John 19:25-30 -- "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. 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 sponge 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."
We come again to Calvary -- Calvary, where Jesus died for sinners; Calvary, where the rich, red blood of God was shed so that our sins could be atoned; Calvary, where the mob cursed, and God the Son prayed; Calvary, where the sinless Son of God was bruised for our iniquity; Calvary, where the Son of God looked for pity and comfort but found none.
As Jesus hung on the cross, He made seven sayings of which we have been speaking to you about each Sunday morning for the last several weeks. As He was crucified and the nails were driven into His hands and into His feet, and as He was lifted up on the cross, He was saying over and over, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do, Father forgive them for they know not what they do." We then heard the crowd cursing Him, reviling Him, and rebuking Him. The Bible says, "And the thieves cast the same in His teeth," but one of them stopped and said, what's the matter with you (speaking to the other thief), this man has done nothing amiss. We deserve this, we are getting the just reward for our deeds. Then he turned to Jesus and said, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." In so doing, the thief was forsaking what anyone else might think, he was acknowledging that he was a sinner and that this one was sinless. Jesus then gave him that great promise, that great statement, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." You said that which I needed to hear; you have repented, and you are looking to me for Heaven and salvation, and I am going to give it to you. He gave us a picture of what salvation is all about. One thief died in sin; he rejected the Savior. One thief died to sin; he accepted the Savior; and there was Jesus dying for sin, for the sin of every person who had ever lived or would live.
Jesus then looked down and saw His mother and said, "Woman behold thy son." He was speaking of John, the beloved disciple. Then to John He said, "Behold thy mother." Then, darkness suddenly came across the land and for three hours there was total darkness. An eerie silence pervaded that period of time. At the end of three hours, God pulled down the curtain over all lights, so that no one could see the agony of the sinless Son of God as He went to Hell for you and me. He cried out of the depths of Hell, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" People in Hell are forsaken of God. Jesus Christ went to the depths of Hell to take our sin and to satisfy the just demands of a Holy God. God poured out His wrath upon Jesus, as He became the representative for every sinner and every sin that had ever been committed or ever would be committed. Truly Jesus died for all. Suddenly the light showed again, and there was Jesus hanging on the cross. The Bible says in John 19:28, "Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished; that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst." The natural announcement from the lips of One who had been to Hell. "I thirst."
Jesus then made this great cry, a triumphant cry, as He said, "It is finished!" In the Greek, that word is tetelestai. Luke chapter 23, verse 46, says it was a loud cry. He exclaimed loudly,"It is finished, It is finished." It was a cry of triumph, it was a cry where Jesus said, it is done. Three times we find, most amazingly, a similar statement in scripture. In the very beginning of the Bible, in the book of Genesis chapter one, the last verse. In the first verse of chapter two, God finished His creation, looked at it and saw that it was very good. Then in the body of the Bible we find this great statement of Jesus, hanging from the cross, saying,"It is finished." At the very end of the Bible, in Revelation chapter sixteen we find another statement of our Lord, "It is done," and all the things that will yet come to pass will be done as he so stated. But of all those, this is the most important statement. "It is finished," Jesus said.
It is a word of satisfaction, it is a word of accomplish-ment, it is a word of fact, it is a word that speaks of work, which our Savior did. It is a word of relief, it is a word of victory. It is a farmer's word. Every year, a farmer sees a new calf crop, from a herd of brood cows. It is a farmers word, where he would see such a calf crop and he would walk among them and he would see one that simply stood out above all the others and he would say, tetelasti. There is none that can be any finer, any nicer, any better than this.
It is also an artist's word. An artist paints on his canvas a scene that is in his mind and after laboring over it for hours and putting all of the final touches on it, he stands back and looks at it and says tetelasti. It is done; it is finished; nothing else should be added to it. It is what I want it to be.
It is also a priestly word. The priest would watch the worshipers come, bringing their animals unto the altar to worship the Lord. He would be accustomed to seeing animals that were blind, and deformed, and handicapped, and short of that which would be the best. Then a worshipper, out of great praise and great thankfulness would bring the finest of the flock and bring in one without spot or without blemish. He would see that worshipper coming, and he would see that animal, and say tetelasti, tetelasti. It is beautiful; it is perfect; it is what rejoices my heart. That is the word that Jesus used on this day that He died there on Calvary. The previous word had been a word of tragedy, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It had been a word of desolation and the word following it when He cried out, "I thirst," was a tragic word also, and it was a word of lamentation. This word is a word of jubilation. Tetelasti. He is pleased with what has been accomplished.
