REPENT AND TURN TO JESUS.
He And He Alone Finished Your Salvation.
In the name + of Jesus.
The final words of Jesus which John records for us should give us no end of comfort. These words can be in our hearts every time we confess our sins. They should definitely be in our minds when we are dying. “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Jesus' life which was lived in holy obedience to all of God's commandments on our behalf was complete. Jesus' sufferings under God's curse for our disobedience to God's Commandments was complete. Jesus' death, the death of the Son of God on behalf of all of the people in the world, was the complete payment for sin. Forgiveness has been purchased in full. Death gets its fill. There is no more.
It is finished. There are no strings attached. There are no conditions still to be met. There is no asterisk next to the Greek word, tetelestai. It is finished. Or even better, “It has been finished.” The perfect tense of the verb means that the action has been accomplished, but the effects of the action are still going on. It is like saying, “Sergio Garcia has won the Masters.” The victory took place last Sunday, but Sergio Garcia is still the victor. The verb tetelestai is saying, “The perfect life under God's Law has been lived. Its benefits are yours. The cursed death under God's wrath has been died. Its benefits are yours. Your sins are forgiven. The payment was done at the cross, and the payment still covers you today.”
That payment was made by Jesus' sufferings and death at Calvary almost 2,000 years ago. The benefits of Jesus' sufferings and death are applied through the word preached and the absolution proclaimed. The benefits are administered in the waters of baptism where sins are washed away. The benefits are given in the Lord's Supper where the sheep are fed and nourished and strengthened by their Shepherd. And when Jesus' gifts are given, “It is finished.” There are no acts of penance that must still be completed. There are no good deeds which improve your standing or your chances. There is nothing that God leaves in your hands. If there were still something undone, something which God left for you to complete, that would cast the matter right back into doubt, at best—or despair, at worst. But there is no unfinished business. There are no installments that still need to be paid. It is finished. It has been finished. Repent and turn to Jesus. He and he alone finished your salvation.
Sinners find no end of comfort in Jesus' statement—which is good because we never stop being sinners. Being baptized does not give you an excuse to neglect God's law. Being baptized has set you apart as God's child to do God's will. And still, we prove ourselves to be sinners. No matter how much we resolve to do better, we still fail to do the good we promise we will do. No matter how much we promise to have patience with our neighbor, we still mock him. No matter how often we insist we will not be jealous at the success of others, we are still resentful that the good news of others was not our good news. We do not pray for some people because we have deemed them unworthy. When other people get in our way or take our time, we get annoyed. We do not consider that they are barely getting by with the burdens they are carrying. We limit our pity to ourselves. Sin clings to us, and we cannot shake it off with our resolve or with promises no matter how sincere they are. We do not fail because we don't try hard enough; we fail because we are sinners.
Repent and turn to Jesus. He and he alone finished your salvation. The prophet Isaiah had foretold what the death of Jesus was for: The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6) And it was the will of the Lord to crush him; …his soul makes an offering for guilt. (Isaiah 53:10) God does not overlook sin. Instead, he gives his Son to pay for it. And the payment is complete. Jesus said so when he died. “It is finished. It has been finished.” (John 19:30) The payment has been made. The word tetelestai was often used in the market place when someone owed on a debt. But when the final payment was made, the merchant would state tetelestai. The debt has been paid in full. That is what Jesus said from the cross. The full payment has been made. The results still stand. When you repent, you see that Jesus remains ever merciful, and that his death remains the offering which removes your iniquity and covers over your guilt. Repent and turn to Jesus. He and he alone has finished your salvation.
Jesus' words will continue to comfort you, especially when you face your own death. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and so we are all going to die. But Jesus is the one who has taken the horror out of death for us. Jesus did that by suffering the horrors of death for us. The Lord (had) laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6), and so the condemnation for our sins was laid upon him as well. Jesus did not avoid the cross. He willingly went to die there for us and to be damned for us. The agony of crucifixion, as horrible as it is, is nothing compared to the torments of hell which Jesus had to suffer for us. This is what sins deserve. And Jesus took that punishment for us. He suffered all punishment for all mankind—all of it.
And so, death will come for you, but damnation will not. God's wrath has been taken from you. When his angels come for you at your last breath, you will open your eyes to see a loving and merciful Father. Your judgment has already been proclaimed to you. You are forgiven. The wrath of God is done. It is finished. Repent and turn to Jesus. He and he alone finished your salvation.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28-30) That last phrase is meaningful. Jesus gave up his spirit. He is not like us. We fight for life and hang on with all that we have left. That is understandable. Life is a gift from God and it is good. That is why we make doctors visits, take medicine, get exercise, and eat right. We don't want to die. We want to live as last as long as possible.
But regarding the death of Jesus, St. John writes, “He gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30) The verb is active. Jesus actively handed his life over into death, completely in control. It is as if Jesus were saying, “Death, you demand payment for sin. Here it is. I give myself for it. Grave, you claim the guilty? Here I am, bearing the guilt for all mankind. And now you have had your fill. For the Son of God will go here on behalf of all mankind.” And so death has received its ransom. The debt of sin has been paid. There is nothing more that needs to be done. It is finished. It has been finished. And it remains complete.
Repent and turn to Jesus. He and he alone has finished your salvation. He and he alone takes away all sin and guilt. He and he alone has absorbed all of God's wrath. He and he alone grants you a blessed death. He and he alone is the way to eternal life.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.