This past Sunday I preached on my favorite topic, Jesus. I am a huge fan.
It was the final sermon in a series. And even though it isn’t Easter, I preached on what happened on the cross. I thought my topic was well worn and would not be new information to many of the veteran church members I was preaching to. I was shocked at the response. Over a dozen long time church members took the time to speak to me about how what I said was news to them and shared about how much that information impacted them. Some suggested I share the sermon in a blog. So here it is.
In John 19:28-30 (NIV) we pick up the narrative of Jesus at the very end of his life during the crucifixion. “Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
When Jesus said “It is finished,” he said a mouthful. It has always been my observation that God sent Jesus to earth at the time He did because his story would be recorded in Greek. As all Biblical scholars know, Greek is a very exact language; much more exact than English. The definition of words in Greek are much clearer than in English. The word used to record Jesus’ final phrase is, in Greek, Tetelestai. It can be translated as: It is finished; it has been finished; it has been accomplished; as used in the market place – it has been paid for; written on a bill of sale it said, paid in full; at the end of a task – it has been accomplished; written across a court document of sentencing after the prisoner has done his time and paid the price – paid in full.
As we look at the scene of the crucifixion it would seem that the Romans government is in charge. Because of that, it seems strange that Jesus would be the one to declare that “It is finished.” Though it looked like his life (and death) was out of his control, he remained in control. Jesus was not killed on the cross. The scripture tells the reader that Jesus gave up his life. It was his choice. It was a sacrifice on his part for us.
When Jesus made this sacrifice we must investigate to understand what has really happened here. What has been accomplished on the cross? What has been finished? I believe several very important things happened. The Old Testament law and prophecy of the coming Messiah have been fulfilled. The power of evil on this earth has been broken. We no longer have to live under the control of sin. We don’t have to be controlled by: Others; By the fear of failure; Set free from our past and past mistakes; We are completely forgiven; It is paid in full – It is finished – It is done. Peter wrote to the early church and said, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18 (NIV) Jesus did all of this so that he could bring us to God.
That is what Christ has done for us – Done for you. A question that begs answering is, “How does that impact your life?” It does in many ways. You can stop holding on to your failures. You can stop beating yourself up. You can stop being defensive. You can stop letting the past control the present and your future.
It is our human nature that causes us to struggle to understand and embrace God’s mercy and grace. We, somehow, want to earn and deserve what Christ has done for us. If that were possible, Jesus’ death on the cross would have been avoidable and a horrible insult to God and humankind. When we attempt to earn God’s gift of forgiveness I believe Jesus would say to us, “How dare you. I paid for your mistakes. It is finished.”
In Galatians 5:1 (NKJV) the writer gave some wonderful advice, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”
It is finished. Your relationship with God is not dependent on what we do; it is dependent on what Jesus has done. What is done is done. It is finished.
Copyright © 2014, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press. He can be contacted @ firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @bill45053.