It Is Finished
Scripture: John 19: 17-37
A number of years ago, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel enchanted us with the song of a poor boy who went to New York on a dream and fell victim to the harsh life of the city. Penniless, with only strangers as friends, he spent his days "laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters where the ragged people go, looking for the places only they would know." It's easy to picture this young lad, dirty face and worn clothes, looking for work and finding none. He trudges the sidewalks and battles the cold, and dreams of going somewhere "where the New York City winters aren't bleeding me, leading me home."
He entertains thoughts of quitting. Going home. Giving up -- something he never thought he would do. But just when he picks up the towel to throw it into the ring he encounters a boxer. Do you remember the words?
In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade,
And he carries a reminder of every blow that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out in his anger and his shame --
'I am leaving, I am leaving!' but the fighter still remains.
"The fighter still remains." There is something magnetic in that phrase. It rings with trueness. Those who can remain like the boxer are a rare breed. I don't necessarily mean always winning, I just mean remaining. Hanging in there. Finishing. Sticking to it till it is done. Very few do that. Our tendency is to quit too soon. Our human tendency is to stop before we cross the finish line. Often people quit when a breakthrough is just around the corner.
Our inability to finish what we start is seen in the smallest things: A half read book / A partially written letter / An abandoned diet / A partly mowed lawn / A written resolution without follow through / Sometimes it shows up in more painful ways: An abandoned child / A cold faith / A wrecked marriage / A job hopper / An un-evangelized world.
Perhaps these hit close to home. If it does I want to encourage you to remain / to persevere. I want to encourage you to remember Jesus' determination on the cross. His willingness to carry out the sacrificial plan which was prophesied from of old. Jesus Christ did not quit on the divine plan handed down by the counsel and wisdom of God. His determination was revealed in the upper room as he broke the bread and gave the cup. His surrender to the will of God was tried and proved in the Garden where falling on the flat cold earth he said…"Nevertheless not my will but thine be done." His determination came to a pinnacle in His willingly going to the cross with our sins / our failure our future /…the weight of divine redemption was upon His back.
Jesus didn't quit. But don't think for one minute that he wasn't tempted to. Watch him wince as he hears his apostles backbiting and quarreling. / Look at him weep as he stands at Lazarus's tomb or as he overlooks the stubborn unbelieving city of Jerusalem. Here his anguish as he claws the ground of Gethsemane.
Did he ever want to quit? You bet. That's why his words are so splendid. "It is Finished."
Stop and listen. Can you imagine the cry from the cross? The sky is dark. The other two victims are moaning. The jeering mouths are silent. Perhaps there is thunder. Perhaps there is weeping. Perhaps there is silence. Then Jesus draws in a deep breath, pushes he feet down on that Roman nail, and cries, "It Is Finished."
What was finished…The whole will of God was fulfilled. That the only begotten should be incarnate, and be exposed to shame and reproach, and suffer much and die. The whole work his Father gave him to do, which was to preach the Gospel, work miracles, and obtain eternal salvation for God's people. The Prophesies of the Old Testament which pointed to the sufferings of the Messiah were accomplished.
IT IS FINISHED; the ceremonial law as a way of attempting to reach God is abolished. The substance is now come, and all the shadows of how to come to God are gone. IT IS FINISHED; redemption from the curse and condemnation of human sin is secured, complete pardon had been purchased, all the enemies are being conquered, peace with God is made, the power and judgement of transgression is replaced with everlasting righteousness. Redemption has been obtained.
IT IS FINISHED; His sufferings were now finished, both those of his soul, and those of his body. The Prophesies of the sacrificial lamb fulfilled. The history -long plan of redeeming mankind was finished. The message of God to man was finished. The works done by Jesus as a man on earth (save those of His post resurrection) were finished. The task of selecting and training his ambassadors was finished. The mission was complete. The song had been sung. The blood had been poured. The sting of death removed. It was over.
A cry of defeat? Hardly. Had his hands not been fastened down I say that a triumphant fist would have punched the dark sky. This was no cry of despair. It is a cry of completion. A cry of victory. A cry of fulfillment. A cry of relief. The fighter remained. And thank God for all eternity that he did.