After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.John 19:28-30
“It is finished,” Jesus said, before he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Perhaps these same words were said by Pilate, and by the chief priests, when Jesus breathed his last. Perhaps they were even said by Satan, at the moment of what he mistakenly thought to be his greatest triumph. But perhaps these same words were said by our Heavenly Father, when Jesus finished his mission and commended his Spirit to his Father in heaven.
“It is finished” can mean very different things. These same words could be said by an artist who has completed their masterpiece, or by a spouse who wants to end a marriage. They could be said by someone who has completed their last chemotherapy treatment as they ring their bell, or by a doctor who is telling a patient that there are no other treatment options for their cancer. It is finished. These words can mean very different things.
When Jesus spoke these words, right before he bowed his head and gave up his spirit, he might have meant that his life is over, but he also might have meant that his masterpiece is complete. His mission to bring us our salvation has now been accomplished. It is finished. These words are ambiguous, and their meaning is determined by one thing: Faith.
We are here tonight because we believe that these words are good. They are more than good: They are unsurpassed. To us, there are no more powerful, more inspiring, more awe-filled words than those proclaimed by Jesus on the cross, right before he gave up his spirit: It is finished.
What Makes Christianity Unique
Faith decides the meaning of these words. And our faith leads us to hear in these words, not an admission of defeat, but 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. These simple words, heard in this way, describe what makes Christianity so different from all the other religions of the world. These words remind us that Christianity is not about what we do: It is about what Jesus did.
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. In fact, Christianity doesn’t really begin with us at all. It begins with our Savior on the cross. And it begins with what Jesus has accomplished for us on that cross. For us and our salvation, Jesus became human, and died on the cross. Christianity begins with Jesus’ word on the cross announcing to all who would hear that their sins are forgiven and their salvation is won. It is done. It is completed. It is finished. For us all.
Why this Day Is Good
Sometimes people will ask me why we call this Friday “Good.” Is there anything good about it? I think that the answer lies in these three words that Jesus spoke before he gave us his spirit. These words are what makes this day good. Not for Jesus, obviously; but for us. It is on this day that Jesus finished his mission to free us from sin and death. That is why this day is good.
But, let’s be honest. Without Easter, this day would not be good. Without the resurrection, there would be no reason to call this day anything but tragic. Jesus’ death on the cross finished his mission, but it didn’t finish the story. The story continued on the third day, when Jesus was raised from the dead, just as he predicted before his passion. The story continued when he appeared to his disciples, and then after forty days ascended into heaven. The story continued on the Day of Pentecost, when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, just as he promised, to give birth to the church. And the story continues tonight, and wherever and whenever we gather in his name, to give thanks for his living presence among us.
It is finished, but it is not over. It must not be, or we wouldn’t be here tonight. It is finished. Our Lord said so himself. But it is not over. The day after tomorrow, we will gather here again to give thanks that Jesus’ death is not the end of the story, but in many ways the beginning. And throughout the Easter Season, we will hear the story of what it means that our Savior, who proclaimed that “it is finished” from the cross, now lives.
It is finished, but it is not over. The work of our salvation is completed; but the mission to usher the kingdom of heaven into our world has just begun. Even tonight, as we focus on what Christ did for us, and as we are reminded that on the cross, he finished what he came to do, we are reminded that our work has just begun. It is finished, but it is definitely not over, for us or for our world. Thanks be to God. Amen.
2 thoughts on “Finished, But Not Over: My Sermon on Good Friday”
Wonderful reminder! I love that phrase, “It is finished, but not over!” A great way to focus on what Christ did for us and our mission to bring forth his kingdom into all the world.
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