even as we remember the resurrection. That's what I want us to do, back to our Lord's death.

In recent weeks, since the first pandemic has swept this world in more than 100 years, we have all become far too familiar with death. We've watched the numbers of those who have been stricken with the virus and have died, we've watched that number rise. We've watched refrigerated trucks, housing victims' bodies. We've watched mass graves being dug for those who have no next of kin. Because of how this virus progresses, however, we've really not had the opportunity to hear the last words of those who die with this terrible disease.

A person's last words often provide incredible insight into their souls. Certainly, that was true of the last words of our Lord; the seven extraordinary statements that He made from the cross. Those seven statements are often called the Seven Words of the Cross. One of the statements that He made occurs in Matthew and Mark. Three of them occur only in Luke, and three of them are only in John's gospel. Three of them were addressed to God, His Father, one to the thief, one to Mary and John, one to the crowd, and one to everyone.

Jesus made three of these seven statements between 9:00 a.m. and noon; between the time He was crucified, and noon when the darkness fell. The first was recorded in Luke 23:34 when Jesus said from the cross, "…Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." Luke records the second in verse 43 of that same chapter. "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in paradise," addressed to the thief who had believed. The third of them was to His mother, Mary. John 19:26 19:27 says, "Woman, behold, your son!" And to John the Apostle, "Behold your mother!" And then, of course, from noon until three o'clock in the afternoon, complete darkness fell and covered the land. And there was nothing during those three hours but silence from Jesus Christ. But just before 3:00 p.m. on that Friday afternoon, Jesus made a series of four other statements from the cross in quick succession. The fourth is found in Matthew 27:46, when he cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

There we get to the heart of what was really going on on the cross during those hours of darkness, when He was forsaken for all of those who would believe in Him, so that they could be accepted and received. The fifth is in John 19:28, "I am thirsty." The sixth, John 19:30, "It is finished!" And the final and seventh statement from the cross is in Luke 23:46 when he says, "Father into Your hands, I commit My spirit."

These really are profound sayings that reveal so much. Jay Oswald Sanders writes about these seven last sayings, "Because they were Jesus' last words and spoken under such tragic circumstances, the seven sayings of our Lord from the pulpit of the Cross are of special significance. In them, He laid bare His inmost soul, and in them He exemplified the spiritual principles He had been teaching. Each of these sayings is an ocean of truth compressed into a drop of speech. That monstrous monument of the cross was transformed into the most eloquent pulpit of the ages," end quote.

This morning, I want us, for just a few moments, to consider Jesus sixth saying from the cross. It's been called the Word of Triumph. Let's read it together, John chapter 19, and I'll begin reading in verse 16.

So, he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out bearing His own cross, to the place called Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.

Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, "Jesus the Nazarene, The King of the Jews." Therefore, many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews'; but that He said, 'I am King of the Jews.'"

Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now, the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be"; this was to fulfill the Scripture: "They divided my outer garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots."

Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, "I am thirsty."

A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore, when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

Notice, again, that simple declaration in verse 30. "It is finished!" Sanders writes, "This is the single greatest word ever uttered."

Charles Spurgeon said, "It is an ocean of meaning in a drop of language. It would need all the other words that ever were spoken or ever can be spoken to explain this one word."

F.W. Krummacher said, "At these words, you hear fetters burst and prison walls falling down, barriers as high as heaven are overthrown and gates, which had been closed for thousands of years, again move on their hinges."

In English, Jesus' statement here consists of three words, "It is finished," but in Greek, it's just one word, the word 'tetelestai.' It's a single Greek verb in the perfect tense. It's inflected, like inflected languages are, so that it has the third person neuter pronoun 'it' implied. So literally translated, Jesus said "It has been finished." As we meditate on this one Greek word, 'tetelestai,' rich with profound theology, I just want us to think about several characteristics of this word, of this sixth word from the cross.

Jesus' word from the cross, this word of triumph, was, first of all, clearly intentional. This was not a spur of the moment comment by Jesus in the midst of His suffering and agony. Instead, it was an intentional act. That's the emphasis of our text. Notice verse 30, "Therefore…He said, 'It is finished!'" The word 'therefore' refers back to what John had just expressed back in verse 28: "After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, "I am thirsty." Notice in verse 28, the Greek word translated 'had been accomplished' is exactly the same Greek word, in exactly the same tense and form, as the word in His next saying, "It is finished!"

