"It Is Finished!"
Because of modern medicine, we’ve lost the opportunity to hear the last words of dying people. Most who are about to slip into eternity are drugged to make them comfortable. The only problem is this also puts them in a coma-like state, thereby prohibiting them from speaking to us. We are left wondering if they are hearing us, and what their final words would have been could they have spoken to us.
One terminally ill friend I visited years ago, sat propped up in his hospital bed, starring robotically into space, unable to acknowledge my presence or communicate with me. But he knew exactly who I was, because after I read some Scripture with him and prayed for him, I looked up to see two small trails of tears moving slowly down his face from his eyes. Yes, he knew the pastor
came for a final visit to prepare him to meet God, but he couldn’t get so much as a sound out of his mouth. How frustrating.
I’ve always wondered, “What did Frank want to say to me?”
As Jesus Christ died on the cruel wooden cross, medicine didn’t dull His senses so He couldn’t speak as He faced the inevitable. Quite the contrary. His mental
and vocal functions were under His full control right up to the end.
Crucifixion started at 9:00 on that Passover morning, and by 12 o’clock He had said three life-changing things despite the pain and the suffering:
• “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
• “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
• “’Woman, behold your Son! Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your
mother!” (John 19:26-27).
Instead of being bitter and angry at being executed unjustly, His final words reveal He used the cross as a platform to teach us how to live in His absence. Truly His example was one only the God-man could give us.
From high noon to 3 o’clock, God the Father enshrouded the world in eerie darkness as His only Son, Jesus, took on Satan and all of the sin of the world ... past, present, and future. For almost three hours, nobody heard Him speak in the darkness. Then, right before 3 o’clock His deep, resonate, articulate voice boomed from the cross, catching many off guard.
“‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken
Me?’” (Matthew 27:46).
These words illustrated the Son of God felt the weight of the sin of the world on His shoulders as He willingly became our sacrifice. They also recall the unusual moment in history when the Holy Father had to briefly turn His face from His beloved Son. He couldn’t bear to see all that sin on Jesus.
Christ’s next words were His shortest spoken from the cross:
“I thirst” (John 19:28).
What an understatement. A soldier compassionately got Him some wine vinegar on a sponge to quench His thirst. With His mouth now moist, He was ready to make His last two statements on earth ... and what statements they were! None of us should ever forget them. Each of us should learn from them and allow them to mold and shape us.
Again, with a powerful, assertive, booming voice, Jesus exclaimed:
“30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!”
“It is finished” .... with an exclamation point. Christ, who spoke fluent Greek, used one word to form this statement. It’s the word tetelestai, a word which speaks of bringing something to absolute completion. By couching the word in the Greek perfect tense, Jesus also underscored what was finished was forever finished.
Just what was finished? What was He talking about? Although the Gospels don’t tell us, we don’t have to think too hard about the answer to the question because it is woven like a beautiful thread from Genesis to Revelation. Christ’s death on the cross put the finishing touches upon God’s magnificent and wonderful plan to redeem fallen, sinful man. Peter puts God’s redemptive plan this way:
“18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold
from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20For He was
foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last
times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised
Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1
The Father’s plan to save us from our sin was devised and planned before the creation of the world. You just might need to re-read that sentence one more time because it’s so mind-boggling. Before God created our world, He knew Adam and Eve would eat the forbidden fruit and plunge us all into sin. He also knew anterior to creation how He would save us from our sin. He would send His only Son as THE sacrifice for our sin.
Please. Don’t ask me why God did what He did. The finite cannot intellectually
penetrate the inner workings of the mind of the infinite. We can only be humbled and stand in awe of the Holy Father’s method for saving the likes of you and me.
Immediately after man’s fall from grace, God began to progressively develop His
plan to redeem us by means of the sacrifice of a substitute.
• When Adam and Eve initially sinned, God provided animals skins to cover their
nakedness (Genesis 3:21). The implication is the prescribed sacrifice of an animal
is the only thing which deterred God’s wrath from them.
• When Cain and Abel brought their sacrifices to God in order to worship Him,
Cain brought from produce from his fields (Genesis 4:1-2), while Abel brought
the firstborn of his flock to God for a blood sacrifice (Genesis 4:4). We all know
which sacrifice God accepted. From the historical account it is quite clear that
how you approach God matters greatly. He is looking for a sacrificial substitute
to cover your sin.
• When Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, he didn’t argue with God, but proceeded to do as he was commanded. Isaac, the loving son, also did exactly as his father asked of him. God stopped Abraham as he was about to plunge the knife into his son, and provided a ram as a blood sacrifice instead
(Genesis 22). God had not only tested the faith of His servant,He gave us, for the
first time in history, a graphic image of how He would one day redeem mankind
from sin. On another hill in the future, another faithful son, God’s Son, would die
for all of our sins. Incredible, isn’t it?
