When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:30
The Son of Man came here “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Christ Jesus came into the world “to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, “to redeem them that were under the law” (Galatians 4:4). He was manifested “to take away our sins” (1 John 3:5). And all this involved the cross. The “lost” which he came to seek could only be found there—in the place of death and under the condemnation of God. Sinners could be “saved” only by one taking their place and bearing their iniquities. They who were under the law could be “redeemed” only by another fulfilling its requirements and suffering its curse. Our sins could be “taken away” only by their being blotted out by the precious blood of Christ. The demands of justice must be met: the requirements of God’s holiness must be satisfied: the awful debt we incurred must be paid. And on the cross this was done; done by none less than the Son of God; done perfectly; done once for all.
“It is finished.” That to which so many types looked forward, that which so much in the tabernacle and its ritual foreshadowed, that of which so many of God’s prophets had spoken, was now accomplished. A covering from sin and its shame—typified by the coats of skin with which the Lord God clothed our first parents—was now provided. The more excellent sacrifice—typified by Abel’s lamb—had now been offered. A shelter from the storm of divine judgment- typified by the ark of Noah was now furnished. The only-begotten and well-beloved Son—typified by Abraham’s offering up of Isaac—had already been placed upon the altar. A protection from the avenging angel—typified by the shed blood of the Passover lamb was now supplied. A cure from the serpent’s bite -typified by the serpent of brass upon the pole—was now made ready for sinners. The providing of a life-giving fountain -typified by Moses striking the rock—was now effected.
“It is finished.” The Greek word here, teleo, is various translated in the New Testament. A glance at some of the different renderings in other passages will enable us to discern the fullness and finality of the term used by the Saviour. In Matthew 11:1, teleo is rendered as follows: “When Jesus had made an end of commanding His twelve disciples, He departed thence.” In Matthew 17:24 it is rendered, “They that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your Master pay tribute?” In Luke 2:39 it is rendered, “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee.” In Luke 18:31 it is rendered, “All things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.” Putting these together we learn the scope of the Saviour’s sixth cross-utterance, “It is finished.” He cried: it is “made an end of;” it is “paid;” it is “performed;” it is “accomplished.” What was made an end of? Our sins and their guilt. What was paid? The price of our redemption. What was performed? The utmost requirements of the law. What was accomplished? The work which the Father had given him to do. What was finished? The making of atonement.
God has furnished at least four proofs that Christ did finish the work which was given him to do. First, in the rending of the veil, which showed that the way to God was now open. Second, in the raising of Christ from the dead, which evidenced that God had accepted his sacrifice. Third, the exaltation of Christ to his own right hand, which demonstrated the value of Christ’s work and the Father’s delight in his person. Fourth, the sending to earth of the Holy Spirit to apply the virtues and benefits of Christ’s atoning death.
“It is finished.” What was finished? The work of atonement. What is the value of that to us? This: to the sinner, it is a message of glad tidings. All that a holy God requires has been done. Nothing is left for the sinner to add. No works from us are demanded as the price of our salvation. All that is necessary for the sinner is to rest now by faith upon what Christ did. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). To the believer, the knowledge that the atoning work of Christ is finished brings a sweet relief over against all the defects and imperfections of his services. There is much of sin and vanity in the very best of our efforts, but the grand relief is that we are “complete” in Christ (Col. 2:10)! Christ and his finished work is the ground of all our hopes.
Upon a Life I did not live,
Upon a Death I did not die,
Another’s death Another’s life
I cast my soul eternally
Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who, aught to my charge can lay?
Fully absolved by Christ lam,
From sin’s tremendous curse and blame.
Arthur Walkington Pink (1886-1952), The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross, 136-38.