You see, Jesus, verse 28 tells us, knew in His heart that His work in His life and in His death was entirely accomplished. Now, there were still a couple of things that needed to happen. He needed, of course, to say "I thirst," which He does momentarily. He had to die. He needed to be buried in the grave of a rich man, as Isaiah had prophesied. And three days later, He had to be raised from the dead.

But Jesus could now see the end. Really, the rest of what would happen, for the most part, was His reward for work accomplished. And it was so certain, that it was as good as finished. So, Jesus knew, verse 28 says, in His soul, that the work He had come from heaven to do had been completely accomplished. Verse 28 goes on to say, "…knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the scripture, said, 'I am thirsty.'"

That in itself is remarkable. I mean, think about this. On the cross, in the moment of His greatest trial, in the time of His most intense suffering, Jesus' mind was on the Scripture, on the Hebrew Scripture. He realized that He was approaching the end of His earthly life. He planned, in fact, to lay down His life. As He said, "No one takes it. I lay it down." He planned to lay it down at 3 p.m. that afternoon, shortly. The time of the afternoon sacrifice on the 14th of Nisan, when the offering of the Passover lamb was made. He knew that was soon to happen. And in His mind, as He hung there on the cross, He rehearsed all of the Old Testament text that prophesied the details of the life, and the ministry, and the suffering of the Messiah. And He came to the conclusion that all of them had been accomplished except one.

He realized there was one prophecy about His death on the cross that had not been fulfilled. Verse 28, "…to fulfill the Scripture, said, I am thirsty." Now, don't misunderstand. Jesus truly was thirsty from the agony of those hours, both on the cross and all that had transpired before, and the scourging, and the beatings, the trials. But He also said this in part to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah. Both His thirst and the effort to ease that thirst fulfill the Old Testament. In Psalm 22:15, one of the Messianic psalms. It says, "My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and you lay me in the dust of death." The psalmist prophesied that the Messiah, as He approached death, would be overcome with physical thirst. Psalm 69:21 says, "…for my thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink." Psalm 69 describes the suffering of the Righteous One. In fact, in Psalm 69, giving the person a drink was actually part of the torment inflicted on the innocent, just as was literally true with Jesus and His crucifixion.

Jesus knew this prophecy about the Messiah, and He knew that admitting His thirst would move the soldier to give Him sour wine, and thus fulfill the prophecy. And so even in this cry, "I thirst," was an act of intentional, self-conscious obedience to the Scripture. In response to that cry, of course, someone was moved with compassion. We're not told exactly who; it was likely one of the soldiers. Verse 29, "A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth."

Jesus said "I thirst," to fulfill the Scripture. But the drink that He received also served a more immediate, and practical purpose, because, in a moment, Jesus planned to speak. Notice verse 30. "Therefore, when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is finished!'"

When He "…had received the sour wine." Now, think about this for a moment. When He had arrived at the crucifixion some six hours earlier, the soldiers had offered Him the same drink, sour wine. But in that case, it was mixed with myrrh. It was a drug, a sedative to dull the senses and to deaden some of the pain, especially the pain that was connected with the initial act of nailing Jesus' body to the cross.

You'll remember that Jesus absolutely refused to drink it. What love was that? He wanted to endure the suffering that we as sinners deserved at the hand of God. He wanted to endure it with all of His senses intact. But this time, Jesus accepted the soap sponge and was able to drink just a few swallows of what was, in this case, just sour wine. Why? Because He wanted to wet His parched lips, so that He could speak. Because the sixth word was not only an intentional act, it was an intentional announcement. Notice verse 30: "…when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is finished!' And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."

Now, John here simply tells us that Jesus spoke these words, but two other gospels tell us exactly how Jesus spoke these words. This one, along with the seventh and final cry. Listen to Matthew's gospel, Matthew 27:50. "And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit." The Greek word translated 'cried out 'is defined this way by the leading Greek lexicon: it means "to communicate in a loud voice, to call, to cry out, to cry."

