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)
At Easter, Jesus went through the agony of his suffering, enduring all the pains of hell. He has cried out from the depths, but now he’s announcing his victory. He moves into death, not defeated, but triumphant: “It is finished.”
What did Jesus finish?
1. The long night of his suffering
I put this first because John described how someone held up a sponge soaked in vinegar on a stick, and the Apostle says, “When Jesus had received the drink, he said ‘It is finished.’” Matthew Henry says:
When He had received that last indignity in the vinegar they gave Him, He said, “This is the last. I am now going out of their reach.” [i]
This was the end of his excruciating suffering. Jesus knows suffering from the inside—more than anyone has ever known it. But he is not suffering now. He’s done with that. It is finished. He’s not in the grave either. He’s at the right hand of the Father where he intercedes for us.
That is of massive importance for us. A suffering world needs a savior who knows about suffering. A savior who is overwhelmed by suffering, a savior who remains in suffering is of no use to us.
We need a Savior who has triumphed over suffering. That is what we have in Jesus. He was plunged into indescribable suffering, but he was not overcome by it. He came through it and he triumphed in it.
2. The full course of his obedience
Remember why Jesus came into the world. The Son of God became a man to live the life you and I would have to live in order to enter heaven. Jesus lived the perfect life. There was no sin in him.
The night before he died, he was able to say to his Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Spurgeon says:
Examine the life of the Savior from Bethlehem to Calvary, look minutely at every portion of it, the private as well as the public, the silent as well as the spoken part, you will find that it is finished, complete, perfect.[ii]
Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish [the law] but to fulfill [it]” (Matthew 5:17). Every commandment of God was fulfilled in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Throughout his life, Jesus loved God the Father with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and he loved his neighbor as himself. He’s the only person who has ever done it.
Jesus’ perfect life of obedience was now complete and he was about to lay it down, so he said, “It is finished.”
3. The decisive battle with his enemy
The life of Jesus was a life of suffering, it was a life of obedience, but it was also a life of conflict with our great enemy the devil. Look at the world today and ask the question:
Where does evil come from? Why do so many marriages fail? Why do wars keep happening?
Jesus spoke with absolute clarity about Satan or the devil. Confronting the devil was the first act of Jesus’ public ministry. The Spirit led him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Throughout his ministry we see Jesus casting out evil spirits that were holding human lives in bondage.
The story of this conflict goes back to the beginning of the Bible. Satan tempted the man and the woman and led them into sin that caused them to lose the joys of the paradise of God.
They got the knowledge of evil and came under the power of the evil one. That’s been our story ever since. It is the explanation of what we see in the world today.
But God promised that a Redeemer would come, saying to Satan, “You will bite his heel, but he will crush your head” (Genesis 3:15). What a picture!
God’s promise in Eden is precisely what happened at the cross. In Christ’s death, he breaks the devil’s power:
Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:15)
When Jesus died, he went beyond the reach of Satan. Satan could no longer tempt him. The devil could no longer afflict him or cause him to suffer. When Jesus went into death, it was “game over” for the devil and “game on” for us. The decisive battle with the enemy had been won.
4. The complete work of his atonement
Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He came to give his life as a ransom for many, and on the cross he says, “It is finished.” He has borne the guilt of our sins. He has endured the punishment of our hell. The divine wrath has been spent on him. The justice of God has been satisfied in him.
The perfect sacrifice has been offered. Complete atonement has been made. Hell has been vanquished. The condemnation has been removed. Now the Redeemer says, “It is finished.” Jonathan Edwards wrote:
Though millions of sacrifices had been offered; yet nothing was done to purchase redemption before Christ’s incarnation… so nothing was done after His resurrection, to purchase redemption for men. Nor will there be anything more done to all eternity. [v]
What can be added to Jesus’s redemptive work, his death and resurrection? It is finished! His long night of suffering is over. He’s no longer on the cross. The full course of his obedience is over. The decisive battle with his enemy is over.
Christ finished. You haven’t. But with him you will.
[This article was adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “Crossing the Finish Line,” from his series 7 Words from the Cross.]
[i] Matthew Henry, “Commentary on the Whole Bible,” Vol. 5 http://www.ccel.org/ccel/henry/mhc5.John.xx.html
[ii] C. H. Spurgeon, sermon #2344, “Christ’s Dying Word for His Church,” Nov. 3, 1889 http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols40-42/chs2344.pdf
[iii] Ronald Wallace, “Words of Triumph,” p. 76, John Knox press, 1964 http://www.amazon.com/Words-triumph-words-Cross-application/dp/B0007IYO9I/
[v] Jonathan Edwards, “Works,” Vol. 1, p. 572, Banner of Truth, 1974 http://www.billygrahamcenter.com/museum/rotund-Jonathan.htm