“It Is Finished” — Vespers Sermon by Pastor Rolf Preus

Wednesday Vespers
March 16, 2016
It Is Finished”
John 19:30-37

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” (John 19:30-37)

Jesus told his disciples several times that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem where he would be betrayed and handed over the Gentiles to be mocked, whipped, spit upon, and crucified. It is necessary. Jesus said this because the Bible foretold this. The Bible could had to be fulfilled because the Bible is God’s word.

Jesus said, “It is finished,” because Jesus had suffered everything the Bible said the Suffering Servant would suffer. It is finished. It is accomplished. It is completed. Everything needed for the full and perfect redemption of this entire world of sinners was accomplished. Christ’s labor had met its goal.

No Christian can deny that this is so. Is there a sin — any sin, anywhere, committed by anyone — for which Jesus failed to suffer? No. It is finished. ls there a sin that Jesus has not blotted out? No. It is finished. The labor of Christ’s soul was to bear not just sins of individuals, but the sin of mankind. If we are talking only about sins and not about sin we might think perhaps that a sin or two or a dozen might have been missed. But when we hear John the Baptist identify Jesus by saying “Behold, the Larnb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” then we know that “It is finished” means it is finished. If Jesus bore all sin, he bore all sins. If he bore and thereby removed the sin of the world, he bore and thereby removed your specific sins, even the sins that accuse your conscience today.

Few cries from the lips of Jesus bring to our hearts such pure comfort as these words: “It is finished.” Consider who says them. He is the One who assumed our flesh and blood in order to fulfill what we were powerless to fulfill. He became the representative of the human race. He took the place of sinners and rendered to the bar of God’s justice what God’s justice demanded. He accomplished what he set out to do. It is finished. It is accomplished.

Jesus descended into hell after he died on the cross as we confess in the Creed. He didn’t descend into hell to suffer. His suffering was finished when he was on the cross. He cannot suffer again. His suffering was for the purpose of paying for sin and no more payment for sin can ever be offered again, because it is finished. To presume to offer payment or sacrifice for sin is to deny that it is finished.

Sin is still a present reality throughout the world and in our own lives. When Jesus said, “It is finished” he was not saying that there would be no more sin committed. He was saying that there would be no more payment for sins. But we are sinners living in a sinful world. If we were perfected in our Christian faith we would have stopped sinning! When we are confronted with our sins we deny them, become angry with those who point them out to us, and generally do everything we can to avoid a sincere confession of them to God. Then, when we are finally persuaded that We must confess our sins to God and admit What we have done, we insult his grace by doing this or that or the other thing to pacify him. When We seek to offer sacrifices to God to take away sin we are contradicting Jesus Christ himself who said, “It is finished.”

There is a false doctrine of the Lord’s Supper that says it is a sacrifice that the pastor offers up to God for the sins of the living and the dead. The Lord’s Supper is Christ’s body and blood. But the body and the blood of the Lord’s Supper are not offered up to God. The sacrifice of the Lord’s Supper is the sacrifice of thanksgiving that God’s people offer up to God. The sacrifice of the Lord’s Supper is not Christ’s body and blood. That sacrifice was given once and for all and when Jesus said, “It is finished.” To teach that forgiveness is gained for sinners by the pastor offering up Christ’s body and blood at the altar is to contradict Jesus’ words. The body and blood of the Lord’s Supper are not offered up to God by us. They are offered to us by God.

When Jesus said, “It is finished” he was talking about our redemption. He paid in full the price to set us free. He set us free. He accomplished everything required of us. But the fruit of Christ’s finished work for us needs to be given to us where we live. We call the when and where of this giving the means of grace. Preaching the gospel is a means of grace. When the preacher preaches the gospel of the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake God graciously forgives the people through the words the pastor speaks. Baptism is a means of grace. By this Washing the Christian is born into God’s farnily. God gives him all the treasures Jesus won for us. The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace. By giving to us his body and his blood, Jesus pledges to us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation that his holy body and blood have gotten for us all. What is finished is the work of our salvation. What is not finished is the giving out of salvation.

We are not finished with the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. We can count on these enemies hanging around and infecting us with every kind of doubt and trouble that come from sin. Since our battles in this world are not finished we need the fruit of Christ’s finished work to come into our lives day after day, Week after week, as long as we live.

The work of Christ for us is finished. The work of the Holy Spirit in us is not finished. When we come before God with our hearts burdened by sins and we confess to him our failures, making no excuses, but throwing ourselves on his mercy, what does he do? Does he give us a spiritual assignment that will gain for us the grace we need? Does he offer vague assurances about how he is a forgiving God who is willing to forgive sinners, at least in principle? Does he turn his ear away from us because we have sinned too often and his patience has run out? He does none of these things. When we come before God in sorrow over our sins because his work in us is not finished, he always points us to the finished work of Christ and reminds us that he did it for us. In the means of grace — the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments — God gives to us all of the benefits of Christ’s finished and perfect work.

This is how God perfects us. This is how he accomplishes his will in us. He doesn’t do so by sending us away from him to do anything on our own. He works every good inside of us by inviting us back to himself again and again and again to partake of the treasures of his grace that Christ has won for us all, just as surely as he cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” Amen

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