• When God battled Pharaoh to free His chosen people from bondage, His last
command to secure their freedom called for them to slay an innocent lamb and
paint its blood on the doorposts of their homes so God’s wrath would pass over
them (Exodus 12:23-30). Once more, God emphasized in a graphic, memorable
fashion that His wrath against sin is only averted by a blameless substitionary
sacrifice. And once more, God turned our attention through this episode toward
the sacrifice by THE Lamb of God on an ugly hill called Golgotha.
• When God eventually taught the Israelites how to approach and worship Him in
the Tabernacle and then in the Temple, He used the book of Leviticus to highlight
the importance of coming to worship with a sacrificial animal (Leviticus 1-6). No
sacrifice. No admittance. Sins must be covered and cleansed first by a
substitionary and personally costly sacrifice. How can one look at this and fail to see how it pre-figures the work of Jesus on the cross? His perfect and sinless
death put an end to the need of any further animal sacrifices (Heb. 9). Josephus
tells us that between 63 A.D. and 66 A.D. some 2,700,000 Jewish worshippers
would have slain around 255,600 sacrificial animals with for Passover with the
help of the priests (Josephus BJ 6.422ff). Christ’s death, which was far superior,
put an end to this practice. No wonder Jesus cried loudly, “It is finished.”
• When the prophets prophesied about the work of the Messiah, it was clear He
would not only be God in the flesh (Micah 5:2), but that He would, in fact, bear
the sin of mankind and then die as man’s sin substitute. Isaiah’s prophetic words
tell us this much:
“4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The hastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53).
Isaiah foresaw a day when all our iniquity would, in fact, rest on the God-man, Jesus. Isaiah used his prophetic pen to also teach us that our broken fellowship with God would only be restored by THE sacrifice of all sacrifices.
Rightly did Christ victoriously yell “It is finished!” He had finally consummated and completed His Father’s carefully orchestrated plan to pay the penalty for our sin so we could have the prospects of forgiveness and eternal fellowship in God’ holy presence. And because God’s redemptive plan is now finished, it is not possible for you to add anything to it, nor is there anything else He must do either. The beautiful salvation love song God wrote for thousands of years now had its final note: It is finished! What a crescendo.
• It was a cry of relief. The cup of wrath was now over. There would be no more
taunting, no more ridicule, no more mocking, no more insults, and no more pain.
Paradise was within view.
• It was a cry of victory from a brave Savior. He had won. Sin and Satan had lost.
• It was a cry of joy from a Savior who endured all hell itself could hurl at Him so
He could complete His father’s redemptive plan.
• It is a cry which should cause you to ponder whether you have embraced His
finished work by faith for yourself.
“It is finished!” Deeper words, more triumphant, more victorious words were never spoken by the lips of man than these.
After Christ spoke these words, He then uttered His seventh and final statement:
“Father, into your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).
Quoting from Psalm 31, verse 5, Jesus demonstrated He was in full control of His death. In John 10, He taught the disciples this much:
“14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the
sheep. 16 I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 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” (John 10).
Since the Passover lamb was slain, as I have said, at 3 o’clock on that Friday afternoon, Jesus made sure He gave up His spirit at the right time in order to fulfill the Father’s redemption plan. His death at this time was no accident. It was a carefully orchestrated event by Jesus so our sin would be properly atoned and paid for.
Doesn’t this leave you feeling tingly all over?
The upshot of all of this for us this Easter shouldn’t be missed.
The glorious resurrection of Jesus three days after His crucifixion merely
demonstrated the absolute truth of Christ’s seven statements from the cross. No one but the God-man could rise from the grave to definitively show that the Father’s strategy to save wicked man was, in fact, finished and now ready for immediate use. Only the God-man could lay His holy life down and then pick it up again three days later. And because He resurrected Himself, He can, and will, resurrect you when you trust Him as your Savior and Sacrifice.
According to Matthew, the moment Jesus willingly released His spirit and died
some amazing, really jaw-dropping events occurred around Jerusalem:
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
The earth shook, the rocks split. 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus' resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. These three divinely timed miracles powerfully demonstrated three concepts.
One, by ripping the massive veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of
Holies, the Father demonstrated that no longer did a barrier exist between God and man, wherein a sinful man needed a priest to go between him and God. Now, the way into God’s presence was open to all by Christ’s death, and all those who seek to know God can gain immediate access when Jesus is their Savior and Lord. Amazing. At the precise moment Jesus willingly died, the massive 60 foot by 30-foot ornate veil, which was asthick as a man’s hand, was ripped, by God, from the top (His domain) to the bottom (man’s domain). Think of the sound this made.
William Barclay, in classic fashion, gives us an apt definition of this particular
“This was the veil which hid the Holy of Holies, the place where dwelt the very
presence of God, the place where no man might ever enter except the High Priest,
and he only once a year, on the great day of Atonement. It was as if the way to
God’s presence, hitherto barred to man, was thrown open to all. It was as if the
heart of God, hitherto hidden, was laid bare” (Luke: 288).