MEANING OF THE CRY
Now let us look further at this word, and to do that we need to look at the earthly sufferings of our Lord. Psalm 88:15, is a Messianic Psalm that speaks of Jesus' thoughts and sayings from the cross. "I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up." There we get an understanding of what our Lord went through in His life. From the very beginning, Jesus knew what His end would be. John chapter 18 states, "And Jesus knowing all things that would come upon Him." From the time He was a babe, Jesus knew what His end would be. If you and I knew what our end would be, the circumstances of our death, it would haunt us in every waking moment of our life, perhaps drive us insane, but Jesus knew that. You will notice that in the scriptures, Jesus referred often to His death. At the miracle of the wedding in Canaan of Galilee, Jesus said on that occasion, "Mine hour hath not yet come." In Matthew chapter 16, the Lord had a discourse with Peter and He said to His disciples, "Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man am?" And they gave Him that answer, ASome say you are Elijah, and some say you are Jeremiah, and some say you are one of the other prophets," And in talking to them Jesus told them that He would be crucified. "And from that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples how that He must go unto Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and be raised again on the third day" (Matthew 16:19-21).The scriptures record some five different times, that Jesus said this. The thing I want us to realize, is that Jesus knew all of this time, through His childhood and through His ministering years, that He was going to the cross. Even on the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus was talking with Moses and Elijah, the Bible says, "They spoke of His decease in Jerusalem." It was constantly before Him.
Recall some of the suffering that Jesus went through in that fateful week before His crucifixion. He went into the Garden of Gethsemane and agonized there in prayer, to the point where He sweat great drops of blood. He saw the crowd come, the crowd He loved, and the multitude, and they took Him through three religious trials and three civil trials. In every trial He was condemned to death falsely, but nevertheless He had to go through all of that and then be scourged, and mocked, and reviled, and ridiculed, and cursed; and His disciples fled from Him. Those that were so close to Him for over three years forsook Him. It is difficult to accept rejection. And yet our Lord took it and He was in all points tempted like as we, yet, without sin. Have you ever been rejected? Do you feel rejected now and forsaken by any? Our Lord was also. He loves you. He wants to minister to you and help you. If you will look to Him, He will do just that, for He knows exactly how you feel and He loves you.
Well, Jesus went to the cross and suffered all the agony, the physical agony of that experience. Isaiah said that when He would, His face would be so marred, more than any man, and that is a tremendous statement in itself. But there He not only suffered the physical agony, but, also the mental anguish of all those people reviling Him. It was just a few days before this, that Jesus had looked over the whole city and wept over it, and now the city was turned against Him. We read to you that verse in Psalm 88:15, about how He knew this from His early days. In Psalm 69, the Bible says, "that He looked for pity and comfort and found none." Could you imagine that, as He was dying for the sins of the world, and He looks out at that scene and there was none to comfort, and none to show pity or sympathy, whatsoever. Jesus suffered that!
But the worst suffering was when Jesus cried out and said, "My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me?" This was the greatest punishment, as the justice of God was perfectly, infinitely, meted out upon Him, as He took Hell for every person who had ever lived or ever would live. So when Jesus cried out and said, "It is finished" he was saying, I have taken the combined Hells, the punishment of every sinner; I have taken it upon myself, and it satisfied the just demands of a holy, righteous God. Never again would Jesus suffer pain; never again would He suffer such contradiction of sinners; never again would the Lord bruise Him; never again would Satan bruise His heel; never again would the light of God's countenance be hid from Him. For as Jesus cried out that awful cry, certainly He had not been able to feel the presence of God, not at all. So when Jesus said, "It is finished," it meant that He had taken the combined Hells of every person that had ever lived or that would live. He would never again have to suffer for us. The epistle of I John chapter 2:2, says of Jesus, "And He is the propitiation (or the satisfaction), for our sins and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." So when Jesus died that day and took the punishment of the sins of the people, the Bible says, He took it for the whole world. Past, present, and future sins were all adequately punished. Anyone can now come and be saved because Jesus took your punishment and God was satisfied with the degree and the extent of that punishment. He was satisfied with it, so that when we come and accept him as our Savior, then we are no longer under the guilt and condemnation of sin, but we are free! Freed by the blood of the crucified One.
