“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
Could it be likely that the monumental impact of this verse is probably among the most missed in Scripture? If read as an epic tale of God’s interaction with his creation, the Bible should probably produce moments of awe and wonder, this one being one of the greatest. But we are too often lost in the verse-by-verse exposition that has become popular over the years.
Then we get distracted by the massive list of do-and-don’t commands surrounding this central point of “It is finished.”
The point of Christ saying what he said is not just, “whew, suffering is over.” or, “Obedience mission complete.” or even, “Covered all the prophecies.” That would be a religion of do and don’t, preached right from the Cross.
I know that there are threads upon threads of debates regarding the Law and how we interact with it. The case can be presented that our religion is one of do-and-don’t, however that is not what the Scripture seems to present. It is a religion of God Did It For Us. From the very beginning, the Creator has been responsible for doing what we cannot ourselves; making us, rescuing us, remaking us, preserving us, completing us.
So when Christ said “It is finished.” He changed the orders of things so that what we do and don’t do are products of what he did for us. Out of a changed heart, gratitude, peace with God, the working of the Spirit, worship and so much more, we are dedicated actors for the benefit of God’s kingdom, but not because of the rules.
The Gospel means “It is finished.” Can we believe any other thing to be saved? Can we go to church every Sunday to hear once again what to do and not do, expecting salvation? Do-and-Don’t is a legalistic religion. It says we earn our salvation. Christ earned our salvation and we must learn (and teach our successors) that our salvation rests in that.
John Calvin said in the Institutes that our hearts are idol factories. Martin Luther wrote extensively on Christian freedom and how all the trappings of works are but product of our salvation. And then, when these men, or the writers of the N.T. are giving instructions on what to do and not to do, they’re portraying what the victorious, faithful and saved life looks like. They’re telling us how we love God and ourselves, where to turn when sin rears up its ugly head and how it all works.
I think we can argue all day about the Law and that we really do have to do things but it’s when we fail to do things, when we sin in word, deed, omission and commission that we have to remember that Christ did them for us – It really is finished. Rest on that.