Literally, the Greek text says, "Jesus cried out with a mega voice." Mark 15:37 says, "…Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last." Again, the text says He spoke with a "mega voice." We get our word 'mega' from that Greek word. So once Jesus had taken the sour wine, He shouted with a loud voice; loud enough to be heard across the entire crucifixion site by everyone who was gathered there, "It is finished!" It has been accomplished.

You see, Jesus wanted everyone there to know. He already knew. Remember verse 28? He already knew in His heart that everything had been accomplished. But He wanted them to know. He wanted us to know.

Again, listen to A.W. Pink. He writes, "This was not the despairing cry of a helpless martyr. It was not an expression of satisfaction that the end of His sufferings was now reached. It was not the last gasp of a worn-out life. No, it was the declaration on the part of the Divine Redeemer that all for which He came from heaven to earth to do, was now done; that all which was needful to reveal the glorious character of God had now been accomplished; that everything necessary for the putting away of the sins of His people, providing for them a perfect standing before God, securing for them an eternal inheritance and fitting them for it, had all been done." Jesus' sixth saying from the cross was not incidental. Rather, it was clearly intentional.

Secondly, I want you to notice that it was especially pictorial. You can see this in a couple of ways. You can see it from the basic definition of the word, 'tetelestai.' This word is in the perfect tense of the Greek verb 'teleto'. You recognize that word; I'll share some similarities to English in just a moment.

But this word 'teleto' means "to have a distant end in view and to act to arrive at that destination"; 'teleto'. As I said, this word appears often in English. For example, a telephone is a device that carries your voice to an intended distant goal or destination. A television delivers a vision or a video into your family room, the intended distant end or destination of that image. In the same way, this word 'tetelestai', refers to a distant goal that has been reached, a long-term task that has been completed. It literally means "to bring something to an end; complete; to fulfill; to carry out."

What's interesting is this exact form of the verb 'tetelestai,' in the perfect, occurs only two times in the entire New Testament. Both of them are here in this passage; in verse 28, when Jesus knew that all things were 'tetelestai,' and in verse 30, when He shouts with a loud voice "Tetelestai!" Now we learn more about this word not only from its definition, but from several graphic uses of this word in the first century. In the secular documents of the first century, this word, and this exact form is used. It's used, for example, of a faithful servant. When a servant had completed the task that his master had assigned him and he came back to report to his master that it was done, he would say "Tetelestai; I have completed the work that you assigned me to do."

This word was also used in the first century of a completed mission. In one ancient Greek text, a father sent his son on a particular mission on behalf of the family. When the son returned, he reported to his father that he had been completely successful in accomplishing that mission with one word, "Tetelestai. Father, I have accomplished the mission you sent me to do."

Another use of this word in the ancient world was a perfect sacrifice. When a priest would examine an animal that had been brought for sacrifice at the temple, and he found that animal to be as was required, completely without blemish, without spot, acceptable for sacrifice, the priest would say "Tetelestai."

This word was also used of a finished masterpiece. When an artist had put the finishing touches on either a painting or a sculpture and determined that it needed no correction, it needed absolutely no improvement, that it was perfect as it stood, he would step back and say "Tetelestai."

Another especially picturesque use of this word in the ancient world was of a debt that had been paid in full. In fact, in Egypt, archaeologists found 14 documents together that had been written on papyrus. They clearly came from the office of an ancient accountant, because these 14 documents were receipts; receipts for taxes paid by people who were transporting goods, and across the top of each receipt was a single word, "Tetelestai. It has been paid in full."

In a moment, we're going to see how those graphic uses of this very word in the ancient secular world would provide a vivid, unforgettable backdrop to what Jesus said from the cross. The sixth word that Jesus spoke from the cross then was, first of all, clearly intentional, and secondly, it was especially pictorial.

A third characteristic of this word is that it was profoundly theological. We can never, in fact, plumb the depths of all that Jesus meant in this magnificent word. A.W. Pink was right when he wrote," Eternity will be needed to make manifest all that this word contains."

