“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).
It is finished! Over. But not just ended. Completed. Perfected.
What is finished? A life, for one thing. The life of one who asked nothing of us but only gave himself to us. The life of one who chose us in spite of the fact that we did not choose him. The life of one who did not count equality with God as something to be snatched at, but became obedient unto death, even this death on a cross; one who was despised and rejected, from whom we hid our faces. Now it is over.
It ended the only way such a life could end among us – cast out, mocked, and crucified. But it is not just over. It is finished, perfected, completed. In this awful place, he has reached his goal. It is perfected just because he goes all the way to death. He goes the way none of us could go. He bears our sins in his body. He shows us in his body what sin is, who we are, what we think about God and what we do to one another. Because his life is over now, we can no longer say we don't know. We can no longer turn aside. The truth is out. That task is finished. As John put it elsewhere, we are convicted of sin because we did not believe in him.
It is finished! What is finished? A mission. God is finished with us. God's way with sinners comes to its end here. God has said here all he has to say to us as old beings, fallen creatures. His wrestling with us throughout the ages, his struggle to get us to see is over. He has tried in many and various ways through priest and prophet and king to get it said. Now he has finally done it. He has made his last move. He has no further plans. He has spoken to us through his Son, through this life that ends on the cross. He bowed his head and gave up his spirit. And so it is over. That is all God has to say.
But again, it's not just over. It is completed. God gave his Son for this, as a ransom for sin. He gave him over into death, let him bear the iniquity of us all. It pleased God so to do because in the end he had one thing to say, the one thing we find so hard to believe: you are mine and I mean to have you back! And so it is finished, perfected, completed. This word from the cross is not finally a cry of defeat, but a cry of victory. There! It is done! It ought to be clear now that God wants nothing of us but that we should believe in him, trust him as a God of sheer mercy. The ancient foe is defeated, the power of sin is broken, death is robbed of its sting. God has found a way to be God even for the likes of us. He has found a way to save sinners.
So it is finished! What is finished? We are finished. You, friend, are finished. You are through. Never mind that things still go on pretty much as before. All that you were is ended, over – the refusal to take God at his word, the selfishness, the hatred, the prejudice, the grasping at being God, the despair at not being good enough, the desperate protecting of self and the fear of death. All of that has no purpose, no point, no future. You are through. God has put an end to all that. God has finally had enough. But it is not just over. It is completed. That's because God has decided to make all things new. So hear this word from the cross: It is finished! And that's final! And all it takes now, miracle of miracles, is that you just be still, listen and wait. In that end is a new beginning. Amen.
This series of sermons by Gerhard Forde has been kindly submitted by Lutheran Quarterly journal. To learn more about the Forde legacy, visit them at lutheranquarterly.com