The Seven Last Sayings of Jesus -- “It Is Finished”

The Seven Last Sayings of Jesus -- “It Is Finished”

John records a final statement of Jesus, in John 19:30,

When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.

Gospel authors never say that Jesus died! Now, He most certainly did die. Plenty of passages in the New Testament teach that truth. “At the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6, etc.) But the gospel writers say He “gave up His spirit.” While Jesus fully experienced death, He was not its victim, no more than He was a victim of the mob, or of Pilate, or of the soldiers, or of the nails. Earlier in His ministry Jesus said, “I lay down My life for the sheep ... No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:15, 17–18). Jesus was in perfect control of His situation from beginning to end. Jesus decided when to exhale His last breath. Jesus was not a helpless man caught up in circumstances beyond His control; He was a willing sacrifice who marched purposefully through His ministry and toward the cross, who gave His life so that mankind could be saved.

Now that Jesus faces death, He says “It is finished.” He does not refer to His life (which was indestructible), nor to the physical suffering of the cross. The sentence is just one word in Greek, “Tetelestai.” It does not mean “over and done with” like one finishes a pizza or a chore (“Whew, I’m glad that’s finished”) or breaks off a relationship (“We’re finished!”). It means “brought to its intended conclusion, completed, perfected” (See Vine’s Dictionary, “Finish” #1).

Jesus had come with a mission. God’s plan to save mankind from sin, which He had put in motion before the foundation of the world, which He revealed to mankind in the Garden of Eden upon the occasion of man’s first sin, and which He elaborated through the prophets and Old Testament types, was Jesus’ task to fulfill. For three years He worked tirelessly toward that goal. He said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” He said in John 17:4, “I glorified you on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”

Jesus knew very well where the pursuit of God’s goal would lead—His death on Calvary. Jesus drank the cup set before Him to the very last drop. What thousands of years of animal sacrifice could not do, Jesus did in one perfect act—provided real atonement, true redemption, reconciliation with God, cleansing from sin, and victory

over death. When Jesus died upon the cross, His blood was shed and accepted as the full price of man’s guilt. Jesus brought God’s plan to save mankind to a successful conclusion.

When Jesus says, “It is finished,” salvation is secured. No further sacrifice is necessary, for Jesus put an end to sin once for all; “otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often” (Heb. 9:26). But Jesus finished it, “having been offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28).

For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself (Heb. 7:26-27).

Even though we continue to sin (though, hopefully, less and less as we mature in Christ) and even though further generations are born which commit sins, the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus is infinitely powerful to cover them all. “If we walk in the Light as Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

No human priesthood is necessary, for Jesus took His blood into the real temple, “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24), where He made eternal redemption. No other acts of propitiation or intercession will avail.

Now, none of this is to say that individuals are passive. That Jesus finished shedding His blood does not mean He applied it to me personally—or else no one in the world from that day forward could be in any danger of Hell. While salvation is fully secured, and while humanity cannot add to nor improve upon Christ’s redemptive work, each person must cling to the cross and respond in faith. Think: a painter may step aside from a great masterpiece and say, “It is finished”—but it remains to display it to the world, and for the world to appreciate it. Just so, Hebrews 5:9 says, “Having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.”

--John Guzzetta