But we can know what Jesus primarily meant. What was it that Jesus primarily intended to communicate when He said "Tetelestai, it is finished?" Well, this week, as I sorted through the Scripture, I actually made a list of some 12 theological implications. We don't have time to look at all of them. So let me just point out to you the main theological implications in the context of this statement. When Jesus said "It is finished, tetelestai," He meant, first of all, that He had fulfilled all the Old Testament messianic prophecies about His first coming. That's the message in verse 28. "After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished," that is all of those things that the Old Testament said the Messiah would do, all those things that would be accomplished through Him, He knew that all of those prophecies had been fulfilled in Him. He had this as a goal. In fact, on the way to Jerusalem, just a week before, Jesus had told His disciples this was going to happen.

in Luke 18:31, it says, "…He took the twelve aside…" as they were headed to Jerusalem for Him to die, He "…said, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets…,'"in the Old Testament, "'…about the Son of Man will be accomplished.'" Think about that for a moment. There's not a single Old Testament prophecy about Messiah's first coming that Jesus did not fulfill. Not one; tetelestai.

There's a second theological implication in this saying. And that is that He had finished His vicarious suffering, 'vicarious' meaning "in the place of others." After this cry, Jesus immediately lays down His own life. Verse 30 says, when "He said 'It is finished!'…He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."

Luke tells us that He did so with the words "Father into your hands, I commend my spirit." So truly, this brought an end to the vicarious suffering of Jesus; His suffering was done. It had been finished. It had been completed. And He bowed His head in death; tetelestai. His suffering for sinners was over.

There's a third theological implication in the saying, and that is, that Jesus had completed His earthly mission. In fact, turn back with me to John 17. In John 17, we have what's called the High Priestly Prayer. This is the prayer of Jesus before the Garden of Gethsemane on Thursday night, as He prayed for Himself, as He prayed for His disciples, and as He prayed even for those who would eventually believe through His disciples; for us, who have believed in Jesus. But notice what he says in John 17:4. He says to the Father, "I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given me to do." Jesus said, "Father, you sent me on a mission, and I have completed the mission."

That's what He also sensed in John 19:28; when He knew that all things were "tetelestai," all things had been completed; Jesus finished His earthly mission. Martin Luther, the great reformer, wrote these words; "It is finished. God's lamb is slaughtered and sacrificed for the world's sin. The true High Priest has completed His sacrifice. God's Son has given and sacrificed His body and life as a payment for sin. Sin is wiped out. God's wrath is appeased, death is overcome. The kingdom of heaven is won, and heaven is unlocked. Everything is fulfilled and finished, and no one need argue that something still remains to be fulfilled and perfected." No; Jesus' mission was accomplished. Tetelestai.

There's a fourth theological implication in this great saying, and that is that Jesus had satisfied God's justice and wrath against sin. This isn't something we like to think about. We love to reflect on the love of God, and He is love. But He also reveals to us, and even Jesus our Lord made it clear to us, that God is holy and because He's holy He cannot look on sin with favor. In fact, it angers Him because it's rebellion against Him. It's holy, righteous anger. It's like the anger of a righteous judge who has before Him a rapist, or some other terrible criminal. It's righteous anger, and this is what God has. And Jesus satisfied God's justice and wrath against our sin. In Matthew 26:39, Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane, and it says, "…He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible," listen to what He prays, "…let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will."

What's the cup? What's in that cup that He desires not to drink in His death? It's not physical suffering. Many martyrs of the Christian faith approached the physical suffering and death that came to them with, not only resignation, but with joy and eagerness. That's not what's involved here. What is this cup? Well, the Old Testament uses that expression most often for the cup of God's righteous anger being poured out on those who have rebelled against Him. For example, in Isaiah 51:17, it speaks of "the cup of His anger." In Isaiah 51:22, "the cup of reeling, the chalice of My anger." Even in the New Testament in Revelation 16:19, it speaks of "the cup of the wine of God's fierce wrath." In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that, if it were possible for our redemption to be accomplished without His bearing the full brunt of God's wrath, without His drinking the cup of the wrath of God, then He asked the Father to remove it. But He bowed to the Father's will. He said, "…not My will, but Yours be done." And it was the Father's will and He drank the cup.

That's what was symbolized, you remember, during those three hours of darkness on that Friday afternoon. From noon to three, darkness covered the whole land. God turned His back on His own Son. That's why, in the middle of that darkness, Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Why? Why did God the Father forsake God the Son? Why did He forsake His Son? It's because He was drinking the cup of God's anger against the sins of all of those who would ever believe in Him.

