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It is Finished

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John 19:28-30 ESV The Death of Jesus

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

There comes a time when it’s time to go.

And it can be a time of fear.

For each of us, our final moment on earth will one day come. And while some of us are fully rooted in our understanding of the gospel, many of us struggle.

There’s still fear of the unknown: What will Heaven be like?

There are nagging doubts that we missed a step and won’t get through the door.

There’s the pain of missing those who have gone before us, the questions we have about what they’re doing now.

Maybe we don’t have these doubts at church, but in the midnight hour, we wrestle.

In the face of death, with all its permanence, uncertainty, and pain, a variety of reactions emerge.

We see it at funerals.

As we gather to celebrate the life and the victory, we must confront the insinuation of defeat. Death may follow a valiant struggle against disease. It may come suddenly, from an accident, or an act of violence. Some deaths seem horribly unfortunate. Some, horribly unfair. Some are simply unfathomable.

But to those left behind, all have died too soon. There were dreams left unfulfilled. Conversations left un-had. We didn’t get one last chance to tell them we loved them. No chance for one more day together.

And myriad perspectives gather in every Christian funeral congregation. From the devout Muslim son, to the spiritual but not religious daughter, to the uncle who quotes the Bible like a preacher, especially when drunk, to the wife who trusts in Jesus, but wonders how to go on without her sweetheart, to the friends, who have no hope.

And every one of these people sees the death differently. The death of a dream. The end of pain. The loss of a best friend. Abandonment by God. The folly of faith.

But it is one thing to commemorate someone’s life at a homegoing. Or even to be present at their peaceful transition.

It’s quite another to watch them be murdered.

And as Jesus hangs, dying, from the cross, the diverse crowd would have varying responses to the moment, because they have had a variety of responses to Jesus.

To the Pharisees he was an arrogant problem, who is finally getting his just deserts. He disrespected their power structure. He said he was king of the Jews – and now he is paying the price. This is justice.

To the Romans, he’s a kid they’ve got nothing against personally, but nobody challenges the state. So now the state will do what it does. He’s up for execution, so we will execute. This is consequence.

To the unaffected onlookers he was unwise and has caught a terrible break. This is failure.

To his followers, he was their champion. They have been waiting for a victory and are instead ringside for a wretched defeat. This is tragedy.

To his mother, brothers, and closest disciples, a part of them is being torn away, while they are forced to watch. This is horror.

We have reached the climax of a dizzying drama.

For the glory of God, all of this has played out publicly.

Prominence carries a price. When God chooses you, and uses you, you will experience the power. You will experience the prestige. But you will also experience the pressure.

God has chosen Jesus to suffer, in front of the masses.

And at this complex moment, the suffering servant speaks: It is finished. It has been completed. I have accomplished the work the Father gave me to do.

But the scripture tells us more. It says, knowing it was already finished, and to fulfill prophecy, Jesus says “It is finished.”

Recognize, this, was not the irrepressible exclamation of a man in agony. This was not the spontaneous battle cry of the man completing the race. The scripture says that Jesus, knowing that it was finished, and knowing that prophecy had to be fulfilled, cried out.

So Jesus spoke these words for the audience present, and the audiences of generations to come. He spoke it because we need to know.

Why? Because the struggle is real. And we who remain to live our day to day in a fallen world may not at times feel like we are victorious.

We still get sick.

We still die.

We still take hits along the way. No matter how tough you are, some battles you lose. You fight the law and the law wins. You fight the system and the system wins. Sometimes it seems like the system always wins.

But what Jesus accomplished on the cross makes manifest the promise: No weapon formed against us will prosper.

No matter what, we win.

Because even now, Jesus is in complete control. He gives up his spirit. He hands it over. No-one takes it. And that’s a critical reminder as we face adversity. It means your life is appointed by God. Your death is appointed by God. And that order is independent of every scheme of the enemy.

Many have a hand in betraying Jesus: Judas hands Jesus over to the Chief Priests. The Chief priests hand him over to Pilate. Pilate Hands him back over to the Chief priests. But Jesus hands over to God.

And that speaks volumes against our enemies.

It means oppressors, you cannot kill me.

Disease, you cannot destroy me.

And trouble don’t last always.

So If we operate in faith, there should be an excitement in our trouble. An encouragement in our embarrassment.

God permits your testing to be public. He permits your suffering to be public. Because your triumph will be public.

Because your haters would never volunteer to show up to your victory party. But now they won’t have a choice.

See, the people here have been tricked.

In announcing the completion of his work on the cross, Jesus announces the conclusion of so much more.

So the Question is: What is finished?

Finished is the payment of our sin debt. The word Jesus speaks, tetelestai, is an accounting. term meaning “paid in full.”

Finished is our redemption. The bridge repairing the breach created by Adam’s sin has been built. We can now return to God.

And for the assembled people, both there, and here, the implications continue.

Finished is the sting of death. Finished is the time when death means Goodbye. Now we can say I’ll see you soon. And finished is the time when a young man’s execution is without remedy.

The blood still cries out to God from the ground, but the blood of Jesus answers back.

Words of death will still be spoken, but the word of life will speak back.

And Jesus with Broken Body, and triumphant spirit, speaking words of life that will echo throughout time,

Says to The Religious Hypocrites: You missed it

Says to The Posturing Politicians: you need it.

Says to The brutal police force: Repent.

Says To Sin: you are master no more, because The Master is here.

Says To Death: Where is your sting?

Says to The Grave: Where is Your victory?

And He Says to Satan: You Lose!

And having paid the debt we never could, and handing off his spirit to God, Jesus says: It is Finished!

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