“It is finished! Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
How should we consider this day, this most momentous day in the history of the world? We should consider it to be what God declares it to be, what Christ Himself in His final words declares it to be: it is a day of life, not of death; a day of creation, not of destruction; a day of beginning, and not of ending. It is a Good Friday, not an evil one.
Why did this day happen? Why was Jesus rejected by the Jewish people and put to death? Early in His ministry the reason is seen. Some of the leaders of the people objected when Jesus healed a man because He had done so on the Sabbath, the day when the people were to rest and not work. Jesus responded, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17) They got the point. He was calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God! This is why they sought to kill Him.
Jesus’ utter weakness and death on the cross certainly seems to show that He was not equal with God. “If you are the Son of God, save yourself!” the people cry. Jesus Himself even cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He seems to be utterly unlike God! We must look more deeply, however. Isaiah, speaking hundreds of years before, tells us: “See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.” Jesus was acting wisely, even while raised and lifted up upon the cross. He was doing the work of His Father; the work of creation.
How so? Remember how God created all things: He spoke. By His voice He called into existence all things, which, before He spoke, had not existed. He spoke six times, on six days, and was finished. Everything was done. He then rested on the 7th day and blessed that day as a day of rest, a day for us to rest in Him.
Do not think it a mere coincidence that Jesus spoke six times from the cross, and then with His 7th word spoke of entering His rest. He is the Creator!... even in His death. Especially in His death. This time, however, it is not out of nothing that the Creator creates. Jesus comes as the Creator to a broken creation, a creation that had been corrupted by our first parents’ sin and placed under the sentence of its Creator, “Cursed is the earth for your sake… Dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” The creation and its people – us! – is filled with decay and death. So, the eternal Son of God enters into creation as a created being Himself, and upon the cross He takes the decay and death of our sin into Himself. But, as God’s curse brings Him into death, He speaks and brings forth life; a life that comes from His death.
The first word He speaks as He is crucified is a word of life: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus will have us live, and not die. He will have us blessed by God, and not cursed. “Let there be light, and not darkness!” He therefore willingly bears the curse and freely offers His life for us. Then, He goes on to promise His life to every sinner who, even though deserving death for his sins, trusts in Him:
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
But, can any of us ever be sure of Paradise for ourselves? Our repentance is never finished, after all, for we remain sinners until we ourselves are claimed by death. And, can we honestly say that we are ever sincere enough? Even if we are sincerely sorry for our sins as we confess them to God, we return to them and continue to sin. Like Peter, we are bold confessors one day and weak deniers the next. Like the other apostles, we flee from the cross of suffering and hide our faith. Like Adam, we seek to create in ourselves the image of God that we desire, an image of self-satisfaction and self-rule, instead of accepting the image He gives of obedience and service to others. Can our sins truly be forgiven?
Listen to Jesus. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” He puts Himself forward to be forsaken by God and punished for sin, and bears the agony of hell in our place. The sacrifice of the holy and eternal Son of God is sufficient to cover all sin and justify every sinner! And so, He cries out, “It is finished!” It is His sixth word. Just as God completed His work of creation on the 6th day with the creation of man in His image, so Jesus had completed His work of re-creation. It is finished! “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteous-ness of God. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:21, 17) With God’s judgment of our sin finished, there is no more punishment. The payment is made, the work is done; it is now time to rest. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” As He rested in the Father’s care, awaiting the day of His resurrection, so we now rest in the Father’s care and await the day of our resurrection.
But, thanks be to God, we do not rest and wait alone. “Behold, your son. Behold, your mother.” Christ has given us into the care of one another in His Church. And here, we who are thirsty for His presence and the assurance of His love are given the living voice of His Scriptures, which He has fulfilled. God’s Scriptures are now filled with the living presence of the One who triumphed over our sins, death, and all of Satan’s demonic power. They are powerful words of eternal life. They have the power to overcome our every sin and the death that threatens and direct our lives in Christ, until we are raised from this world of sin and death to life eternal with our Father in heaven.
Listen to them. Let your Savior’s voice fill your ears, fill your mind, and fill your heart. By them He will hold you close to His breast until your day is finished, the eternal day of resurrection dawns, and His glorious presence fills your eyes!
In the name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.