John 19:28-30 (Good Friday)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
March 29, 2013
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is from our Lord’s Passion, recorded in John 19:
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 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. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
What a great feeling you get when you complete a goal! As a college history major, in order to pass the senior seminar course, I needed to complete a major research paper. After hours of research and packs of note cards later, when the manuscript was printed and turned in, what a great feeling of accomplishment. “It is finished!” Currently, Aaron and I are working on a 1/700 scale model of the 1941 British battleship H.M.S. Hood. We’re still in the painting process, but soon will follow assembly and before our eyes, the completed Hood. We can already anticipate the final step of mounting the ship on its stand and shouting, “It is finished!” But these finished accomplishments all severely pale in comparison to that of which Jesus Christ said, “It is finished!”
What is fulfilled, accomplished, completed or finished by Jesus on the cross? A very quick read might produce the answer of the sour wine. “When, therefore, Jesus received the wine he said, “It is finished.” It’s very unlikely that Jesus meant that He had finished or completed sucking the sponge dry of its vinegar-wine contents. Given that He had been beaten and had been hanging on the cross from some 6 hours, Jesus would have been fortunate to get a taste on His lips, let alone drink it. So we can safely rule out that “It is finished” refers to drinking the wine from the sponge.
What, then, is finished by Jesus on the cross? John tells us at the beginning of our text. “After this, Jesus, knowing that now all things stood finished, in order that the Scripture should be finished, said, “I thirst.” What is fulfilled and completed and finished by Jesus Christ in His death on the cross is salvation from sin in accordance with the Scriptures. Jesus completes the Scriptures as they pertain to the saving of humanity from sin and death.
Consider God’s first promise to save a newly fallen humanity. Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” The Seed or Descendant of Eve would one day bruise the head of Satan, that ancient snake, though that Descendant would be injured in the process. As the promise of a Savior unfolds throughout Scripture, we learn that the injury sustained by the promised Messiah would be fatal. He would die for the sins of the people, and through His death, secure forgiveness and everlasting life. From Isaiah 53:
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living, For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?”
It was for our sins, for our iniquities, for our falling short of the glory of God that Christ suffered and died on the cross. There was no way possible that we could save ourselves. There is no way possible that we could fulfill any of the Scriptures since we can’t even keep the Ten Commandments. So our heavenly Father sent us His Son to complete in our place what we could not ever accomplish. Christ, as True Man, fulfilled (completed) God’s Law for us in our place. Where we daily sin and fall short and fail, Jesus succeeded. Jesus kept the Commandments perfectly. He fulfilled the divine law to love the Lord and to love neighbor. So, to fulfill the Scripture, Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Gal 4:4-5)
Because of our sins and utter failure to fulfill God’s holy Law, Jesus also had to satisfy the demands of God’s justice. “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) And, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Heb. 9:22) So the Son of God, Jesus Christ, took on human flesh and dwelt among us without sin, full of grace and truth, for this very purpose of completing the salvation of all people by shedding His holy, precious blood in death. Only Jesus Christ, true man and true God, could accomplish this. The salvation of a person costs too much—the very blood and the very life of Jesus, the Christ, God-made-flesh. The fact that it was God in Christ who fulfilled the Law and suffered for our sins, gives infinite value and saving power to the work our Redeemer completed, finished, on the cross.
So as it reached the 3:00 hour on Good Friday, Jesus knew that now everything stood completed regarding our salvation. He had carried our sins in His body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds [we] have been healed. (1Peter 2:24) He was forsaken by God the Father, abandoned to suffer hell as He hung on the cross in darkness. His blood had been poured out to cleanse all people from their sins. (1 John 1:7) Our salvation had been won! Forgiveness for us had been obtained. And there was only one thing left to fulfill Scripture, “I thirst.” Psalm 69:21, “For my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” And from Psalm 22, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” (Ps. 22:14-15)
When, therefore, Jesus received the wine he said, “It is finished.” “The work of saving people from their sins is done. I have suffered their punishment of hell. I have shed my blood to win their forgiveness. Now I will endure death for them so that I might forever defeat death by my resurrection.” And bowing His head He handed over the spirit.
It is finished! Forgiveness is yours. Everlasting life is yours. Sin, Satan, and death have been vanquished. Jesus lives, and the victory is won! Amen.