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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:The Word of Victory: It is Finished
Text:John 19:30 (View)
Occasion:Easter (Good Friday)
Topic:Christ's Suffering
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-04-24
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 68:1,2,8

Hymn 25:4 (after reading the law)

Hymn 7:2

Hymn 3:3

Hymn 69

Scripture reading: John 19:1-30

Text: John 19:30

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our crucified Saviour Jesus,

It was the first day of May, 2003.  Earlier that year, on the 19th of March, Iraq was invaded by a coalition of American, British, Polish, and Australian forces.  On the first day of May of 2003, President George W. Bush arrived on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.  The carrier had just returned from supporting the attack on Iraq.  President Bush gave a speech in which he celebrated the fact that major combat operations in Iraq were over.  Behind him during the speech was a huge banner which read, “Mission Accomplished.”

The media had a field day.  “Mission Accomplished?”  Anybody could see that it was anything but.  In reality, most of the combat deaths in Iraq took place after President Bush’s speech.  It was obvious that the President was wrong and premature in what he said and what the banner said.  Anybody could see it.  To his credit, later on President Bush acknowledged that himself.  He regretted having given the speech with that banner, regretted giving the impression that the war was won. 

In our text on this Good Friday, we hear the voice of someone crying out “Mission Accomplished.”  To the eyes and ears present that day, it would have been painfully obvious that this cry of “Mission Accomplished” was also not the case.  Anybody could see what was happening.  There were three Roman crosses.  Roman crosses are for criminals.  Crosses are for criminals who deserve to be publically shamed and horrifically punished.  The one who said it was on the middle cross.  He was regarded as a blasphemer by his own people.  The Roman soldiers had scourged him, punched him, mocked him, placed a crown of thorns on his head.   Now this pathetic, naked, crucified criminal cries out “Mission accomplished.”  “What exactly did you accomplish?  There’s no victory here for you.  You’ve been defeated.  Everyone can see it.  You’re about to die.  You’ve done nothing.”  That’s what most eyes would see and minds would think when they heard Jesus cry out from the cross the words of our text.

But we see it differently.  Regenerated Christians have been given the eyes of faith to truly understand this word of Jesus Christ from the cross.  When he says, “It is finished,” the Holy Spirit has taken the veil off our minds so that we can and do get what this means.  Through God’s Work in us, we can perceive that, unlike with President Bush on that aircraft carrier, the word of Christ here actually expresses an incredible reality.  It really is a Word of Victory.

As we consider this passage, we’ll look at:

  1. What was finished and the comfort it gives
  2. Why sinful human nature refuses to accept it

Jesus is near death.  In verse 28 he said, “I thirst.”  That cry was for a purpose.  He needed one last burst of energy on the cross.  That was supplied by the sour wine.  This sour wine was used as a thirst-quencher by the Roman soldiers.  They soaked a sponge in this wine and lifted it up to his lips and he took it in.  This little bit of sour wine was what he needed to round off his work on the cross. 

In verse 30, John relates that Jesus said, “It is finished.”  In Matthew 27, God tells us that Jesus let out a great shout before he died.  It’s quite possible that he shouted, “It is finished.”  Certainly the sour wine would have wet his lips and throat and allowed him to say it with a loud voice. 

But more important than how he said it is the fact that he said it and what it means.  “It is finished.”  What is Jesus referring to?  What is “it”?  It’s interesting to note that he doesn’t say, “I have finished.”  He keeps a direct reference to himself out of this.  This is because his focus is on God’s plan for him.  That is the overarching thing that is finished here.  It’s God’s plan for Jesus to suffer the wrath we deserve for our sins.

That was a plan devised long before the cross.  In their eternal counsel, the persons of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they ordained that salvation would happen in this manner.  It was ordained that God the Father would send his Son into this world.  The Son of God agreed that he would come and fulfill this plan for our salvation.   

