When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Adam was a good kid. He never got into a lot of trouble. He was given grief in grade school because he was a little different. He was artsy and calm. Confident in who he was, he did not really care about what others thought. He was musically gifted, and loved the underground music scene. He dressed a little different than the others in his small private school. He kept to himself, and he seemed happy enough to do so. However, when he got to high school, he found something that he never thought possible. Other kids… his age that dressed like him. They listened to the same music. They attended the same concerts. They bound together around the things that united them.
Unfortunately, not all of the things that bound them together were good things. Concerts turned into after-parties. After-parties turned into truancy. Truancy turned into problems at school. By the time Adam was 16, he had a full-out heroine addiction. Track lines and sunken eyes replaced the confidence and youthful exuberance that used to characterize Adam. Adam’s life had hit rock-bottom and would have caused him to fade off into oblivion if it had not been for one chance encounter. At a party after a concert one night, Adam met Ben. Ben was a young man who was just a couple years older than Adam but flirted with the same music scene and had similar friends. But Ben’s story was quite a bit different. Ben had hope. In a series of party encounters and trips to the local Denny’s, Adam began to see and know the source of Ben’s hope. Ben’s identity did not rest in music or friends or underground scenes. His identity was not bound to the clothes he wore or the color of his hair. His identity was found in One who made all the difference in the world. To make a long story short, with the help of Ben and a couple other of Ben’s friends, Adam got clean. He began to attend the church that Ben went attended. He stayed clean and graduated high school on time. When asked about what changed in his life, Adam gives credit to God working through Ben and Ben’s friends to get him clean and share Christ with Him. But he also is quick to mention Jesus. He is quick to mention that there are times in his life when the guilt haunts him. The people that he hurt in his life. The people he used. The damage to relationships that occurred because of a drug addiction. But when that guilt comes around, he has some very sure words to return to. He returns to Jesus words, “It is finished!” Jesus died for those sins. Jesus died for Adam. The guilt and shame is not there for Adam to bear anymore because Jesus took it upon Himself. Jesus said, “It is finished!” And Adam believes him.
Every one of us has a story. They may not all be as theatrical and after-school special-esque like Adam’s story. Our stories are much the same. There is one thing that unites all of us together. We are united in our sinfulness. There is not a single one of us that is better than the next. We all harbor sin in our hearts, and we all fall victim to the taunts and accusations of the devil. This Holy Week in the church year is no different than any other week of our lives. While we might go to church a few more times, the devil does his level best to cause us to see the cross as an instrument of death and torture. He does his best in causing us to see the cross as a mechanism by which we can revisit the guilt that Jesus bore on that cross. He, once again, flashes in front of our faces the each of those sins of ours that held Jesus to that cross. “Your sins did this,” he says. “Those adulterous thoughts drove that nail right there! The covetous desires that caused you to cheat someone or to steal what wasn’t yours are that thorn that pierces his brow! That spear in his side? That was that one sin that only you know about.” “Look at what you did!” the devil exclaims. “Look at what your sins did to the most perfect and wonderful person that ever walked the earth!” And we are tempted to believe him. It is easier to believe that way isn’t it? It is easy to listen to the devil’s accusations. It is easy for us to wallow in the hopelessness of our situation. It is so easy for us to succumb to the gauntlet of guilt and write-off that cross as something that we try to suppress as another shame inducing memory of how horrible we are.
But as we look upon the cross on this Good Friday… as we, once again, place ourselves in the crowds of observers… the words of Jesus beckon us away from the ghastly consequences of our sins. The words of Jesus break our concentration upon our own actions and ourselves. The words of Jesus beckon us to hear Him. His Words tells us the reason that He is on the cross. Jesus tells us that He is there because He is saving us. He calls out from the cross, “It is finished!” because He has indeed finished our salvation. There is nothing more that needs to be done. The cross is not like a note from a bank demanding a payment of guilt as interest like our forgiveness is only on loan to us. Christ completed everything necessary. He bore all of the guilt and shame necessary for us to freed from our sins and their punishment. Jesus cries out, “It is finished!” to break our attention to the devils words of “You’re still guilty!” Jesus cries out, “It is finished!” and He doesn’t lie. His Word is the truth that sanctifies us in His death. The cross is transformed from an instrument of pain and death to reminder of hope and life.
When I was growing up, my home congregation ended almost every midweek Advent service with the singing of the hymn “Abide with Me”, but the hymnal we had, did not contain all of the original verses. Because of this I was robbed of two of the verses that I want to share with you this evening. This masterful hymn puts the cross in perspective like few that we have… in my humble opinion. In the hymn, we sing the following:
Come not in terror, as the King of kings, But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings; Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea. Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.
Thou on my head in every youth didst smile, And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile, Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee. On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour; What but Thy grace can foil the Tempter’s power? Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be? Through cloud and sunshine, oh, abide with me!
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless; Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness. Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory? I triumph still if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes, Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies. Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!
When we take Jesus at His Word… when we see that Jesus came willingly to take our sins upon Himself… when we see Jesus died on the cross to free us from what deserved, we begin to see the cross in a new light. We begin to see why we call it Good Friday. We begin to actually believe that we are people who have been freed from the accusations of the devil and our guilty consciences. “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he cried out, ‘It is finished!’” And, indeed it is. It is finished for you! Thanks be to God! Amen.