“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
Father, in this time now, bring us front and center to the foot of the cross. Make us to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest those blessed words: “It is finished.” Amen.
I. Love’s As Warm As Tears
Many people forget that C.S. Lewis was a poet before he was an apologist. In fact, he continued to write poetry his entire life. One of his finest poems is “Love’s As Warm As Tears.” Here is the first stanza:
Love’s as warm as tears,
Love is tears:
Pressure within the brain,
Tension at the throat,
Deluge, weeks of rain, (that is to say, tears)
Featureless seas between
Hedges, where once was green.
He wrote the poem after the death of his wife. If you know the story, that was a grief that tested him, but ultimately led him into a deeper understanding of the love of God for us. The poem ends in this moving stanza:
Love’s as hard as nails,
Love is nails:
Blunt, thick, hammered through
The medial nerves of One
Who, having made us, knew
The thing He had done,
Seeing (what all that is)
Our cross, and His.
Who, having made us, knew the thing he had done. Meaning that, from all eternity, God determined to bring himself into unity with humanity for the purpose of salvation. That purpose finds its terminus on Calvary’s Cross.
As Jesus died, having fulfilled all that the Father sent him to do, he spoke the words, “It is finished.” In our time, I simply want to unpack what these words mean.
II. “It Is Finished” Means…
The work of God (salvation) overcame the work of man (sin)
“It is finished” which is just one word in the Greek (τετέλεσται), means not just “it’s done” but “completed to the fullest.” Accomplished. I think here, Jesus is referring, not only to the Cross, but to his entire life. From the first moment to the last, Jesus’ life redeems our lives. His birth, his life, his death: all of it is God’s extravagant and gracious covering for our own sinful lives. From “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14) to Jesus’ death in “it is finished,” God meets us and can redeem each season of our lives by the once-for-all offering up of his Son.
Verse 30 also tells us that our Lord spoke these words after drinking sour wine. Earlier in the crucifixion, he was not willing to drink the wine mixed the myrrh (this wine was offered a sedative), but he was willing to drink the sour wine. This cheap ὄξος (vinegar-wine – it even sounds vinegary!) was the drink of day laborers and ordinary soldiers. Even more astounding is that he was given the drink because he asked for it: “I thirst,” Jesus said. Jesus was willing to drink the cup of sin. Willing to stand in our place.
Friends, is this your God? Christians serve a God who says of sin and the effects of living in a world of sin, “Give it to me. I will drink it. Put it into my nail-pierced hands. I am willing.” Who could doubt the love and care of a God like this? Earlier, we heard the account of the offering up of Isaac. If you read that account in light of this, it changes everything. The entire point of that episode, is not that God is so mean so as to exact Isaac’s blood, but rather that he will do himself what we cannot do for ourselves. For “God will provide for himself the lamb.”
There is nothing more to add or subtract
St. Matthew gives us this little detail after Jesus speaks the words, “it is finished.” The temple curtain is torn from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51), not from bottom to top. That is to say, from heaven to earth. Because God dealt with sin, it is dealt with completely. You can no more add to or subtract from Jesus’ work than you can add to or subtract from infinity. For “as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy also toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he set our sins from us.” (Psalm 103:11-12)
Horatio Spafford, the hymnist who wrote “It Is Well with My Soul” knew this truth: “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more; praise the Lord!”
I have come to the conclusion that there are two ways to live: you can live in the words “it is finished” or can live “unfinished.” In Christ, it is finished.
You can go free…to love and serve the Lord
Truly free. That’s the way God wants us to be. As Augustine said, “love God and do what you will.” That’s exactly the kind of life we’re given through repentance from sin and faith in Christ.
But some of us lock our cages from the inside. We refuse the love of God. We run from God in different ways. Some of us choose the burden of morality. We’d rather try to measure up to our own standard then bow at the cross and admit our need. Some us run into immorality, looking for satisfaction and freedom there, but finding only more captivity and deeper darkness.
But “it is finished” means true freedom for us. Freedom to love and serve God with all of your life.
“It is finished.” Jesus had no need to speaks these words for himself – he spoke them for us. And the confidence that no matter where we’re at in life, he can meet us there, bringing us redemption and newness of life in him.
I end tonight with “His Be the Victor’s Name” by Samuel Gandy:
His be the Victor’s Name
Who fought the fight alone;
Triumphant saints no honor claim;
Their conquest was His own.
By weakness and defeat
He won the reed and crown;
Trod all the foes beneath His feet
By being trodden down.
He hell in hell laid low;
Made sin, He sin o’erthrew;
Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so,
And death, by dying, slew.
What tho’ the’accuser roar
Of ills that I have done;
I know them well, and thousands more;
Jehovah findeth none.
Bless, bless the Conqu’ror slain,
Slain by divine decree!
Who lived, who died, who lives again,
For thee, my soul, for thee.