We can't imagine what it would be like to endure the wrath of God in hell just for our own sins. But what would it have been like for Jesus, during those hours on the cross, to have endured the wrath of God for all of those who would trust in Him, and in those few hours to embrace eternal suffering for millions, even billions, of people? Romans 3:25, says that on the cross, God publicly displayed Jesus as the satisfaction of His anger against our sins.

Again, Luther writes, "Jesus became the greatest liar, perjurer, thief, adulterer and murderer that mankind has ever known. Not because he committed those sins, but because He was actually made sin for us." He drank the cup. The great Scottish preacher Alexander McLaren writes, "Having drained the cup, He held it up inverted when He said 'It is finished!' and not a drop trickled down the edge. He drank it all that we might never need to drink it." Tetelestai.

There's a there's a fifth implication of this great saying. He had purchased complete forgiveness for sins. Look with me at John Chapter 10. Jesus here talks about laying down His life.

John 10:11, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." Again, in verse 15, "Even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." Verse 18, "No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from my Father."

Jesus said, "I'm going to lay down My life for My sheep, for those who believe in Me." But why? What was the intention of laying down His life? What was accomplished in laying down His life? Well, John the Apostle makes it crystal clear to us in the first chapter of his gospel. Go back to John 1, and here's why He had to lay down His life for us, for His sheep. Verse 29, "The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and…," here's what John the Baptist said of Jesus, "…'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'" In other words, John said, He is the perfect fulfillment of all of those sacrifices that have been offered throughout the centuries. He is God's Lamb who will die in the place of sinners to take away their sins, to purchase their forgiveness. This was the message of the early church. In Acts 10:43 we read, Peter says of Jesus, "…all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him…," listen to this, "…receives forgiveness of sins." In Acts 13:38, we encounter exactly the same sentiment. Through Jesus, "…forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you." How could He purchase the forgiveness of our sins? He paid the debt in full. Remember "tetelestai?" He stamped on the loan, the note that we owed, "It's paid in full."

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, describes our sin as a list of offences against God, a promissory note with our name at the end. We owed God our obedience. You owed God your obedience; and like me, you have sinned against God, your Creator, your Sustainer, the One who's provided you with every good thing. And God has kept record of those offenses, and there are only two possibilities. Either you will pay for those offenses forever, or Christ will pay for them in your place, because you have believed in Him. And across that debt, God will write "tetelestai"; paid in full. Ephesians 1:7 says in Jesus "…we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses…"

There is a final theological implication we need to consider, and that is this. When He said, "It is finished!", He had completely and eternally earned salvation for every believer. That's the message of the most familiar verse in the entire scripture, John 3:16. That "…God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…" He gave Him in death. He gave Him at the cross, in order that all who believe in Him should not perish. That's what we deserve, and that's what will happen apart from believing in Jesus; but all who "believe in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." He purchased that eternal life for us.

In fact, in the letter to the Hebrews, Hebrews 9, turn there with me, Hebrews 9:12. "Not through the blood of goats and calves…," like in the Old Testament system, that merely pictured what Jesus would accomplish, but rather "…through His own blood…," through His own sacrificial death, Jesus "…entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." That's what Jesus did.

Go down to verse 25. "Nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year…" on the day of Atonement, "…with blood that is not his own," the blood of a sacrificial animal. That's not what Jesus did.

Verse 26. If that was the kind of sacrifice He was bringing,

…He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin (to permanently deal with sin, to bring forgiveness for sin) by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgement, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation (and then he says) without reference to sin…

In other words, he's saying it's finished. He finished it all in His death, in His first coming. So when He comes again, there'll be no reference to sin. It'll be to receive those who eagerly wait for Him.

Do you see the implication here? The fact that Christ completed the work of redemption, that He entirely earned and gained salvation for every believer, means that you can do nothing. You can add nothing to His finished completed work.

