Finished and Completed
Text: John 19:28-30
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There is a certain satisfaction that comes at the completion of something. When a story ties up all the loose ends in a masterful way; when a meal is capped off with the perfect dessert; when a long-standing goal is met or a project finished—there’s satisfaction, a sense that things are now whole and complete. We see this in Scripture as well, in the great works of God. When all was created and His newly made world was perfectly set in order, God saw that it was very good. Then, taking delight in what He had completed, He rested on the seventh day—not because He needed the rest, but to sanctify and bless the day; to delight and rejoice in it being finished and full.
That seventh day rest, blessed by God Himself, would be given as a gift to His people, who were commanded to remember that seventh day, the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. They were to share in God’s joy and satisfaction as they rested from their labor, now that their own six days of work were completed and done. They were to rest and refresh themselves in the abundant care and rich blessings that God provided them, trusting that their work could indeed be finished.
As those people of God continued to grow and settle in the land God had promised them, the scope of the work they were given grew. They were finally to build a house for the ark of the covenant God had made for them. The temple was built, taking seven years, but when it was finished the joy of Israel and the blessing of God at its dedication were unmatched—God entered the temple in a cloud of incense as the entire assembly of the people of Israel were gathered in prayer and sacrifice.
When they were finished, these things brought fullness, wholeness, peace—what the Hebrews who worshiped the Lord call shalom. But that which is finished can all too easily be un-finished. We know this, both in our own lives and from what Scripture reveals. Creation was complete, but when sin entered it and shattered the wholeness of it, dividing Adam and Eve, husband and wife, even pulling these human creatures from their Creator—the satisfaction was lost and completeness was gone. Creation was no longer very good and human history would become one filled with recurring patterns of wholeness ripped apart and ruined by sin and death. Even in the small things this would be encountered, as those who took their rest on the Sabbath would know that their hard labor would begin again the next day. “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your bread,” the Lord said, and so it has been. Anxieties and fears erode the peace and completeness of sacred rest. Even the great temple itself, built by King Solomon, became un-finished again 400 years later as the Babylonians tore it down to the ground. It was rebuilt, of course, less grand, until that second temple was also torn down and un-completed so that even today only one wall of its foundation stands, incomplete, unfinished.
That’s the way it goes in our fallen world. That which is good can be ruined. Rest is turned into weariness. Peace is broken, replaced with war and strife. What is holy becomes desecrated. What is pure is made sinful and soiled. As it was in the beginning, in Eden, so it has ever been. So it is now. We know this from our own lives and experiences, do we not? One argument with family ends, just in time for a fresh one spring up like a weed. Kind words between friends are forgotten when an insult or thoughtless deed crashes between them. The happiness of a holiday together pales and fades when death makes an unscheduled visit. Good health is wrecked by a dire diagnosis. Resolve to stop repeating those same old sins and mistakes evaporates with temptation. And with that, our purity is lost. Our righteousness is shattered. Sin creeps back in by thought, word, and deed, and what was whole and complete and good lies broken in the ashes.
Forty days ago, we began this season in those ashes, that recognition of that same old pattern: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” So now we reach the end, the completion of those forty days of Lent, days of incompletion. Our services have been incomplete, lacking that song of “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men.” Our praises have been unfinished: no alleluias, and this week not even finishing the Psalms with a “Glory be to the Father…” Our meals have been unfulfilled with fasting. And we do all of it not be morbid or morose, nor to simply dwell on the dark side of things. We do it because hard truths deserve a good, hard look. Serious troubles deserve serious consideration. And our incompleteness, our unfulfillment and unfinished natures, are indeed serious.
But now we come to the completion. “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scriptures), ‘I thirst.’ A jar of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” Did you catch that? All was now finished. There, at the cross, at the death of the Son of God for the sins of the world, all was now finished. Every last detail, every prophecy uttered, every jot and tittle of the Law, every sign pointing forward to this exact moment—the hour on which the entire creation was built: “It is finished.”
The cross, especially the image of our God and Savior on the cross, has been a symbol of our faith from its beginning. That’s because it’s only at the cross that everything reaches its fulfillment and completeness. From a baby baptized into the name of our Triune God to the blazing fires in the heart of star, from the first crocuses waking up after winter to the thunderous clouds racing across the plains, all is finished, all is complete, all finds its meaning and fulfillment in Jesus’ sacrifice. Creation is finished once again. This time, not even sin and death can break it apart from its Creator, because its Creator has waded through sin and death to reclaim His universe, His creation, to promise to make all things new and alive and beautiful, no matter how scarred and battered it becomes. Our rest in God, our eternal Sabbath, is completed, knowing that nothing will threaten that peace of resting in Him. It’s no mere coincidence that Jesus died on a Friday and spent His full day in the tomb on a Saturday, the Sabbath. But unlike the Sabbaths before, there will be no horrible tomorrow with its fears and anxieties looming, because in our Savior’s completeness and salvation there is only one eternal today with our God, a resurrection day stretching out forever. Our redemption and forgiveness is perfectly complete and finished—no more temples to be built and demolished, no more repetition of the blood of bulls and goats being sacrificed, because the blood of God has been spilled to seal this salvation, to seal you in His presence forever.
Jesus makes everything in His creation complete. He makes everything complete in your life as well. You have total, full, complete, and unconditional forgiveness. At His cross, when He comes to you there, your relationship with God is repaired and made whole. In fact, the forgiveness given to you is so full and complete that it overflows to all your fellow sinners gathered with you around the cross tonight, forgiving and reconciling with each other as your God has forgiven you. Everything is finished. Everything is whole again. You are whole again. You have nothing missing, no flaws, no blemishes, because your Savior has healed them all. He’s made you perfect and complete with His own life and death.
Now you may not see it right away. After all, on Good Friday, Jesus’ disciples John and Peter, His mother Mary, and all the rest couldn’t see the completeness when Jesus declared “It is finished.” But it was true at that moment. It remains true now. As it was in the beginning, at Calvary, so shall it ever be. It might be hidden from your eyes, but to God’s eyes it’s clear. To God’s eyes, you’re perfect. And you’ll see it too. Your own Easter is about to dawn, and in the light of that day, then you will see and know perfectly, even as you are perfectly known by Him even now.
It is finished. Everything, fully, without reservation, without exception. Jesus has become all in all and completed all, so that now you are His everything. Look now to the One we have pierced and see in Him your perfect and complete salvation. In the name of Jesus, the Crucified One. Amen.