Saturday, March 26, 2016
Sermon -- Good Friday: The 6th Word (March 25, 2016)
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Of the seven words which Jesus spoke from the cross, these words are probably the most familiar, and the most comforting. Three words in English; one word in Greek: “It is finished!” “tetelestai.” In English, it is a present tense. In Greek, it is a perfect tense. The perfect tense refers to something which happened and which still has effect to the present time. We heard in when Satan tempted Jesus. We heard Jesus say, “It is written.” But it is really a perfect tense: “It has been written.” And it still stands. That is what Jesus says at the cross: “It is finished.” It has been accomplished, and it still stands.
“It is finished!” It was not the last gasp of a man dying by crucifixion. Jesus cried this out in a loud voice. It was a proclamation. It was said for the benefit of anyone in earshot. It was recorded for the benefit of the world.
“It is finished!” Tetelestai. It has been accomplished, and it still stands. What is “it”? Jesus has done what no person has ever done. He is the one man who has ever given perfect obedience to God's Commandments. Even on our best days we are not perfect. But all of Jesus' days were perfect. The Law has been fulfilled. A man has kept the Law, and he has done it for you. He gives you credit for the work which you did not do.
In turn, he takes credit for the sins which he did not do. Jesus offered up his life as the perfect sacrifice which takes away the sins of the world. He absorbed the guilt and, therefore, the torments that the guilty deserve. He consumed God's wrath to its last drop. Therefore, there is no more wrath. There are no unpaid debts. There is no sacrifice left to be made. “It is finished.” Tetelestai. It has been accomplished, and it still stands.
“It is finished.” This word Jesus uttered just before he died. And it is the word we cling to when we face death. Because of this word, we do not have to invent virtues that we do not have. Nor do we have to pretend that our sins are not what they were. Are we sinners? Yes, but Jesus has taken our sins away. Are we perfect? No, but Jesus supplies us with his holiness. We do not have to go into death pretending to be what we are not or pretending to have what we don't.
What we do have is all we need: the word of Jesus. “It is finished.” The perfect life has been lived. The cursed death has been died. The sins of the world have been paid for. Jesus has completed it all. It has all been accomplished, and it still stands. Tetelestai. It is finished.