June 10, 2010 David Balzer

John 19: It is Finished

“It’s FINISHED! Finally, It’s OVER”. We blurted down the phone to our parents. We had some WONDERFUL NEWS to share.

It was grand final day – Sunday, September 23, 1990. Canberra had beaten Penrith 18 –14. With Ricky Stuart’s brilliance proving the difference between the two sides.

But something much more important had ALSO happened that day.

At about 8 pm Alexandra Louise Balzer was born. Weighing in at 8 lb 5 oz. She’d been a little reluctant to come into the world, with Caron having been in labour since about 9 pm the previous night.

It had been a difficult day of course. Aching all over, lack of sleep, sheer exhaustion. And that was just ME.

But now it was all over. The PAIN was behind us. The JOY was ahead.

IT’S FINISHED! One chapter of our lives had just CLOSED. And another had just BEGUN. A whole new adventure. And our lives would never be the same again.

(Show baby photos)

It’s finished… They were Jesus’ last words before he died. And on the surface, they seem a little strange. Was it REALLY the end? Was that the end of Jesus? Of Christianity?

That’s what some people think.

They think it was the moment Jesus finally realised his new movement had FAILED. That this was the END of his new religion. They think he was a misguided and delusional visionary who just got it badly wrong. Made a terrible mistake. That turning the other cheek WASN’T such a good idea AFTER ALL.

Or just perhaps… was it like the birth of Alex? The end of ONE chapter. But the start of a WHOLE NEW MORE EXCITING ONE.

So what WAS on Jesus’ mind as he said those words? It is finished. What did he MEAN by them? And what comfort is there in them for us today?

Finished (teloj)– 4:34; 17:4; 19:28, 19:30

The word for finished has the idea of COMPLETION. Of achieving a goal, a target. Of fulfilment or even maturity.

And now as he hangs on the cross, moments from  d.eath, Jesus says “It’s FINISHED.”

He’d gone through his whole life with one eye on this final moment. The cross was the finish line. The CULMINATION of everything he’d done up to this point.

In fact, Jesus says that it’s what kept him going. Just like food, the thought of finishing God’s work SATISFIED and ENERGISED him. In John 4:34, he says, “ My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to FINISH HIS WORK” (Same word).

To finish God’s work was Jesus’ food.

Like the thought of holding a new baby keeps you going through a long and difficult labour. Or the thought of finishing the HSC keeps you studying. Or the thought of competing at the Olympic Games that keeps you training week in and week out.

And it was the same with Jesus. It was the goal of completing the job that kept him going. That motivated him. As Jesus got nearer to the cross, it loomed larger in his thoughts. The end. The finish line.

At the last supper he prayed. And as he prayed he summed up his mission to this point. John 17:4. “ I have brought you glory on earth BY COMPLETING THE WORK YOU GAVE ME TO DO” (same word).

Preaching, teaching, healing, and now DYING.

And so we come to THE CROSS. And everything’s led up to this moment. All the DRAMA of the past day.

1. The GRIEF in the Garden of Gethsemene as Jesus struggled on his knees before his Father. “SURELY there must be some other way. Some OTHER plan. But not MY will. YOUR will.

Your Will – THAT’S my food. To complete the work YOU gave me to do.” And Jesus was determined to push on to the FINISH.

2. Then there was the DESPAIR as his friends deserted him.

3. The PAIN of the whips and thorns.

4. The SORROW as the crowds who’d cheered him a few days before, now jeered and laughed.

5. The INDIGNATION at being unjustly accused and convicted.

6. The EXHAUSTION as Jesus dragged his cross through the streets.

7. The PIERCING AGONY as the blunt nails were pounded through the bones and muscles and tendons in his hands.

8. And finally, the dull ACHE of slow suffocation, and dehydration, and semi-consciousness as he hung on the cross in the burning sun.

It’s been a long 12 hours. It must be NEARLY the end. The finish line must be ALMOST here. It’s the FOOD that keeps him going. One last effort. Through the pain, Jesus squints down to the foot of the cross. He notices some familiar faces. Verse 25. John records what he heard. A very PERSONAL moment, since he was the one Jesus was referring to.

(John 19:25-27 NIV)  Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. {26} When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” {27} and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Another loose end tied up. His mother, and his close friend, would now be comforted. The finishing line’s getting closer.

And time drags on. And the pain increases. And the end’s in sight. Verse 28. Finally. It’s time. He’s made it.

(John 19:28-30 NIV)  Later, knowing that ALL WAS NOW COMPLETED, and so that the Scripture would be FULFILLED (or completed- same word both times), Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” {29} 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. {30} When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

One final task. A loud cry. To let everyone know that it was over. That he’d COMPLETED everything he’d come to do. A quick drink to whet his parched throat. Then one word in the original language. “It’s finished”.

(pause) And then he bowed his head, and surrendered his spirit. It’s an unusual expression. (The King James has “he gave up the ghost”)

Almost like it was an act of his will to die at that particular second. He’d made it across the line. There was nothing left to do. So now it was time.

I’ve heard of people who die in a similar way. They’ve held on until they’re ready. They’re at peace with GOD. They’ve made peace in their RELATIONSHIPS. They’ve said goodbye to their friends. All their affairs are in order. And now it’s time to go.

They’ve had enough of this life. And there’s nothing else keeping them here. And so they just decide to die.

I was called into the hospital a few years ago to the bed of an old lady just about to die. The lady’s breathing was laboured, and she didn’t appear to be conscious. But she’d held on until her family had made it to the hospital. Now they were all around her, weeping quietly.