Then, we think also, when we think of the meaning of the cry, not only of the suffering that He did but also of the work that was accomplished. In Luke chapter 19:10, Jesus said He came, "to seek and to save that which was lost." Galatians chapter 4:4 says, "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His son, made of a woman, made under the law to redeem them that were under the law." He did so very much for us when He died there on Calvary; He bore our sins. Isaiah 53:6, says, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." In 1 Peter chapter 2:24, we read these words, "Who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree that we being dead to sin should live unto righteousness by whose stripes ye were healed." Revelation 5:9 tells us that He redeemed us. Listen to this. Thou art worthy they sing. The Elders in heaven, sang a song saying, AThou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." This is a heavenly scene, there in the book of the Revelation, after the Lord had taken the saints home. They further state, "And hast made us unto our God, kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." He hath bought redemption for us and so we are redeemed from our sins by His precious blood.
Second Corinthians chapter 21 tells us that He made us the righteousness of God, "For He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." It is wonderful to know that when you have accepted Christ as your Savior that God looks down upon us and doesn't see that old sinner that He saw before. He sees us with the clothes of the righteousness of Almighty God and clothed in that garment of righteousness. The book of Romans tells us it is imputed to us, just given to us. We did not merit it; we did not work for it; we just received it when we accepted Christ as our Savior. We are now clothed in the glorious righteousness of Almighty God. In that garment, we shall one day stand in the presence of the Holy One, Almighty God, the Holy One of Israel. In so doing this, not only did He bear our sins, taking the punishment for them, not only did He redeem us, and we are redeemed by the blood of the lamb; but also, He made us the righteousness of God.
Now God's justice is satisfied and God's holiness is satisfied. Habakkuk said, AGod is of purer eyes than to behold evil." The very holiness of God would prevent us from standing in the presence of God, but now that we are clothed in the righteousness of God we can stand in the presence of Holiness. The attribute of "justice" of Almighty God is fully satisfied. God's love was magnified and so Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Our sin was transferred to Him and now the guilt and condemnation of sin is not upon us. It was laid upon Him when He died for us on Calvary. So we have the "I" and the "IT" of Calvary. Jesus is the "I" of the person, and "IT" is the work that is done. It is accomplished, it is done, there is nothing more that can be added to it. Jesus has seen that it has been paid in full for every sinner.
One time a farmer had a carpenter friend who could not grasp the truth, that what Jesus did was complete. The carpenter would tell him that just trusting Jesus was not enough. You had to live the life, and there were certain laws you had to live up to, and you had to strive for righteousness in order to stay saved. So the farmer got the carpenter to make a gate for him and that carpenter prided himself in his work. He did a magnificent job building this gate. He brought it out and hung it and then rode up to the farm house and told the farmer to come with him, and see that beautiful gate he had made. So the farmer went with him. When they got to that gate he looked at it, and he scrutinized it closely. He noticed that it was without blemish, and it was perfectly hung, and it would perfectly swing open and closed. He had seen a hatchet in the back of the truck and he went back to the truck and he picked up that hatchet, walked back to that gate, and started hacking on it, chopping off big chunks of wood. The carpenter exclaimed, "What in the world are you doing?" The farmer replied, "I am improving your gate!" And the carpenter said, "You can not improve my gate; you are ruining my gate. What I did was perfect and you ruined it." And the farmer said, "That is what I have been trying to tell you about the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is finished, it is done, it is complete, it is perfect, nothing can be added to it or you will mar it." So we come to Christ and we trust Him as our Savior. We trust Him and His finished work on Calvary, completely relying on Him and Him alone for the salvation of our own soul. When we try to help Him save us, we just mar His finished work. My beloved friend, when I get to heaven, I am going to say thank you, Lord, for saving me, when I wasn't worth saving. Thank you, Lord, for keeping me, when I was not worth keeping, and I am going to praise Him throughout eternity for that which He did for me, an undeserving sinner. He saved me by His precious grace.
