By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
The pastor of a mega-church was asked to sum up the difference between most world religions and Christianity, and his answer summarizes today’s Word from the Cross.
He replied that most religions say “do” but Christianity says “it’s done.” Jesus has already completed everything needed; anyone who believes can gain entrance to his kingdom.
Jesus’ last words on the cross, after receiving the vinegar, were “It is finished” then bowed his head and died (John 19:30). He didn’t say “I’m finished” which might have indicated defeat or surrender. He also didn’t condemn the crowd by saying, “You’re finished.”
Instead, his last words were a loud cry of triumph, establishing the completion of his life work, his sacrifice and his victory.
So what was finished?
Work is a theme running through the Gospel of John. After Jesus had spoken with the woman at the well and the disciples were urging Jesus to eat something, he replied, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). His ministry energized, nourished and motivated him.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus lifted up his eyes and prayed, “I have finished the work” (John 17:4).
There was a young boy in our family who fancied himself Daddy’s little helper, often driving nails into the side of the barn, a tree or whatever was handy. He was cute, but his work was totally ineffective.
In the same manner, generations of believers have tried hard to work their way into favor with God, but we’re incapable of doing the work that Christ completed.
The sacrifice of animals in the Jewish religion was instituted as a foreshadowing of the perfect offering of Jesus. There was no word in the Hebrew or Greek language to describe it, but the English word atonement (“at-one-ment” with God) illustrates what the death of Jesus accomplished for us.
Under the old order, animals bore the sin: “Day after day, every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices” (Hebrews 10:11).
But now, through a perfect sacrifice, Jesus wrote his laws on our heart and brought us back to communion with God. “By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). Thus the sacrifice was finished.
An analogy I appreciate is given by the author of our New Testament textbook. He referred to a derogatory saying, “That person is like a ranch house – nothing upstairs.”
He went on to say many in our day and age also live in the ranch house, pretending there’s no upstairs or a basement. We ignore the consequences of sin, denying there’s a devil and facing death alone. We also miss the presence of God above to deliver.
The mystery of crucifixion is that the sacrifice of the perfect Man restored and freed “those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15).
Bringing victory over the enemies of sin, death and the devil He offers grace, joy and a future. Our response should be to accept the gift, rest in His goodness and stop trying to earn our way. The victory is done.
It is finished.