This plan was gradually revealed to God’s people in the Old Testament Scriptures.  After the fall into sin, God came to Adam and Eve and told them that the offspring of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent.  That’s where it all started.  Later in Genesis, God established his covenant with Abraham.  God promised that through Abraham’s offspring “shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18).  As we get to Exodus, we see God’s people in slavery.  He graciously delivers them from their bondage – pointing to something even greater to come.  He ordained sacrifices which spoke of their need for something to be done about their sin.  These sacrifices were like an index finger pointing to a coming Saviour.  There were kings like David who delivered God’s people and brought them safety.  But all these kings had their failings.  They only imperfectly pointed to a greater King to come, a greater King who would be perfect and who would bring bring perfect peace and eternal security.  Then there were the prophecies.  The Old Testament is plum-full of prophecies of a coming Saviour.  His birth was prophesied in Isaiah 7 and 9, his birth place in Micah 5.  His perfect life of obedience was prophesied in Psalm 40.  His sufferings are most vividly prophesied in passages like Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22.  Far more could be said, but you get the idea.  The plan for our salvation was all laid out in God’s Word.  And now, Jesus says, “It is finished.”  He has accomplished everything foretold of him. 

Now we need to sharpen that a little bit more.  As he hangs on the cross and says this, obviously there is more to come.  He is yet to die, yet to be buried, yet to rise, yet to ascend to heaven, yet to return in glory.  So, “It is finished” doesn’t mean that he has done absolutely everything.  But it does mean that the suffering and humiliation that he was ordained to consciously experience has been completed.  Most notably, he has borne the wrath of God against our sins.  He was plunged into three hours of darkness and there experienced the intense and infinite wrath of God that we deserve.  But now the darkness has lifted, he has drunk the entire cup of God’s wrath, taken it all.  “It is finished” means that what was necessary to pay for our sins has been paid in full.

“It is finished” is said to be the “Word of Victory.”  And indeed, it is!  Satan looks at the Son of God hanging on a Roman cross and his first thought is:  the victory is mine.  Satan thinks, “I have conquered the Christ.”  But when Jesus says, “It is finished,” it tells us that Satan is dead wrong.  Satan said, “check,” but God said, “checkmate.”  Through Christ’s suffering on the cross, Satan’s head was smashed.  The serpent’s skull was split – a death-blow to the Devil.  There is victory for Jesus Christ on the cross over Satan and his plans to derail redemption.  Satan wanted to stop God’s plan for salvation so that evil can reign on earth and he can bring everyone to hell with him.  But with Christ having borne the penalty for sin, the key part of God’s plan has been executed.  The decisive battle has been fought and won.  Nothing can now stop God from carrying out the rest of the plan.  When Jesus cries, “It is finished,” this is a victory shout.  He has fully triumphed over Satan.

Loved ones, as we ponder this word from the cross, there’s great comfort for believers.  There’s comfort in the sovereignty of God.  In his love, he had a plan for our salvation and he carried it out.  Satan couldn’t stop him and neither could wicked men.  “It is finished” reminds us that God is mighty to save.  This is our God.  He is mighty to save us, to save you.  He ordained the means of our salvation through Christ crucified, and he’s also ordained that all the elect will be saved through this means.  When you’re in God’s hands, you’re in good hands.  You’re in powerful hands.  You’re in loving hands.

There’s comfort in the complete satisfaction of the wrath we deserve.  We all deserve infinite wrath for our sins.  That’s because we sin against infinite majesty.  Sins against infinite majesty deserve infinite wrath.  How you could ever hope to turn away that wrath on your own?  You can’t.  But here’s comfort:  when you entrust yourself to Christ crucified, he has done it for you.  “It is finished,” means that your hell was put on his body and soul, not yours.  It’s done, finished, accomplished.  There’s zero hell left for you to endure.  Jesus took it in your place.  When he died, after he gave up his spirit, he went straight to heaven.  He told the repentant thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”  Because he took your punishment, you can have the comfort of knowing that when you die, you’re going to paradise too.

Last of all, there’s comfort in knowing that Satan is a defeated enemy.  Yes, he is a powerful enemy and he still rages.  As Peter says, he is a roaring lion searching for those whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Satan is real and he is really our enemy.  Loved ones, remember that Satan is only an angel.  He is not God.  He is not omniscient, all-knowing.  He is not omnipotent, all-powerful.  He is not omnipresent, present everywhere.  He is not like God, not God’s evil equal.  He is merely an angel.  The power he has is partly by virtue of the many other evil angels that follow him.  He does have some real power because of that.  But you also need to remember that Satan and all his forces were defeated at the cross.  “It is finished,” means that Satan’s head is shattered.  He’s finished.  We are waiting for him to arrive at his final destination in the lake of fire.  He’s raging, he’s going to go down with a fight.  But nothing can stop our victorious Saviour from finally throwing the Devil where he belongs.  When you see things in the world rapidly deteriorating, don’t despair.  Our Saviour Jesus has triumphed over the Evil One.  Take comfort remembering that “It is finished” also means Satan is finished.

