Jesus said, “It is finished.”John 19:30
When Jesus said “It is finished,” what did he mean? He spoke these words from the cross, of course, but think of what his words might mean at other times. When he leaves the empty tomb, on Easter morning, for example. Or just before he ascends into heaven. Or when he arrives in heaven. Or when he returns again in glory. It is finished. These simple words can mean very different things.
When the world first heard Jesus say, “It is finished,” it was from the cross. Those who didn’t believe in Jesus probably heard an admission of defeat. His life is over. He has given up. His effort to usher his kingdom into the world is lost. He and his movement are finished.
But when we hear these words, regardless of when we hear them, the meaning is exactly the opposite. We do not hear in these words an admission of death – we hear an announcement of victory. It is finished. At last. The victory is finally won. Sin, death and the devil have been defeated, once and for all. By his death on the cross. And this victory is confirmed in a glorious way by his resurrection.
These simple words, “it is finished,” describe what makes Christianity so different from all the other religions of the world, and what makes it so wonderful to us. For Christianity itself is summed up in this simple word that Jesus spoke from the cross: It is finished. Christianity, for us, is not a program that helps us to find the meaning of life; it is not a set of teachings that we must accept; it is not, first, about anything that we do. Christianity is about what Jesus did for us, especially on the cross, for us and all the world. Christianity begins, one might say, with Jesus’ word on the cross announcing that our salvation has been won for us. “It is finished.”
What the world hears as an admission of defeat, we hear as a simple summary of all that is important to us, and to our faith. The victory could not have come at a greater cost. We grieve that. It cost our Lord his life. But the victory has come. We believe that. It makes this word from the cross so special to us.
At the cross, at the empty tomb, in church, at home, at work, school, or in the hospital, all throughout the world and wherever we are, we celebrate this wonderful mystery at the heart of our Christian faith: It is finished! Thanks be to God!