The last words of a dying soul often tend to be heavy with meaning, weighted with such great significance in their heartfelt genuineness. Especially without the heavy sedation compassionately given by modern day hospice care, these last words picture for us a glimpse into the soul—a view of unobstructed insight into the most important matters of the heart as one awaits their final breath.
Stories are told of the torment of souls as they stand at deaths door not knowing what will meet them on the other side. With gut wrenching agony loved ones have watched them fight the inevitable slide into eternity. But there are also stories told of triumphant songs sung by souls prepared for what lays before them. Souls who willingly and joyfully step into glory with great anticipation and expectation knowing that their Savior awaits them with open arms. With sorrow they leave their loved ones behind but with great joy they look forward to the welcome embrace of their loving Shepherd.
It is the last words of this loving Shepherd that have arrested my thoughts in anticipation of the services of remembrance and celebration that lay before me. With pen in hand, and the unfamiliar sound of silence in my ears, I sit with an open Bible before me pondering His triumphant last words, “It is finished!” The apostle John records these last words of triumph (John 19:30). Words filled with meaning that plumb the unfathomable depths of life, love, and sacrifice of the Son of God.
Approaching this glorious time of the year my mind is flooded with thoughts as I ponder the steps of a Man who undeservedly walked a path and carried a cross that was not His own. A man who carried the weight of the world upon His bloodied back; a man who wore a crown fit not even the worst of kings let alone the King of Kings. He walked my path; He carried my cross; He wore my crown; He bore my sin with each step on His way to Mount Calvary to lay down His life on a cross made for me.
The passage that lays open before me is Isaiah 52:13-53:12 where it speaks of the “Man of sorrows” long before this undeserving world laid its eyes upon the “Word made flesh.” As we allow the Gospels to shed light upon these words of prophecy we see a bruised and broken Man whose “visage was so marred more than any man” yet robed with love and grace, with gentleness and humility as He endured the shame and disgrace that my sin demanded of me. It is in my place that I see Christ walk. It is in my place that I see Him die. It is in my place I see His love on full display unlike the world has ever seen. Such grace so undeserved yet so abundant and free.
Isaiah’s words are rich with theology and meaning. Each time I read through this passage I come to rest on verses 4-6, personalizing it as I read, “Surely He hath borne [my] griefs, and carried [my] sorrows: yet [I] did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for [my] transgressions, He was bruised for [my] iniquities: the chastisement [for my] peace was upon Him; and with His stripes [I am] healed. Like [a] sheep [I] have gone astray; [I] have turned to [my] own way; and the LORD hath laid on [Jesus Christ all my] iniquity.”
These words cut to my heart to think of the consequence of my sin, my selfishness, demanding my own way. The flood of emotions rush into my heart as at times my eyes begin to overflow. What sadness and heartache to consider the suffering that my Savior chose to endure because He knew that I would choose my “own way” instead of His good and righteous way. My “own way” is the way of sin.
God tells us the consequence of sin is death(Romans 6:23). This death speaks of separation from God. If I would have continued my “own way” I would have been separated from God for all eternity. The reality is that God provided a way by giving His Son. The consequence of my sin brought about death as God sent His Son to die in my place as my substitute. “For [the Father] hath made [Jesus] to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The hymn writer, Charles Wesley so aptly put it:
“And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me who caused His pain? For me who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me?”
God’s love is nowhere on display more greater than on the cross of Calvary. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the atoning sacrifice] for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).
With great sadness I see the suffering my Savior endured in order to show His love for me. Yet it is also with great joy that I hear Him say, “It is finished!” Just before Christ breathed His last breath upon the cross He stated a single Greek word, “tetelestai,” which is translated, “It is finished!” It was a statement of triumph overflowing with rich meaning. What is so profound about this statement? What is finished?
This word, “tetelestai,” was used in everyday life back in Biblical times. It was used by a priest as he would examine a lamb brought for sacrifice and found it to be faultless. Jesus Christ was the perfect Lamb of God who was without spot or blemish. It was also used by merchants who would declare that a debt was “paid in full.”
The work that the Father had given Christ to do was now complete—it was finished. While hanging on cross, looking like a defeated victim, He celebrates victory—the greatest triumph in the history of all of God’s creation. With His death He paid our debt of sin in full. He bought our salvation with His blood—with His life. He had fulfilled every requirement that the law had required on the behalf of sinners. Christ’s atoning work was complete thus satisfying the justice of God.
You cannot add to a finished work. Someone once approached the great evangelist D. L. Moody and asked him, “Mr. Moody, what must I do to be saved?” He said, “I’m sorry, sir, you are too late. As a matter of fact, you are hundreds of years too late. All the doing has been done!”
Consider this Gift that has been given. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). As with any gift, in order to enjoy it you must first believe that it is for you and then simply receive it as your own. The same is true for God’s Gift of eternal life—the gift of His Son. God made provision for the penalty of our sin but until we believe and receive this Gift it cannot take effect in our lives. The decision is left up each of us. In order to enjoy this gift the Bible tells us, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:9-10, 13).
Do you see what Jesus did for you? Do you see His great loving sacrifice to provide for you the greatest gift anyone can ever receive? Do you see that “It is finished”?
During this Easter season my prayer is that you too would sorrow in what Jesus went through for you but that you would also rejoice in what He accomplished for you. “It is finished!” Your ransom has been paid in full as the Gift of eternal life is set before you. The decision is yours—choose life!
“It is finished!”—the work is done! Simply believe it to be true and receive it on your behalf. Then with great joy you can sing:
“Man of sorrows!” what a name for the Son of God who came,
Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood,
Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Guilty, vile, and helpless we, spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full atonement! Can it be? Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Lifted up was He to die, ‘It is finished’ was His cry;
Now in heaven exalted high, Hallelujah, what a Savior!
When He comes, our glorious King, all His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew this song we‘ll sing, Hallelujah, what a Savior![i]
What will your experience be when death comes knocking? Will you with great joy look forward to the loving embrace of your Savior? Or are you unsure of what will meet you on the other side?
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
For more information please consider reading the article, “How do I get to Heaven?” or you can also write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[i] Philip P. Bliss, “Hallelujah! What a Savior”