The Word Of Victory
"When Jesus therefore had received
the vinegar, he said, It is finished"
the vinegar, he said, It is finished"
OUR LAST TWO STUDIES have been occupied with the tragedy of the cross; we turn now to its triumph. In his words, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" we beard the Saviour’s cry of desolation; in his words "I thirst" we listened to his cry of lamentation; now there falls upon our ears his cry of jubilation - "It is finished". From the words of the victim we turn now to the words of the victor, It is proverbial that every cloud has its silver lining: so had the darkest cloud of all. The cross of Christ has two great sides to it: it showed the profound depths of his humiliation, but it also marked the goal of the Incarnation, and further, it told the consummation of his mission, and it forms the basis of our salvation.
"It is finished." The ancient Greeks boasted of being able to say much in little - "to give a sea of matter in a drop of language" was regarded as the perfection of oratory. What they sought is here found. "It is finished" is but one word in the original, yet in that word is wrapped up the gospel of God; in that word is contained the ground of the believer’s assurance; in that word is discovered the sum of all joy, and the very spirit of all divine consolation.
"It is finished." This was not the despairing cry of a helpless martyr; it was not an expression of satisfaction that the termination of his sufferings was now reached; it was not the last gasp of a worn-out life. No, rather was it the declaration on the part of the divine Redeemer that all for which he came from heaven to earth to do, was now done; that all that was needed to reveal the full character of God had now been accomplished; that all that was required by law before sinners could be saved had now been performed: that the flail price of our redemption was now paid.
"It is finished." The great purpose of God in the history of man was now accomplished - accomplished de jure as it will yet be de facto. From the beginning, God’s purpose has always been one and indivisible. It has been declared to men in various ways: in symbol and type, by mysterious hints and by plain intimations, through Messianic prediction and through didactic declaration. That purpose of God may be summarized thus: to display his grace and to magnify his Son in the creating of children in his own image and glory. And at the cross the foundation was laid which was to make this possible and actual.
"It is finished." What was finished? The answer to this question is a very full one, though a number of excellent expositors have sought to limit the scope of these words and to confine them strictly to a single application. We are told it was the prophecies concerning the sufferings of the Saviour which were finished, and that he referred only to this. It is readily granted that the immediate reference was to the Messianic predictions, yet we think there are good and sufficient reasons for not confining our Lord’s words here to them. Yea, to us it seems certain that Christ referred specially to his sacrificial work, for all scripture concerning his suffering and shame was not fulfilled. There still remained the dismissal of his spirit into the hands of the Father (Ps. 3 1:5); there still remained the "piercing" with the spear (Zech. 12:10: and note that the word used for the piercing of his hands and feet - the act of crucifixion - in Ps. 22:16 is a different one); there still remained the preserving of his bones unbroken (Ps. 34:20), and the burial in the rich man’s grave (Isaiah 53:9).
"It is finished." What was finished? We answer, his sacrificial work. It is true there yet remained the act of death itself, which was necessary for the making of atonement. But, as is so often the case here in John’s Gospel - wherein our text is found - (cf.: John 12:23,31; 13:31; 16:5; 17:4),the Lord here speaks anticipatively of the completion of his work, Moreover, it must be remembered that the three hours darkness was already past, the awful cup had already been drained, his precious blood had already been shed, the outpoured wrath of God had already been endured; and these are the primary elements in the making of propitiation. The sacrificial work of the Saviour, then, was completed, excepting only the act of death which followed immediately. But, as we shall see, the completing of the sacrificial work made an end of a number of things, and to them we shall now turn our attention.