The son asked me if I’d read something from the Bible.. When I’d finished reading a Psalm, I prayed. And by the time we’d all opened our eyes at the end. Sometime during the prayer, she’d died.

That’s what she’d been waiting for.

And Jesus went like that too. All was now COMPLETED. Everything’s in place. So he gives up the ghost. Jesus dies, and it’s FINISHED. At least until Sunday. But that’s another story!

What’s it mean to me?

So where does that leave US? How does the COMPLETION of Jesus’ work affect you and me? Why is it such GREAT NEWS?

There’s four things I want to say about “It is finished”.

1. It means THE WAR IS %

2. It means VICTORY NOT DEFEAT.

3. It means the BEGINNING NOT the END.

4. It means LIFE NOT  D.EATH

1. It means the war is %

August 1945. The Japanese surrender. And World War 2 is over. It would have been an amazing feeling.

All over the world, there was partying and celebrations. At least among the Allies. (show OH of war victory pictures)

For the last six years people had been at war. And finally. Suddenly. There was peace again.

Imagine a far greater war. Imagine the partying if a war suddenly finished which had been going on for THOUSANDS OF YEARS. In fact for the whole of human history. And for all that time, it looked like you were fighting a losing battle. Well, that’s what happened at the cross.

Ever since Adam, mankind’s been at war. Not just with EACH OTHER, but with God. Our sinfulness meant we were God’s ENEMIES rather than his friends. And, rather than the world getting BETTER, it was getting worse. It looked like Satan was WINNING. The hope of victory appeared slim.

Until the cross.

The good news of the cross is that THE WAR IS OVER. Jesus’  d.eath satisfied God’s justice. It’s the punishment we deserved to get. The  d.eath we should have died.

And God says that because of Jesus’ obedience, we can be friends with God. Peace with God.

He PROMISES it. Guaranteed. If we accept with faith that Jesus died on our behalf. And if we recognise our own sinfulness and guilt before God. Then God promises to sign the peace treaty. The war is over. And we can begin our friendship with him.

And that’s living life the way it was designed. That’s great news.

2. The cross is victory not defeat

The second thing about the cross is follows on from the first. It means VICTORY, not defeat. The PHARISEES thought it was defeat. Worth every coin. The SOLDIERS thought it was defeat. Even SATAN thought it was defeat.

All of them, rubbing their hands with glee.

But, rather than defeat, it was the moment VICTORY was won. Surprising EVERYONE except for Jesus and his Father. Victory ed from what looked like certain defeat.

And that’s why SUNDAY is so important. Without Jesus’ RESURRECTION, there’s no guarantee that Jesus’  d.eath ACHIEVED what he SAID.

But his resurrection PROVES that his  d.eath was the final, comprehensive, and absolute END to  d.eath, and guilt and sin and Satan. God’s vindication of victory. (More on that in a minute)

3. The cross is the beginning not the end

The third thing “It is finished” means is that it’s the BEGINNING, not the END.

A while ago I saw some print ads for the Catholic church in the paper. They went something like THIS. Jesus lived 2000 years ago. He taught many wonderful things. He died for principles he believed in. Millions of people today live by these principles. Write to the address below for free information about Jesus.

Jesus lived 2000 years ago. He taught many wonderful things. He died for principles he believed in! Is that all there is? Is that the end of it? Is that all you can say about Jesus?

That makes Jesus no different from 100 other great men. Abraham Lincoln lived hundreds of years ago. He taught many wonderful things. He died for principles he believed in. The same goes for Stalin. Lenin. Gandhi. Muhammad Ali, or Don Bradman for that matter.

None of those people are worth risking your life for. For ALL OF THEM,  d.eath was the END of the story. But that’s not the case with Jesus.  d.eath was only the beginning.  d.eath couldn’t hold him.

They say you can’t keep a good man down. Well, Jesus was a PERFECT man, and  d.eath could only keep HIM down for about 36 hours! And then he smashed his way out.

And he broke the door down for US TOO. Because it wasn’t the end for JESUS, it’s not the end for us either.

If the story of Easter ended in the cross, then Christianity would have died out a long time ago. The cross was the end of Jesus’ work on earth. But it wasn’t the end of the story.

And that’s great news.

4. It means life not  d.eath

The final thing about the cross follows straight on from the third. Because the cross is the beginning not the end, it means that the cross is about life, not  d.eath.

The cross bears Jesus, rather than us. The nails in Jesus’ hands should have hammered into ours. The  d.eath Jesus died should have been ours.

But because God PUNISHED ONE/ man, many GUILTY men can ESCAPE punishment. Because an man DIED, many guilty men can LIVE.

The Pharisees thought they were getting rid of the problem. Putting it to  d.eath. The soldiers knew  d.eath backwards – could do it with their eyes closed. THEY all thought the cross was about  d.eath. But the cross was about LIFE, not  d.eath.

And that’s good news!

(pause)

That final cry of Jesus. “It is finished”. It wasn’t the cry of despair, or defeat, or  d.eath. It wasn’t the final recognition that he’d got it all wrong. That his plans hadn’t worked out.

“It is finished” is the cry of victory. That Jesus has seen God’s plans through to the end.

It’s a cry of new birth. That the groaning is over, and new life has begun. It’s a cry that the war is over. That  d.eath has been defeated. A cry that it’s only the beginning, rather than the end.

And it’s a cry that Christians base their life on. Because WE’RE part of that victory, too. WE’VE defeated  d.eath. WE’VE got peace with God. And just like Jesus, we have the confidence that for us,  d.eath is just the BEGINNING, rather than the end.

And that’s great news!

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