At least six hours had passed on that infamous Black Friday since the cruel spectacle had begun, since the first rusty spike had been hammered through the gentle, tender hands of Jesus of Nazareth.
For six long hours Jesus had hung on the cross, His flesh torn by the weight of His own body, His head aching and bloody, His lungs gasping for air, His lips cracked, His tongue dry. Now He senses that the end is near. He is ready to give His life, which no man could take. The excruciating pain soon will cease. And so He cries “It is finished” and He gives up the ghost.
Blessed relief! The physical pain of six terrible hours, and the mental anguish of a lifetime of misunderstanding and rejection, of opposition and hatred, are over. It is finished!
But is there not something more to His cry than a sense of relief and thanksgiving that His personal torture has ended? Of course there is. While we do not minimize the physical suffering He endured—for He was truly human in every sense— the cessation of pain was not worthy to be compared to the marvelous, matchless provision His death made for you and for me and, indeed, for all mankind.
That cry from the cross undoubtedly has been misunderstood by countless people in all generations. Looking at it from a purely human point of view, it easily could be considered the whimper of One whose plan had failed, whose life was coming to an end of frustration and defeat. Quite the opposite was true. But those whose eyes are blinded can hardly be expected to catch the real significance of the statement.
It is recorded that when Orville and Wilbur Wright finally succeeded in keeping their primitive aircraft in the air for 59 seconds on December 17, 1903, they rushed a telegram to their sister in Dayton, Ohio. The telegram read, “First sustained flight today fifty–nine seconds. Hope to be home by Christmas.” The sister was so excited about the success of her brothers that she rushed to the newspaper office and handed the telegram to the editor. The next morning the headline declared in bold type: “Popular Local Bicycle Merchants To Be Home for Holidays.” The scoop of a century was overlooked because an editor missed the point. And it is tragically true that literally millions have missed the point of the sixth word from the cross.”
“It is finished,” Jesus cried. I believe He intended us to understand that all of the prophecies concerning His life and death had now been fulfilled. Isaiah and Jeremiah, Micah and Zechariah, David and Nathan, Hosea and Malachi, to say nothing of the angel of the Lord and Jehovah Himself, all had foretold many centuries earlier, something about the Messiah.
The Master’s life, and now His death, had proved that God’s Word is true, that the Scriptures are accurate. When Jesus cried, “It is finished,” He also declared that the purposes for which He had come to earth in human form had been completed.
What were those purposes?
Certainly one reason for the Incarnation was to reveal the character of God. “No man hath seen God at any time.” But in Christ, God is made known. Through all the years of His ministry He had displayed the attributes of God. Love, patience, goodness, meekness. Joy, longsuffering, gentleness. Peace, temperance, faith.
Jesus had revealed God as the Father, caring for each of His children, concerned about the needs of every individual, and actively seeking to reconcile those estranged from Him.
Jesus had displayed the omniscience of God, and His omnipotence. He had exhibited the holiness and mercy and love of the Father. He had done it flawlessly. Well could He say of His revelation to mankind of the attributes of God, “It is finished.”
But the supreme meaning of Christ’s declaration from the cross was that the plan and the work of redemption had now been completed. “It is finished,” was not a whine of despair. Rather it was a shout of victory. Both Matthew and Mark record that “Jesus cried with a loud voice.” Here was something for all the world to hear. This was good news that could affect every man and every woman in every generation. Here was something to proclaim from the housetops, to spread quickly around the world.
The sins of the believer—all of them—were transferred to the Savior. Isaiah had declared, prophetically, “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” It is only reasonable that if my sins are on Christ, they are no longer on me.
The glorious truth is that the provision of salvation for mankind was the ultimate purpose of Christ Jesus coming into the world.
“It is finished,” Jesus cried. But there is a sense in which His atoning work is not completed until it is accepted. For me, the life and death of Jesus really are of no effect unless and until I personally accept the provision of salvation He purchased on Calvary.
One of the strangest cases in the history of American criminal justice is that of Martin Dalton of Fall River, Mississippi. His 63–year prison term ended with his death at age 91. The strange thing is that the last 30 years of that term were self–imposed. Repeatedly he had been offered parole, and each time he refused to accept it. The world, he said, had changed too much. The pace of life had increased alarmingly. With no family, no friends, no job, no money, Dalton chose to stay in prison. He was a prisoner by choice.
It is amazing to contemplate that, in a spiritual sense, hundreds of thousands, yea millions of men and women today are prisoners by choice, enslaved to sin and evil. Pardon has been purchased by the death of Christ on the cross. And that pardon is offered to all.
Every provision has been made. There is nothing that need be added or that can be added. No act of heroism, no exercise of self–denial, no offering of sacrifice can be added to the finished work of Jesus. The justice of God is satisfied. The enemy of our souls has been defeated. The atonement has been accomplished.
It is finished.
By Commissioner Robert E. Thomson