PURPOSE OF THE CRY
Let us look for a moment at the purpose of the cry. The purpose of that cry was so that all would hear and take note of what he had done. The angels of Heaven, I think, rejoiced, and sang, and danced gleefully, when they heard that cry. They had seen the events of history, and had seen God working in the lives of people. They had seen how the people had rejected Him, and how some had walked with Him, but how most had not. They had seen the plan of salvation unfold. They had seen that scene in the garden, when Adam and Eve had fallen, when Satan had tempted them. They had seen the tragedy of that, as they had been banished from the very presence of God. They had seen God unfold the plan of salvation as He killed some animals and offered to Adam and Eve the skins of those animals, with which to clothe themselves. This was a picture of God clothing us in His righteousness after His precious blood was shed for us on Calvary. That was the scene revealed to people, giving them more light as history went on, and now this scene of the Savior coming. They had taken note of the fact that the second person of the Godhead, the Delight of glory had stepped over the battlements of Heaven and come down to Earth and formed Himself, as a little babe. They watched that baby grow. They had seen him live sinlessly on earth, so that He was blameless and then go to the old rugged cross. I think they rejoiced in Heaven that it was finished and complete and soon the Savior would come back; soon the second person of the Godhead would join Heaven once again. So they were rejoicing over that!
Then, I think the saints of old were looking over the battlements of Heaven, seeing that scene and when they heard the Savior say, "It is finished," they rejoiced. For someone has rightly said, that the saints in the Old Testament were saved on credit. They came every year to the Tabernacle and there they offered the blood of a goat. The high priest would take that blood into the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and sprinkle it over the mercy seat. And then God would, in that act, atone (cover over) the sins, of all the people for the past year. There these were in glory, wondering if that act was really sufficient. Their sins had been covered over temporarily, but would the Savior really complete the task and see that their sins would really be taken care of? Would he really take their Hell for them? And when they heard Jesus say tetelasti, they knew the task was accomplished. It was finished, to the satisfaction of Holiness Himself, in the glory world.
I think that Adam and Eve were looking over the battlements of Heaven. Seeing that scene that day, I think they may have grabbed old Abel, and put their arms around him and rejoiced together. They were so glad that they had accepted that Savior in type, by taking those animal skins, that day when God offered them to them. I think old Abraham, the friend of God, rejoiced that day. I think he rejoiced with Isaac and Jacob and those twelve sons of Jacob (Benjamin and Gad and Joseph and Reuben and Judah). They rejoiced together as they looked down and saw that scene and heard Jesus say, tetelasti ("it is finished") our debts have been paid. We are free, we are home. We are going to be in glory with the Lord, forever.
I think also, the people in Hell heard that cry and their despair was final. Nothing could now be done for them. They were certain they would have to stay where they were. In Hebrews chapter 2 and verse 14, we read these words for our instruction, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." But they had no hope for that now, for sin's fair promise had taken a hold of their heart and they had decided to walk that road and not follow the Lord and His teachings about salvation.
But then I think the message, the saying of our Lord, tetelasti, also was a great message for us, and all earthlings, that we might know now, that we could be saved. We can come to the Savior and give our heart to Him, for the Savior said as recorded in Matthew chapter 28:18, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." That was after His death at Calvary and all power was given unto Him. Now that power is for us, and He now has power to save our souls. Once we come unto Him and trust Him as our Savior, in that moment, in a twinkling of an eye, we become a new creation in Christ and we get a home in Heaven and become a child of God, saved for time and eternity.
Well, He is received differently, is he not, by different people? Sometimes people hear the gospel and they receive it indifferently. They seem not to care. It does not make an impact on them or they shrug it off and care not about the Savior's atoning work. Some of them hear about the Savior and His work and antagonistically reject Him, hating God and rejecting God. They blatantly refuse to have anything to do with God and our Lord. Some simply misunderstand about the Lord. Just like the carpenter, who thought he had to help our Lord save him, but God does not need any help. God is fully able through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ to save everyone. Praise the Lord, some come having hope, put their faith in the Son of God, and are wonderfully saved. They are saved by trusting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There was a rather eccentric evangelist over in England, in days of old, who had his tent up and preached a revival. When the revival was over, he was taking down his tent one morning and an arrogant fellow came by and said to him, "Preacher, let me ask you something. What must I do to be saved?" The preacher continued working and folding his tent and said, "It's too late. It's too late." The fellow said, "What do you mean, it's too late? Certainly, you don't mean it's too late to get saved just because you finished your revival." The preacher said, "Yes, it's too late. You asked what must I do to be saved. There isn't anything you can do to be saved. The Savior did it all. He paid the total price and now all you can do is receive Him as your Lord and Savior." We can not do anything to add to the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus paid it all. All to Him to I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, but praise God, He washed it white as snow. Tetelasti! Jesus finished the work!
Upon a life I did not live, Upon a death I did not die; Another's death, another's life, I cast my soul eternally. Bold shall I stand in that great day; For who aught to my charge can lay? Fully absolved by Christ, I am; From sins tremendous curse and blame.
IT IS FINISHED!