Scriptures

It Is Finished

Introduction

‘When he had received the drink, Jesus said, It is finished. With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.’ John 19:30

The single Greek word has been found in the papyri being placed on receipts for taxes meaning ‘paid in full.’ This may have been a moment of great joy to the heart of our Saviour.

Even upon the cross, just moments before He is to die, Jesus considers His task here during His visit to earth. Jesus knew ‘that all was now finished’, ‘teleo’, this frequently signifies, not merely to terminate a thing, but to carry out a thing to the full, the same word is used in John 19:30.

His death isn’t that of a defeated, or beaten man, it’s the death of a victor who triumphs. The ‘loud cry’ of Matthew 27:50 and Mark 15:37 tells us that Jesus died as a victor, He had completed what He came to do.

What did Jesus finish?

Every sin has been paid for, every evil deed judged, and the full and total price of our redemption purchased at the cross. That is the power of the blood of Jesus. That is the glory of the Son of God. It is finished, means it is accomplished, the task is done, it’s all over. The Gospels state that Jesus uttered a loud cry immediately before He died.

‘It is finished!’

was shouted, a cry of triumph. His commission is fulfilled.

‘I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.’ John 17:4

It is a cry of accomplishment, but it is also an announcement of obedience fulfilled. This shout began in the painful will of the Father, the cup, the baptism, the suffering, the cross.

‘It is finished’ announces the full obedience of the One who, though equal with God.

‘Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ Philippians 2:7-11

Make no mistake. The ability to say, ‘It is finished’ to the Father’s commission was not the beginning of some kind of ‘glory road,’ but the end. It was the final culmination of a life of obedience, humility, and suffering that now ushers in a new era.

Can you imagine the expression on the Jews’ faces as they remembered the whole of the messianic prophecy as we find in Psalm 22 being fulfilled in front of their eyes? And the climax would be Jesus’ final words,

‘It is finished.’ John 19:30

Look at the last line of Psalms 22.

‘He has done it!’ Psalm 22:31

Jesus isn’t saying that His father ‘has forsaken Him’ or His Father has ‘turned away from Him’, He’s saying that He is the Messiah.

A closer look at Psalm 22

Now I don’t know about you but a lot of people I know, can recite the whole of Psalm 23, but they couldn’t tell you one verse from Psalm 68, Psalm 52 or Psalm 117.

Why is that?

Well simply because we don’t know our Scriptures like the Jews did, we know Psalm 23 very well because we’ve heard it over and over again, but we don’t hear the other Psalms as often. The Jews they would have known all of the Psalms and memorised them because they had been taught them over and over again since a very young age. The more you hear them, the more you’ll remember them.

Old Testament prophecy often had both a current and future application, and here we’re concerned with the future application of what is written in Psalm 22. As we read it, we will see why Jesus said,

‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

Later, in John 19:30, why He said,

‘It is finished.’

What we see is that Jesus quoted the very first verse in Psalm 22 and the very last verse, which, properly translated, should read,

‘it is finished.’

Jesus quoting the beginning and the ending of one of the most famous, most well-known, and most memorised sections of all of the Old Testament, one that vividly set forth what was taking place right in front of their eyes. No doubt for many of them who had ears to hear, the verses we’re about to read flashed through their minds.

Psalms 22-24 are Messianic Psalms. Psalm 22 focuses on the coming Saviour. Psalm 23 pictures the Saviour as a shepherd of the people. Psalm 24 proclaims the sovereignty of the Saviour. The Psalm can be divided into two sections, the first dealing with trials, Psalm 22:1-21 and the second with triumph over trials Psalm 22:22-31.

‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?’ Psalm 22:1

As we read on, we’ll see that these are basically rhetorical questions, because after verse 18 the theme of the Psalm changes radically from death unto life. But to many standing around at the scene, especially those who weren’t familiar with this Psalm, and their attention captivated by the horror of it all, it would certainly ‘appear’ as if God had forsaken this man who had claimed to be His Son.

‘My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.’ Psalm 22:2-5

To whom did Jesus come?

Israel. To whom was this Psalm written? Israel. Look how he’s reminding them of their spiritual heritage, which included the Messiah.

‘But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.’ Psalm 22:6

The word ‘worm’ here is very interesting; it is the Hebrew word ‘tola’, which isn’t the ordinary word for worm. Rather, this was a worm from which crimson or scarlet dye was obtained. Why is this word used? Because Jesus was covered with blood, and was the colour of scarlet dye.

‘All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. ‘He trusts in the LORD,’ they say, ‘let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’ Psalm 22:7+8

These verses sound familiar, don’t they?

‘In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ Matthew 27:41-43

This very prophecy was unfolding right in front of their eyes, and
Jesus was trying to call their attention to it.

‘Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.’ Psalm 22:9-11

The agony of death itself was approaching, the disciples

‘deserted him and fled’, Mark 14:10

with the exception of John, and in the excruciating agony of that situation, Jesus again cried out for help. The torture described here is clearly that of a crucifixion, a form of execution, which, as far as we can determine, had never at that time been used by any government. Although it resembles the impaling of enemies upon stakes, as practiced by the Assyrians, the practice of crucifixion was never developed until a later time by the Romans.

‘Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.’ Psalm 22:12

Who was Bashan?

And what was does that mean? Bashan was the chief cattle-raising area of Israel where the biggest, best, strongest bulls came from. Figuratively, this is referring to the religious ‘top notches’ of Israel. It was the Pharisees who had inspired, persuaded, and manipulated the Romans to pound the nails. As such, they were the ones responsible for Jesus’ death.

‘From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’ When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. ‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’ ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered. Finally, Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.’ John 19:12-16

‘Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.’ Psalm 22:13-15

Using metaphorical language, these verses clearly describe a person dying. ‘All my bones’, we say things like that today, don’t we? ‘Every bone in my body is tired.’ That doesn’t mean all 216 or however many there are, it’s a figure of speech.