Additionally, this of this. While the priests sacrificed the Passover lamb in the
temple precincts, Jesus, the ultimate Passover Lamb was sacrificed just a short distance away. The Jewishencyclopedia.com’s article on Passover Sacrifice tells us how the priests took the sacrificial blood and actually placed it on the altar:
The killing took place in the court of the Temple, and might be performed by a
layman, although the blood had to be caught by a priest, and rows of priests with
gold or silver cups in their hands stood in line from the Temple court to the altar,
where the blood was sprinkled. These cups were rounded on the bottom, so that
they could not be set down; for in that case the blood might coagulate. The priest
who caught the blood as it dropped from the victim then handed the cup to the
priest next to him, receiving from him an empty one, and the full cup was passed
along the line until it reached the last priest, who sprinkled its contents on the
And to think that on this particular Passover, they did all of this in the eerie darkness as the Lamb of God died just north of them on Golgotha. Unbelievable. And just imagine what they heard as God tore the veil in two. Don’t you know this arrested their attention?
The author of Hebrews reminds us of our new opportunity because of God’s
action regarding the divisional veil:
“19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the
blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through
the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith ...” (Hebrews 10).
Because of Christ’s sacrificial death, we can now walk confidently into the very presence of God when we claim Christ as our Savior. What a privilege!
Two, the divinely timed rock-crushing, crunching earthquake not only informed
people that the living God, who controls nature, was at work in the death of His Son, it served as a protend (a calamitous sign that something ominous was about to occur) to the time when God would shake the earth during the Tribulation prior the arrival of the Messiah and Savior, Jesus. Rightly did Isaiah prophesy concerning the Day of the Lord:
19 The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is violently shaken.
20 The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon
it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls-- never to rise again. 21 In that day the
LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth
below (Isa. 24).
Later John prophesied what God will do at the end of the Tribulation to set the stage for Christ’s appearance:
18 Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe
earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on
earth, so tremendous was the quake. 19 The great city split into three parts, and
the cities of the nations collapsed (Rev. 16).
Christ’s death secured salvation rights to all those sinners who repent and trust Him as Savior and Lord. It also secured His divine right to literally shake the earth in the future to judge those who chose to reject Him and live in sin. I’ve been in earthquakes in California growing up, and I’ve heard rocks/boulders grinding and popping underneath my feet. Believe me, earthquakes do get your attention, and that’s why this major one occurred immediately at the moment Christ died. God wanted to wake us up spiritually.
Third, an earthquake served to open select tombs in Jerusalem, and God divinely allowed a certain number of deceased saints to rise from the grave as a testimony of Christ’s ability to raise His saints to life, even though their bodies were dead. It was, in a sense, a foretaste of the resurrection of all saints at the rapture of the Church and at the end of the Tribulation to prepare for the Messiah’s kingdom (1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 20:4-6). Imagine the testimony these resurrected saints gave as they walked and talked to the pilgrims in Jerusalem for this never-to-
Listening to the powerful words of Jesus during His crucifixion, and watching these shocking miracles unfold all around them the minute Jesus did, Matthew recounts how God used all of this to arrest the attention of one Roman centurion, and quite possible they crucifixion detail he commanded:
54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus,
when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very
frightened and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27).
A centurion as a mid-level officer was the backbone of the Roman Army. He was the equivalent of our modern day Army Captain. They were career soldiers who ran the day to life of the soldiers and executed battle plans while in the field. He typically commanded a centuria composed of 80 soldiers. Six of these centuria formed a cohort of around 480 fighting men. A Legio (Legion), in turn, was
composed of 10 cohorts or around 5,000 to 6,000 soldiers. If anyone had seen it all during his years of service, it was this man. If anyone had been hardened by the battles he had engaged in, it was this man. If anyone had regrets over the friends he had lost while fighting Rome’s enemies, it was this man. If any man suffered from PTSD and woke up in the middle of the night from wild, terror-ridden dreams, it was this man. If any man had seen more than his share of crucifixions, it was this man. If any man was ploughed and primed by the Spirit of God to find new spiritual life at the feet of the Savior, it was this
man. He had seen many crucifixions, but none like this one.
• Never had he heard words from a crucified criminal like he heard that day.
• Never had he seen such love and compassion before him.
• Never had he seen darkness envelope the earth at high noon.
• Never had he heard a voice boom with victory prior to death like this
• Never would he forget the ominous, eerie sound of the massive veil in the
Temple being torn in half like a piece of thin cloth.
• Never had he experienced an earthquake the precise moment a criminal
died by crucifixion.
• Never had he seen tombs open up and dead bodies come to life!
Looking at all of these events moved him to one faith conclusion: “Truly this was the Son of God.”
Right now there is one happy centurion walking the streets of Paradise with a
repentant thief and a loving Savior. Now, the question is, “When will you, the hardened soldier, bow your knee in repentant, trusting faith at the blood-stained cross of Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior?” “When will you connect the dots of the evidence concerning the person and redemptive work of Jesus?
This centurion was convinced Christ was the Savior by how He responded to the
crucifixion and what transpired after the crucifixion. Two thousand years later we have not only the crucifixion story but the historical evidence of an empty tomb.
What will your response be? The risen Savior is waiting to hear from you.