Over the last several Wednesday nights, we have taught a new series entitiled “Cross Ways: Life Lessons from the Cross.” The principles we have discussed are very foundational to our Faith, and are things that a) we put into practice daily, and b) we should make an integral part of our lifestyle. Daily things like prayer/access to the throne of grace (“The Veil Was Rent”), Forgiveness (“Father, Forgive Them…”) and the understanding of Who He is (“Surely This Was the Son of God”). Other things that we come to realize as we walk with Him daily: you are NOT forsaken, embrace afflictions, and don’t live your Christian life as a “secret!”
The final lesson was taught last Wednesday and gives us the assurance that this journey is not in vain (though it seems so at times), and it will come to completion. There IS a finish line.
John 19:28-30: After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. 29 Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
Perhaps the most POWERFUL and SIGNIFICANT statement that Jesus made on the cross, and His final words before “giving up the ghost.” More so than “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” More so than “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” More so, even, than “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Found only in the Gospel of John, the Greek word translated “it is finished” is tetelestai, an accounting term that means “paid in full.” When Jesus uttered those words, He was declaring the debt owed to God by mankind was ELIMINATED – the debt of sin.
Just prior to His arrest by the Romans, Jesus prayed His last public prayer, in which He said: “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). The work Jesus was sent to do was threefold: 1. To “seek and save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10), 2. To provide atonement for the sins of mankind: Romans 3:23-24: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:, and 3. To reconcile sinful men to a holy God: 2 Corinthians 5:18-19: And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
Here is the point: when He said “It is finished,” it was only the BEGINNING of new life for us! All who were once “dead in trespasses and sins” but who are now made “alive with Christ” (Ephesians 2:1,5).
The application of this “finished” principle is found in Hebrews 12:2-3: Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Because HE finished, you have the power to finish! Galatians 6:9: And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
He is the Author of ETERNAL SALVATION: Hebrews 5:9: And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. He is the Author of PEACE: 1 Corinthians 14:33: For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. And He is the author AND the FINISHER of our faith!
AUTHOR: Jeremiah 1:5: Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
FINISHER: Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the thoughts (plan or purpose) that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Philippians 1:6: Being confident (be persuaded, believe, trust) of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: “perform” (epitele?): fulfill completely, execute, finish. Do not be discouraged! Jesus will finish the work He started!
The 1992 Summer Olympics featured two tremendously poignant moments. American sprinter Gail Devers, the clear leader in the 100 meter hurdles, tripped over the last barrier. She agonizingly pulled herself to her knees and crawled the last five meters, finishing fifth–but finishing. Even more heart-rending was the 400 meter semifinal in which British runner Derek Redmond, a favorite to win a medal, tore a hamstring and fell to the track. He struggled to his feet and began to hobble, determined to complete the race. As he struggled, His father ran from the stands to help him off the track, but the athlete refused to quit. His father said, “You don’t have to do this.” Derek said, “Yes I do. I have to finish.” His father replied, “Then we’re going to finish together.” He leaned on his father, and the two limped to the finish line together, to deafening applause.
Another great “finishing” story is taken from an earlier Olympics, the story of John Akwhari. He understood why he was in the Olympics like no one else. He represented Tanzania in the Marathon in the 1968 Olympic Games. Early on in the journey, John stumbled, fell and injured his knee and ankle. He was immediately out of medal contention. By 7 p.m. an Ethiopian runner won the race. John stumbled into the stadium with a bloody leg and injured ankle over an hour later, which is a lifetime in an Olympic competition. Yet, thousands of fans remained in the stadium awaiting his arrival. And as he limped and hobbled, the people stood and cheered him on. Even though he was not a medal contender, he was a true competitor. Reporters could not understand why he continued to run despite his injuries and the plain and simple fact that the he was out of the race early on. He somberly explained to reporters what they had missed about the Olympics. It was not simply about him and his achievement or failure. He represented something bigger than himself. He said, now this is translated but you get the jist: “My country did not send me 7,000 miles to begin a race; they sent me to finish the race.”
God has called you, equipped you and empowered you to not only stand, walk, and run…but to FINISH. One day you will say, like the apostle Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”