John 19: 28 - 30
Unfinished Business . . . The evidence is all around us. He was only 50 years old when he died. After years of difficulty, he was about to relaunch his career with a sold-out concert series in London called “This Is It.” For Michael Jackson, the future looked bright. Then came that strange, sad day when they rushed him to the hospital in full cardiac arrest, but the best medical care in the world couldn’t save him. Suddenly he was gone. No one plans to die at the age of 50. A worldwide audience of nearly 1 billion people watched his televised funeral service. Unfinished business? Plenty.
That may be our worst fear . . . that we will die before our time. But it happens all the time. We die too young . . . . Or we die too soon . . . Or we die with our work unfinished . . . Or we die with our dreams unfulfilled.
Living an Unfinished Life
We all know what it’s like, don’t we? All of us have unfinished things cluttering up the highway of life. The half-mowed lawn - the half-read book - the letter started but never sent - the abandoned diet - the degree we never finished - the phone calls never returned - the to-do list that never gets done
But it can be much more serious than that. The abandoned child - the job we quit in a fit of anger - the wrecked marriage - the bills never paid - the promises never kept. All of us go through life leaving behind a trail of unfinished projects and unfulfilled dreams. How few there are who can come to the end of life and say, “I finished exactly what I set out to do.”
A Dying Man’s Final Words
Only one person in history never left behind any unfinished business. His name is Jesus Christ. He is the only person who could come to the end of his life and say-with absolute and total truthfulness-"I have finished everything I set out to do.”
It is Friday in Jerusalem and a huge crowd has gathered at the place called Skull Hill. It was on the north side of the city, just outside the Damascus Gate, and located by the side of a well-travelled road. This particular crucifixion started at 9am. For 3 hours everything proceeded normally. Then at exactly 12 noon, the sky went black. Not overcast, but pitch black, so black that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. For 3 hours darkness fell across the city of Jerusalem. There were screams, hideous cries, moans, and other unidentifiable sounds. Then, just as suddenly as it started, the darkness lifted, disappeared, vanished, and sanity returned to the earth. One glance at the middle cross made it clear that this man Jesus would not last much longer. He looked dead already. His body quivered uncontrollably, his chest heaving with every tortured breath. The soldiers knew from long experience that he wouldn’t make it to sundown.
Then it happened. He shouted something - "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Someone in the crowd shouted back to him. Moments passed, death drew near, then a hoarse whisper “I thirst.” The soldiers put some sour vinegar on a sponge and lifted it to his lips. He moistened his lips and took a deep breath. He had less than a minute to live.
Then he spoke again. It was a quick shout. Just one word. If you weren’t paying attention, you missed it in all the confusion. Then he breathed out another sentence. Then he was dead. What was that shout? In Greek it is 1 word – Tetelestai - “It is finished” –was, is and always will be.
It’s a crucial word because it signifies the successful end to a particular course of action. It’s the word you would use when you graduate, when you pay off all your debt, when you cross the finish line after running your first marathon. Means more than just “I survived” - “I did exactly what I set out to do.”
In the perfect tense in Greek - action which has been completed in the past with results continuing into the present. “This happened and it is still in effect today.” When Jesus cried out “It is finished,” he meant “It was finished in the past, and it is still finished in the present, and it will continue to be finished in the future.”
He did not say, “I am finished,” - imply that he died defeated and exhausted. “It is finished” - “I successfully completed the work I came to do.”
What Was Finished?
Matthew Henry - over 300 years ago - lists 8 things that were finished or completed when Jesus cried out “It is finished.”
1. The malice of his enemies was finished. By nailing him to the cross, they had done their worst. There was nothing more they could do to the Son of God.
2. The sufferings ordained by God were finished. Many times during his ministry, Jesus spoke of “the work” he was sent to do and of the “hour” of trouble that was coming. He once spoke of a “baptism” of suffering he must undergo. All those things were ordained by God. None of them happened by chance. Even the evil plans of the Jews fit somehow into God’s greater plan to save the world through the death of his Son.
3. All the Old Testament types and prophecies were fulfilled. Examples - He had been given vinegar to drink, he had been sold for 30 pieces of silver, his hands and feet had been pierced and his side was pierced. There are many other prophesies surrounding his death. All those had been or very soon would be fulfilled.
4. The ceremonial law was abolished. Romans 10: 4 - Christ is “the end of the law.” It finds its completion and fulfilment in him. Therefore, all the OT rules concerning animal sacrifices are set aside. The rules and regulations concerning the priesthood are out of date since the Greater Priest has now laid down his life for his people. Those laws pointed to the cross. But once Jesus died, they were no longer needed.
5. The price of sin was paid in full. Do you remember the words of John the Baptist when he saw Jesus? “The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." That “taking away” of sin was accomplishment by the death of our Lord.