In regard to Jesus, crucifixion dislocated a number of his bones, and no doubt it felt like all of them. His heart, the most critical organ in his body, ‘turned to wax.’ A ‘potsherd’ was an old piece of pottery dried by the sun, Jesus’ strength had ebbed away. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, from the cross he said,

‘I thirst.’ John 19:28

‘Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.’ Psalm 22:16-18

When the Romans crucified someone, they formed a cordon of soldiers around the cross to keep the people away. And the Jews referred to uncircumcised people like the Romans as ‘dogs.’

‘I can count all my bones’

that’s another figure of speech meaning that in His many beatings and floggings, Jesus’ skin had been thrashed to the bone. People spit on Him, taunted Him, and gloated over Him.

‘They divide my garments among and cast lots for my clothing.’

This couldn’t more clearly describe what later happened at Golgotha in fulfilment of this prophecy. Mathew 37:35. And it’s at this point that the thrust of Psalm 22 begins to shift from death unto life.

‘But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.’ Psalm 22:19-21

The Messiah calls upon His God, Yahweh, to save him.

How?

Not by taking Him off the cross, but by raising Him from the dead in accordance with other Old Testament prophecies.

‘Because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.’ Psalm 16:10

On the Day of Pentecost, when Peter preached the first Gospel sermon, he boldly asserted that God had raised Jesus from the dead, Acts 2:24. He then explained that God had performed this miraculous deed in fulfilment of David’s prophecy in Psalm 16. In fact, he quoted the words of David in detail as contained in Psalm 16:8-11.

Years later, Paul did the same thing when he spoke to the Jews of Antioch in Pisidia. Acts 13:33-35. Like Peter, he declared that God
had raised Jesus from the dead in fulfilment of Psalm 16:10.

‘I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honour him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!’ Psalm 22:22-23

How is the Messiah going to praise God in the future when it’s clear that He was to die?

Only if God keeps His Word and raises him from the dead. And the next verse indicates that God hadn’t forsaken him and would do just that!

‘For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.’ Psalm 22:24

This magnificent psalm, we see a vivid portrait of the death and resurrection of the man we now know as Jesus, the Messiah. This Psalm ends in triumph and God will bless the world through Him. Again, if God turned His back on His Son, why does the Psalm say otherwise?

Does ‘the Father turn His face away’ according to this verse?

Not at all.

‘From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfil my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise him—may your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!’ Psalm 22:25-31

The proclamation of the prayer was to all the people. The proclamation was an exhortation to fear, praise and glorify
God.

In times of trouble vows were made to God and when the day of deliverance came, the one delivered remembered what he had promised the Lord, and thus gave his thank offerings to the Lord. After victory over an enemy, Israel ate of the sacrifices that were made to the Lord, Leviticus 3:17 / Leviticus 7:16 / Numbers 15:3.

Not only would Israel worship the Lord, but this Psalm speaks of all the nations giving praise to God. This is certainly a Messianic prophecy of what would eventually come and did come in reference to Jesus.

‘But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them.’ Revelation 11:15

The last verse of verse 31 should be translated a bit differently. In the KJV you can see that the word ‘it’ is in italics, indicating that the translators added it. The pronoun ‘he’ should be ‘it,’ so that the Psalm closes with the words, ‘for it is finished.’

What Should We Learn from ‘It Is Finished’?

When we meditate on this Sixth Word from the cross, what should we learn for our lives?

1. We Are to Live Lives of Purpose.

First, we are to live lives of purpose. Unless Jesus had a purpose, a mission to complete, the words, ‘It is finished’ would have had little meaning. He wasn’t speaking of his earthly life that was finished, in fact, his life has no beginning and has no end. Rather, he is speaking of that which the Father had instructed him to do. Our lives may not be so clear, so purpose-driven as Jesus’ life.

However, I believe that one of the signs of maturity in our lives is to discern our abilities, and then order our lives so as to maximise what God has given. Jesus told the Parables of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30 and the Pounds, Luke 19:11-27.

In each case, success for the servant was to ‘trade with’ what the master had given him in order to produce the largest possible outcome for the master, given each servant’s unique talents, time, and circumstances. The reward was to hear the master say,

‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master’. Matthew 25:21

2. We Are to Live Lives of Focus.

Second, living lives of purpose requires us to focus on our priorities. Instead of living scatter-shot lives, we are to be marksmen that aim carefully at the target and make our shots count. This requires focus and discipline. It means saying ‘No’ to some choices so that we can say ‘Yes’ to opportunities that are even better.

3. We Are to Live Lives of Obedience.

Third, to be able to say, ‘It is finished,’ as Jesus did, our lives must be marked by obedience. Jesus is God, but in His earthly life He willingly obeyed.

‘He humbled himself and became obedient to death’. Philippians 2:8

Paul put it this way,

‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ Galatians 2:20

Obedience is the opposite of independent action. It means living in obedience to God, not to ourselves.

4. We Must Be Willing to Suffer to Achieve God’s Purpose

Finally, to say ‘It is finished,’ we must be willing to suffer to achieve God’s purpose for our lives. We continue in the sunny summer days as well as the stormy winters of our lives. We don’t give up just because things are difficult. We are willing to suffer whatever is necessary to complete the Father’s plan for our lives.

When our lives are over, we want to be able to say with Paul,

‘The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.’ 2 Timothy 4:6-8

These words teach us to be faithful unto death. This is an example of endurance to the end. We should not forget to ask for the grace of perseverance, that we too may be faithful in the death that we may finish the work which is in given us to do. And with Jesus to say,

‘It is finished!’

‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ Hebrews 12:2

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

1 John 3:16

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