So Christians see that when Christ said, “It is finished,” this was a moment of triumph.  He wasn’t defeated.  He was victorious.  It was truly a moment of “Mission accomplished.” 

Yet, as I mentioned earlier, at the moment it took place, there were those who wouldn’t have seen it that way.  For the unbelievers standing around the cross on that Good Friday, they would only see a defeated loser on that middle cross.  They couldn’t see a victorious Redeemer, but only a conquered victim.

And what does the world think today as it encounters Jesus on the cross saying, “It is finished”?  Many people might be inclined to doubt that it even happened.  And if they did accept that it happened as the Bible said it happened, they would be unimpressed with his word, “It is finished.”  If you tell them of a plan for redemption, they would be indifferent at best.  If you lay out for them why the cross was necessary, if you speak about our sin, if you speak about the wrath of God against our sin and our need for rescue, then likely you’ll encounter anger and hostility.  That’s because the cross is a testimony about our greatest problem as human beings.  The crucified Saviour on that cross witnesses that all people are faced with the problem of judgment.  The Saviour’s word, “It is finished,” announces that there’s something that needed to be finished – and that was his suffering God’s wrath in the place of sinners.  If it’s not finished in your place, you’re facing it never being finished as you experience it yourself forever in hell.  This is why the cross is so offensive to unbelievers.  Paul says it’s a stumbling block, something that people trip over.  They can’t accept that they have a problem.  That problem is their sin and God’s wrath against them because of their sin.

Jesus says, “It is finished.”  Why do unbelievers refuse to acknowledge the reality behind that?  Why would they rather have a defeated loser Jesus or refuse to even allow that any of this actually happened?  I’ll tell you why.  I’ll you what Scripture says.  It’s because of what sin has done to the human heart.  Sin blackens the human heart and fills it with lies.  The sinful heart doesn’t want to leave sin behind.  So it lies:  Jesus is not smashing Satan’s head, he’s just dying because he was a revolutionary who got on the wrong side of some people.  The sinful heart lies:  Jesus is not dying to fulfill any divine plan, in fact, he probably didn’t even exist.  People made him up.  The whole story is made up. 

Why does the sinful heart want to believe these lies and others like them?  Because acknowledging the truth of what really happened means acknowledging one’s need.  It means dropping before God and saying, “I am a sinner.  I have sinned against you and I need the salvation that Jesus came to bring.  O God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  It means humbling yourself before the God who created you and confessing that you have slapped him in the face and dishonoured him with your life.  You’re in trouble and you need his rescue.  You’re broken and you need his healing.  You’re dead and you need his life.  This is a big leap to make.  In fact, it is an impossible leap.  Sin is that powerful.  Sin has such a powerful hold on the unbeliever’s thinking that it’s impossible to get past it and see the reality of what’s happening on Golgotha. 

It’s impossible – unless, unless God the Holy Spirit brings light to the dark heart.  Unless the Holy Spirit brings life to the dead.  Unless the Holy Spirit opens the blinded eyes and unplugs the deaf ears.  Apart from regeneration by the Spirit of God, sinful human nature refuses to accept what Jesus said as a “word of victory.”

But loved ones, what about you?  Do you accept it?  Do you see your salvation in the Word of Victory, “It is finished”?  When you do, you know it’s not because you’re so smart.  It’s not because you were brighter than others, or better in any way.  When you see and believe that in Christ, “It is finished,” your salvation is accomplished, that’s the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart.  He deserves the praise.  He should get all the credit.  Let’s never forget that.

And yet just because we consider ourselves Christians, that doesn’t automatically mean that are not going to struggle in accepting what Jesus says here.  It doesn’t automatically mean we get all the implications of it.  After all, even as Christians we still have the remnants or left-overs of a sinful nature and they many times make themselves felt in our lives.  Let me briefly mention a couple of ways in which even Christians can struggle with coming to terms with Jesus’ Word of Victory.