6. His physical sufferings were at an end. “The storm is over, the worst is past; all his pains and agonies are at an end, and he is entering upon the joy set before him."
7. His life was now finished. When Jesus cried out “It is finished,” he had only a few seconds to live. All that he had come to do had been fully accomplished. His life and his mission came to an end at exactly the same moment.
8. The work of redemption was now complete. This is undoubtedly the major meaning. The death of Christ provided a - Full satisfaction for sin - Fatal blow to Satan -Fountain of grace opened that will flow forever -Foundation of peace laid that will last forever
“Paid in full” means that once a thing is paid for, you never have to pay for it again. In fact, “paid in full” means that once a thing is paid for, it is foolish to try to pay for it again.
Either you accept the fact that Jesus paid it all or you try to pay yourself. But who could ever pay for even one sin? How must does a sin cost? How could you ever pay the infinite cost? In the end your only choice is to trust that Jesus has indeed paid in full for your salvation or you reject what Christ did when he died on the cross. There is no third option.
Name Your Sin
So let me ask you a personal question. What sin is keeping you from God? – anger, lust, hard heart of unbelief, alcohol abuse, uncontrollable temper, cheating, stealing, adultery, abortion, pride, greed, homosexuality, racial prejudice, a bitter spirit?
Let me tell you the best news you’ve ever heard. It doesn’t matter what “your” sin is. It doesn’t matter how many sins you’ve piled up in your life. It doesn’t matter how guilty you think you are. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been doing this week. It doesn’t matter how bad you’ve been. It doesn’t matter how many skeletons rattle around in your closet. All of your sins have been stamped by God with 1 word – Tetelestai - Paid in full.
Three Abiding Principles
1. Since Jesus Christ paid in full, the work of salvation is now complete. That is what “It is finished” means. The debt was paid, the work was accomplished, the sacrifice was completed. It means that when Jesus died, he died once for all time. The sacrifice was sufficient to pay for the sins of every person who has ever lived-past, present or future.
The “finished work” of Jesus Christ - not just a slogan; it’s a profound spiritual truth. What Jesus accomplished in his death was so awesome, so total, so complete that it could never be repeated. Not even by Jesus himself.
2. Since Jesus Christ paid in full, all efforts to add anything to what Christ did on the cross are doomed to failure. This is a crucial point because sinners often think there is something they can do (or must do) in order to be forgiven by God. But the death of Christ proves the opposite. No degree of personal reformation (no matter how much you clean up your life), no baptism of any kind, no acts of bravery (not even on the battlefield), no deeds of kindness (no matter what the motivation), no religious activity of any kind can help the sinner take even the tiniest step toward heaven. Sin is forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ on the basis of his death on the cross. Since Christ has died for us, nothing we do (or have done or will do) makes the slightest difference in terms of our salvation, forgiveness, justification, and full acceptance by God. These are shocking words to some people because almost everyone secretly believes there is something we must “do” in order to be saved. But nothing can be added to the value of the blood of Christ. Good resolve and sincere effort are noble things but they cannot forgive or help forgive our sin. That’s what “Paid in Full” really means.
If Jesus paid it all, you don’t have to. If you try to pay for your salvation, it means you don’t think he paid it all. There is no middle ground. God is not trying to sell you salvation. He doesn’t offer salvation at half-price. God is offering you salvation free of charge. That’s what Tetelestai means. Jesus paid in full so you wouldn’t have to pay anything.
3. Since Jesus Christ paid in full, the only thing you can do is accept it or reject it.
When Satan tempts me to despair And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died My sinful soul is counted free,
For God the Just is satisfied To look on Him and pardon me.
We should stand and cheer - that is my whole hope of heaven: “For God the Just is satisfied to look on him and pardon me.” So here is the gospel truth. Jesus died. God is satisfied. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” he meant it. Will you believe it?
Questions to Consider
1. Consider your own dreams and goals. How much “unfinished business” is left in your life at this point? How confident are you that you will be able to finish everything by the time you die?
2. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” was that wishful thinking or a statement of fact? If the latter, how could he be so sure that his work was indeed finished and that he had completed all that he came to do?
3. Name some of the “Plan B” methods of salvation that people use to add to work of Christ on the cross. What happens when we add anything to the value of Christ’s death as a means of salvation?
4. Make a list of your sins on a sheet of paper. When you are finished, in big letters write over the list the words “Paid in Full.
5. Read Isaiah 53. What do you learn from this message about the meaning and purpose of Christ’s death?
6. How would you answer someone who says, “I don’t see how the death of one man 2000 years ago can pay for my sins, much less the sins of the whole world?”
Scriptures to Ponder
2 Corinthians 5:21