You see, salvation isn't something you earn. It isn't something you merit. It's not that you're good enough for God to let you into heaven. Your salvation is not a joint effort between you and God. It is entirely the work of Jesus Christ. It is entirely a gift of God's grace, and it is entirely appropriated by faith alone in that finished work. Ephesians 2:8-9 says,

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Because Jesus finished the work of redemption, no sin is beyond His forgiving. I don't care what you've done, because it is finished, tetelestai. There is no sin that He cannot forgive, and there is no sinner that He cannot save, that He cannot spiritually rescue and reconcile to God our Creator. God invites you to believe in Christ's finished work. "Tetelestai!" That cry was clearly intentional. It was especially pictorial. It was profoundly theological, and finally, fourthly, it was intensely personal. You see, this cry of Christ wasn't just meant to be eloquent. Rather, it was meant to invite a response, a response from each one of us.

So, let me ask you this morning, what is your response to Jesus' statement "It is finished?" Really, what is your response? There are only two categories of responses. The first is, if you already believe in Jesus, what do you do with this statement "It is finished, tetelestai," and all that we've learned from it? If you have already repented of your sins, you've already put your faith in Jesus Christ, how should you respond?

Well, the answer to that question is found in chapter 21 of John's Gospel, and in chapter 21, there are two responses by those who already believe in Jesus that you need to imitate, that you need to follow. The first of those responses is, you need to love Jesus Christ more deeply, more profoundly. If you're a Christian, you do love Him, and you need to love Him more. You remember in John 21:15-17, Jesus is restoring Peter, one who already was a believer in Him, who already had come to embrace Him, but, you remember, who denied Him; and Jesus restores him. And in restoring him, what does He ask him? Three times He asked him this question: "Do you love Me? Do you love Me? Do you love Me?" And Peter finally replies,"' Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.'" Jesus is getting Peter to reaffirm His love for Him. That's how you ought to respond to what we've discovered this morning as well, and that is to reaffirm and to pursue a deeper love and devotion to Jesus Christ.

There is a second response if you've already believed in Him, and that is, to follow Him. You see, the kind of love Jesus is describing is not mere sentiment, it's not just emotion. It's not just being kind of overcome with an emotional moment. Rather, the kind of love that Jesus intends is the kind of love that follows Him, that is, that does what He says. That's what He means. And twice in the end of John 21, He says to His disciples, "You follow Me." Whatever circumstances come into your life, wherever you find yourself, (and right now we're all in extraordinary circumstances), Jesus says, if you have come to believe in Me, if you have come to embrace the realities that are encompassed in that saying "It is finished," then love Me, and keep following Me.

But what if you're worshipping with us this morning, you're listening to this message, and you do not believe in Jesus? How should you respond? Well, again, John the Apostle doesn't leave us wondering. Look at John 20:30. Here's the purpose John wrote. Including what we've just studied together, he says, "Therefore, many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book."

There are a lot of things Jesus did and said that John could have written about. Verse 31, "But these have been written…" – he says, here's why I wrote these things, here's why I told you about what Jesus said from the cross, "It is finished" – "…that you may believe that Jesus…" that Jesus of Nazareth, the real historical man who lived 2000 years ago, that He "…is the Christ…" the Christos, the Messiah, the One promised in the Hebrew scriptures that God said would come to deal with sin, "…the Son of God." That is, He is God the Son. He is fully and completely equal with God, and yet He has come taking upon Himself full and complete humanity as well, "…and that believing you may have life in His name."

That's what your response should be. But what does that look like? What does that look like in your life? Well, again, John the Apostle is so helpful because in the incident he records immediately before these verses, he shows us exactly what that looks like. It was eight days after the resurrection. It was the following Sunday night when the disciples were gathered together again. And this time Thomas was with them. On the night of the resurrection, Thomas wasn't there. But a week later on that Sunday night, he was there and John 20:27 says, "Then He said to Thomas," Jesus said to Thomas, "'Reach here with your finger, and see my hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.'"

So here it is. Here's what faith in Jesus looks like. "Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'" My Kyrios, my Master, my Sovereign, the One to whom I owe everything, the One whom I will follow and obey, and my God. Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me have you believed?" You see, he exemplified what it means to believe in Jesus in his response here. And Jesus then adds, "Blessed are they who did not see…" That could be you today. You didn't get a chance to see Jesus like Thomas did, but Jesus said, "Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." Jesus pronounces a spiritual blessing on you, if through the testimony of the apostles that Jesus gave to us, to share His truth with us, you believe in Him like Thomas did, saying, "My Lord and my God."

