It is finished

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“To die is not a problem when a man has accomplished his historic mission.”  Unfortunately for Leon Trotsky, an icepick cut short his mission to rule Russia.  His death represented a failure.  But Christ would have us believe that His death was a success.  Yet there was absolutely nothing on Good Friday that looked victorious.

“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”  (John 19:28-30)

Here we have a 33 year old Jew covered in spittle and blood, stripped of His only possession – His cloak, His back pulped from flogging, His limbs pinned to a piece of wood, His body hoisted onto the upright, an accusation of blasphemy and sedition placarded above Him, His followers scattered, crowds hurling abuse, the sky black and heaven silent.  And Jesus waits until this moment to cry out “I did it!”

That’s the meaning of “It is finished.”  It’s a single Greek word that means ‘it is covered, it is satisfied, it is paid for.’  Archaeologists have found the word stamped across first century bills. When you made that last mortgage repayment to the building society, the final notice would come back with the stamp: ‘it’s paid for’, ‘it’s covered’, ‘you’ve done it!’

And in His final moments Jesus declares His death to be His victory: “It is finished!”  Not ‘I am finished’.  This is not a cry of defeat.  ‘It is finished’.  This is about accomplishment.  But what exactly is being accomplished?

Well it’s an ancient work that was alluded to in the opening chapters of the Bible.  In Genesis 2 we read about the conclusion of the creation week.  At the end of the sixth day, “God rested.”  The LORD brought creation to completion that all might find rest in a true Sabbath.

Of course the fall puts a major spanner in the works.  There is no longer any rest to be found in this old creation, only striving and failing.  Therefore a new work of God is afoot.

Fast-forward to John chapter 5 and Jesus gives a sign of the new work.  He brings new creation life to a lame man.  Of course the authorities – guardians of the old order – are incensed that Jesus would “work” on the Sabbath.  He replies:

My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.  (John 5:17)

The Father and Son have not retired from world.  Since the fall, the Father and Son have been working to redeem the old creation and bring it to its true rest.

This is the great work of God.  This is the task which must be “finished” – the destruction of the old order, that new life might be raised up.  And here on the cross we see it happening.  The Son has become flesh.  He has taken humanity to Himself and with it, the headship of this old order.  He wraps our death, pain, struggle and curse around Himself so that He might put it into the ground like a seed.  Then the world can be raised up – born again (John 12:24).

Picture Him there on the cross.  He is lifted up as the Head of this old order – shot through with sin, curse and death.  He is a figure of disgust, truly summing up the hell of our plight.  And now look at the time.  It’s Friday afternoon – the end of the sixth day.  Sabbath is closing in when no-one may work.  And just in the nick of time, He shouts “Finished!”

His work is to die, to take this creaking world down into death and finish it off once and for all.  On the sixth day, He accomplished His mission.  On the Sabbath He rests.  And on the Sunday, a whole new world begins.

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