One way has to do with this idea of making atonement for yourself.  This is the thinking, see if you recognize it:  I mess up regularly in one area of my life.  But there’s another area of my life where I find it easy to obey God.  So the one area of my life can make up for the other area.  I use that one area of more consistent obedience to pay for the other area where I never have any success.  God will then be pleased with me as I make atonement to him for all the times I messed up.  There are Christians who actually think like this.  Maybe you’re one of them.  If you are, listen to what Jesus says on the cross:  “It is finished.”  That means that all your sins were laid on him and paid for, in full.  Your entire account with God is good.  All because Christ took what you deserve, paid the debt for you.  You can’t add to what Christ has done for you.  “It is finished.”  Do you get that?  Do you believe it?  You will never be able to make up for your sins in one area of your life by being more obedient in another area of your life.  You can’t do it.  Because even the obedience in that other area of your life is stained with sin.  The prophet says, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”  Not only can you not do it, you don’t have to do it.   When you look to Jesus in faith and trust in him, you can rest.  You can rest from trying to measure up for God.  Christ says to you, “My friend, my brother, my sister:  it is finished.  Believe me.”

Another way is that we think that our obedience is somehow a part of the salvation equation.  Jesus did a lot for me, now I have to do a lot for him.  If I do a lot for him, then I will be saved.  You see how it works?  His work on the cross plus my life for him equals a ticket to heaven.  For Reformed people, sometimes that thinking comes in the context of the covenant.  We have God’s promises, plus our obligations.  God does his part in fulfilling his promises, we do our part in fulfilling the obligations, and then salvation is the result.  To that way of thinking, our Saviour says, “It is finished.”  He says, “Stop thinking that you’re going to add to my work.  You can’t.  I did it all for you.  Your salvation hangs entirely on me.”  You see, there’s no salvation equation to work out.  It’s a simple thing.  Christ says, “It is finished.”  We believe that it is.  We believe that he did it absolutely everything.  He provides us with the payment for our sins that we need to be declared right with God.          

In his book The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross, Arthur Pink illustrates this truth.  There was a Christian farmer who had a neighbour.  His neighbour was a carpenter and not a Christian.  They had many talks about the gospel, but the carpenter always insisted that Christ was not enough – for God to accept him, he would also have to do his part.  One day the farmer asked the carpenter to build a gate for one of the fences on his farm.  The carpenter built it.  The next day, the farmer invited the carpenter to the newly built gate.  The carpenter saw the farmer standing there with an axe in his hand.  “What’s with the axe?” the carpenter asked.  The farmer replied, “I’m going to make a few improvements to your gate.”  The carpenter said, “But there’s no need.  It’s good the way it is.”  But the farmer paid no attention.  He took the axe and started slashing and hacking at the gate.  “Look what you have done!” cried the carpenter, “you have ruined my work!”  “Yes,” said the farmer, “and that is exactly what you are trying to do.  You are seeking to ruin the finished work of Christ by adding your own miserable additions to it.”  God used this lesson to show the carpenter his error, and he eventually rested and trusted in Christ alone for salvation.  Loved ones, that’s what we all must do.  “It is finished” – that means we put away all notions, any notions whatsoever that we can possibly add to what Christ has done in our place.  Let’s rest and trust in him alone, him only, him all the time.    

When he said, “It is finished,” he meant “Mission Accomplished.”  With God-given eyes of faith, we can see that this was a Word of Victory.  Today we praise our Saviour for having accomplished his mission of salvation for us.  We give him the glory for having done what had been ordained for him, what he had agreed to do in our place.  He has put out the fires of hell for all believers.  Brothers and sisters, let us love this Saviour who gained the victory for us, a victory that still means so much today, a victory that gives us so much comfort.  Let’s love him and lift up his name with our lips and lives.  AMEN. 

PRAYER:

Our dear Saviour,

In love for us, you went to the cross and took our place.  When you were on the cross, you didn’t stop half-way.  You fully took our penalty.  You fully bore the wrath of God which we deserved for our sins.  How we love you for this!  How we praise you!  You said, “It is finished,” and we find so much comfort from that.  We know that since you finished the work you were given, we will never be punished for our sins.  Because you finished the punishment for us, we need not fear death or hell.  In you our fear is finished.  Lord, thank you for that.  Since you conquered Satan, that enemy is a defeated enemy.  Lord Jesus, we praise you for your victory over that roaring lion.  Please continue to help us with your Holy Spirit.   Please help us to keep our eyes fixed on you in faith and trust.  Lord, we are so prone to wander and follow our sinful hearts.  We are so easily led into thinking that we need to add something to your work.  You said, “It is finished.”  Help us to believe that right now, but also when we’re tempted in daily life to think otherwise.  With your Spirit, please help each one of us to always be resting and trusting in you alone as our salvation, as our hope for eternal life.                                                                   

           

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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