You must believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. You must put your faith in His finished work for sin. You must confess Him as your Savior and Lord, as your Master. Henry Drummond was right when he said the Christian life is like a club in which in which the entrance fee is absolutely nothing; it costs you nothing to get in, it's been done by Jesus Christ, it's been finished by Him; and then he adds, it's a club in which the entrance fee is absolutely nothing, but the annual subscription is everything you have.

Hudson Taylor is a name that may be familiar to you. He founded the China Inland Mission and served there as a missionary for 51 years. But before he went to China, in June of the year 1849, he was 17 years of age. It was a holiday and everyone else was away. He was home, and like many of us over these last couple of weeks, he was bored. That afternoon, he wandered into his father's library and poked among the shelves. This is what he writes in his autobiography. "I tried to find some book with which to while away the leaden hours, nothing attracted me. So I turned over a basket of pamphlets and selected from among them a track that looked interesting, saying to myself, 'There'll be a story at the beginning, and a moral to close. I'll read the story and leave the sermon for those who may like it.'" While reading this little tract, he writes, "I was struck with one phrase, "the finished work of Christ." Immediately the words "it is finished," suggested themselves to my mind. What is finished? I at once replied, 'A full and perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin. The debt was paid for my sins.'" He goes on, "Then came the further thought, 'If the whole work was finished and the whole debt paid, what is left for me to do?' And with this dawned the joyous conviction, as light was flashed into my soul by the Holy Spirit, that there was nothing in the world to be done, but to fall down on my knees and accept the Savior and His salvation and then praise Him forevermore."

If you are trusting in anything but the finished work of Jesus Christ for your salvation today, then that's all that's left for you, is to fall down and accept the finished work of another. With the account of his conversion, Hudson Taylor quotes the words of a hymn that we don't sing anymore, but listen to these words.

Nothing either great or small --

Nothing, sinner, no;

Jesus did it, did it all,

Long, long ago.

"It is finished!" yes, indeed,

Finished every jot;

Sinner, this is all you need –

Tell me, is it not?

Lay your deadly "doing" down

Down at Jesus feet;

Stand in Him, in Him alone,

Gloriously complete.

In later years, Taylor often expressed that same truth, the truth he discovered that day in these words:

Upon a life I have not lived,

Upon a death I did not die,

Another's life; Another's death,

I stake my whole eternity.

That's the significance of "It is finished."

Now, there's one last brief question to ask, and that is, how does what we've studied today fit in with the Resurrection that we celebrate on this Easter Sunday? Well, it fits because it's part of the gospel. You remember in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul said the gospel contains these elements: Christ died for our sins, according to the Scripture, there's what we've been studying together; He was buried; He was raised again on the third day, according to the Scriptures, and then He appeared to many. You see, on Friday, Jesus God's Son, at three o'clock in the afternoon, cried out with a loud voice, loud enough for everyone there at the crucifixion to hear, "Tetelestai! It is finished!"

And on Sunday morning, with the resurrection, the Father said loudly, in a voice that ripples down through the ages, "Amen. Tetelestai; it is finished!" May you put your trust in that finished work even as Hudson Taylor did.

Let's pray together. Our Father, we thank You for this magnificent truth. What a profound word, what a rich word, filled with more implications that eternity will reveal.

But Father, thank You for what we've been able to see, and to learn, and to meditate on this morning. Lord, for those of us who are in Christ, I pray that You would help us to respond, as Peter and John did. May we love Jesus Christ more deeply, more profoundly, as a result of what we've studied and learned together this morning. And may we follow Him more closely. May His Word dictate our thoughts, and our words, and our actions, and our lives.

And Father, I pray for those who may have joined us this morning who are not believers in Jesus Christ. They've heard the gospel. They've been exhorted by the Apostle John to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and believing, to have life in His name. And they've even seen in Thomas's response how they should respond; that they should fall down on their knees, accepting the finished cross work of Jesus Christ, saying, "My Lord and my God."

Lord, may You do that work in many hearts, even this morning.

We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.