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SIXTH SAYING OF CHRIST ON THE CROSS-"IT IS FINISHED."
"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”—John, 19 : 30.
"It is finished."
This is the sixth remarkable word of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, uttered as a triumphant shout when he saw the glorious issue of all his sufferings at hand.
It is but one word in the original; but in that one word is contained the sum of all joy, the very spirit of all divine consolation. The ancient Greeks valued themselves in being able to speak much in little; "to give a sea of matter in a drop of language." What they only sought, is here found. "It is finished"-the great work of man's redemption is done; and therein all the types and prefigurations that shadowed it forth are fulfilled. The completing of redemption is the principal, and the fulfilling of all the types the collateral and secondary sense implied. Yet it must be observed, that when we say Christ finished redemption by his death, the meaning is not that it was by his death alone; for his abode in the grave, resurrection, and ascension, had all their joint influence therein. According, then, to the principal scope of the passage, we observe that,
Jesus Christ hath perfected and completely finished the great work of redemption, committed to him by God the Father.
To this great truth the apostle gives full testimony, 'By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." Heb. 10: 14. And to the same purpose Christ says, I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work thou gavest me to do." John, 17:4.
We shall inquire what this work was; how Christ finished it; and what is the evidence that it is completed. I. What was the work which Christ finished by his death?
It was the fulfilling of the whole law of God in our room, and for our redemption, as a sponsor or surety for us. The law is glorious; the holiness of God is engraven or stamped upon every part of it; "From his right hand went a fiery law." Deut. 33:2. The jealousy of the Lord watched over every point and tittle of it, for his dreadful and glorious name was upon it; it cursed every one that continued not in all things contained therein. Gal. 3:10. Two things, therefore, were necessarily required in him that should perfectly fulfil it; perfection in his character, and perfection in his work.
1. Perfection in his character. He that wanted this, could never say, "It is finished." Perfect working proceeds from a perfect Being. That he might therefore finish this great work of obedience, and therein the glorious design of our redemption; lo! in what shining and perfect holiness was he produced! "That holy thing that shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God." Luke, 1:35. And indeed "such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." Heb. 7:26. So that the law could have no exception against his person; nay, it was never so honored as in having such a perfect and excellent person as Christ stand at its bar and give it due reparation.
2. There must be also a perfection of work and obedience before it could be said, "It is finished." This was in Christ he continued in all things written in the law, to do them: he fulfilled all righteousness, as it behoved him to do. Matt. 3: 15. He did all that was required to be done, and suffered all that was requisite to be suffered: he did and suffered all that was commanded or threatened, in such perfection of obedience, both active
and passive, that the pure eye of Divine justice saw no defect in it; and so finished the work his Father gave him to do. This was a necessary, a difficult, and a precious work.
It was necessary in respect to the Father. I do not mean that God was under any necessity, from his nature, of redeeming us; for our redemption is an act of the free counsel of God; but when God had once determined to redeem and save poor sinners by Jesus Christ, then it became necessary that the counsel of God should be fulfilled: "To do whatsoever thy hand and counsel had before determined to be done." Acts, 4: 28.
It was necessary with respect to Christ, by the precious compact between the Father and him. Therefore it is said by Christ, "Truly the Son of man goeth as it was determined." Luke, 22: 22; that is, as it was foreagreed and covenanted. Under the necessity of fulfilling his engagement to the Father, he came into the world; and being come, he turns not from it. "I must work the works of him that sent me." John, 9: 3.
Yea, and it was no, less necessary upon our account that this work should be finished; for, had not Christ finished this work, sin had quickly finished all our lives, comforts, and hopes. Without the finishing of this work, not a son or daughter of Adam could ever have seen the face of God. Therefore it is said, As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John, 3: 14, 15.
As it was necessary this work should be finished, so the finishing of it was difficult: it cost many a groan, and many a tear, before Christ could say, "It is finished." All the angels in heaven were not able, by their united strength, to lift that burden one inch from the ground, which Christ bore upon his shoulders, yea, and bare it away. How heavy a burden this was, appears in some
degree by his agony in the garden, and the bitter outcries he made upon the cross, which we have already considered.
It was also a most precious work which Christ finished by his death; that work was done in few hours, which will be the matter of everlasting songs and triumph by angels and saints to all eternity. Oh it was a precious work! The mercies that now flow from this fountain, such as justification, sanctification, adoption, are not to be estimated, besides the endless happiness and glory of the world to come, which it cannot enter into the heart of man to conceive. If the angels sang when the foundation-stone was laid, what shouts, what triumphs should there be among the saints, as this voice is heard, "It is finished!"
II. Let us inquire in what manner Jesus Christ finished this glorious work.
1. It was finished most obediently, "He became obedient to death, even the death of the cross." Phil. 2: 8. "His obedience was the obedience of a servant, though not servile obedience." So it was foretold of him before he entered upon his work, "The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back." Isa. 50: 5.
2. As Christ finished it obediently, so he finished it freely. Freedom and obedience in acting are not at all opposite to, or exclusive of each other. Moses' mother nursed him in obedience to the command of Pharaoh's daughter, yet most freely for her own delight. So it is said of Christ, and that by his own mouth, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." John, 10: 17, 18. He liked the work for the sake of the end to be accom
plished. When he had a prospect of it from eternity, then were his delights with the sons of men: then he rejoiced in the habitable parts of the earth. Prov. 8: 30, 31. And when he came into the world, with what a full and free consent did his heart echo to the voice of his Father calling him to it! "Lo, I come: I delight to do thy will thy law is within my heart." Psalm 40.
3. He also finished the work diligently; he was never idle wherever he was, but " went about doing good." Acts, 10:38. Sometimes he was so intent upon his work that he "forgat to eat bread." John, 4:30, 31. As the life of some men is but a diversion from one trifle to another, from one pleasure to another; so the whole life of Christ was spent between one work and another: never was a life so filled up with labor: the very moments of his time were all employed for God to finish this work.
4. He finished it completely and fully. All that was to be done by way of meritorious redemption is fully done; no hand can come after his; angels can add nothing to it. That is perfected to which nothing is wanting, and to which nothing can be added. Such is the work which our Lord Jesus Christ finished. Whatever the law demanded is perfectly paid; whatever a sinner needs, is perfectly obtained and purchased; nothing can be added to what he hath done; he put the last hand to it, when he said, "It is finished."
III. Let us consider what evidence we have that Christ so finished the work of redemption.
1. When Christ died, the work of redemption must be finished, inasmuch as the blood, as well as the obedience of Christ, was of infinite value and efficacy, sufficient to accomplish all the ends for which it was shed; when that therefore is actually shed, justice is fully paid, and, consequently, the souls for whom it is paid are fully redeemed from the curse.