Jason Free

It’s finished. 

by Jason Free on March 29th, 2024
Isaiah 52:13-53:12

In a cemetery in the early19th century, in Denmark, a grandpa was standing with his grandson, a little boy maybe about 8 years old. The two remained silent for a time, you see, the little boy’s dad had just died, and they were standing at his grave, freshly dug. Eventually, as they stood there, the grandpa began to speak. He spoke with urgency and passion; he spoke of Jesus, of forgiveness, and heaven.

That grandpa knew that he too wouldn’t live forever, soon his grandson would be on his own. So, he wanted to make sure, while he still could that this little boy knew and understood and believed in Christ’s love for him. Eventually, this grandpa asked – begged – the boy to promise that he would remain in Jesus his whole life. The boy fell to his knees, on the grave of his father, and said, “I will grandpa…I will.” They hugged; tears streamed unashamed from their eyes. 

Not too far away, hidden from sight, stood another man, a stranger, a calloused former believer who long ago had given up on Jesus and his love. And, as he stood there, he couldn’t help but hear this conversation between this boy and his grandpa. The power of the moment moved him. He experienced in that cemetery an encounter with words that asked nothing of him, words that did not try to convince him – no one was speaking to him at all! Yet, those words pierced his heart as he was gripped by the reality of Christ’s love for him. And, as he looked at the faded cross engraved on the tomb before him, he was undone. 

I can’t help but feel the same today. Today, we are simply spectators, watching and listening from a safe distance as God’s plan of salvation isn’t just revealed, but completed. And this moment, it’s breathtaking. It’s shocking…it’s unreal…it’s finished. That’s what we hear today. A decision about your eternity and my eternity has been made. A lifetime of sin, yours and mine, has been paid. And no one talked to us about it. Think about it, no one was curious about your opinion on the matter. No one asked us what we could contribute, what you could do. No, the trial is over. The verdict fixed. It’s finished. 

And this was always God’s plan. This was his will. Isaiah sums it up nicely in our lesson, verse 10 of chapter 53, “It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.” Isaiah is talking about Jesus. This was God’s will. That Jesus should suffer. But, you know, let’s not sugar coat it. Isaiah gives us a bit more detail than that. His appearance, Jesus’, Isaiah tells us was so “disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness.”

You think of those pictures of Jesus on the cross, the images and the statues, Jesus’ face always looks pretty good in those artistic renderings, don’t you think? He’s got the crown of thorns on his head, he looks to be in some pain, there are maybe some scrapes and cuts, but other than that…that’s not what we see here. That’s not how Isaiah describes it. Jesus was beaten. Fists struck his face, and like any human being, that changed his appearance, the swelling, the bruising, the bleeding. “He was disfigured.” It was “appalling” to those who saw him, Isaiah writes. Jesus’ appearance was so disfigured by violence and torture that he didn’t look human anymore. Looking at him left you sick. And, think about it, this, this was God’s will? 

Well, just wait there’s more. In verses 4-6, we find Jesus being “punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted…he was pierced…crushed – jump to verses 7 and 8 – “he was oppressed…led like a lamb to the slaughter…and cut off from the land of the living.” This too was the suffering of Jesus. And, again, as we watch this from afar, as we hear these words, you wonder…this was God’s will? It was. Why!? You, that’s why; he loved you. 

When you love someone, you will make sacrifices for them. For instance, consider parenting. A child, a baby, when born is in a condition of complete dependence. And that dependence lasts for years. A parent then must sacrifice their own freedom, their own time for that child. It’s them or you. To love your children well, you must decrease that they may increase. You must be willing to enter into the dependency they have so eventually they can experience the freedom and independence you have. 

All life-changing love toward people with serious needs is a substitutional sacrifice. If you become personally involved in this way with someone, in some way, their weaknesses flow toward you as your strengths flow toward them. So, God so loved the world…he gave up his son.   And, that son, Jesus, became intimately and personally involved in suffering the same violence, oppression, grief, weakness, and pain that you and I have come to know and experience in our own lives. He truly was just like us, but he was more. For he did what we could not, he suffered hell, our hell. He took our place…he was the sacrifice. He was God’s love for us.

And I hope if nothing else this shows us just how serious sin is and what it takes, what had to be done, to save us from it. We didn’t sing it today, but we did a few weeks ago, that hymn Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted. Amid the haunting tones of that hymn, in stanza three we read these words, “If you think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great, here you see its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate. Mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load.” 

We can pretend, you can pretend that sin isn’t a big deal. That those little things we do here and there aren’t that bad, that I’m a good person. I’m worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice. I deserve it. It’s funny – well, not really – but as Isaiah writes about the torture and the pain that Jesus would endure, he pauses for just a moment in verse 6, to remind us of why this was happening. Here is what he writes, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” He knew, God knew, that as his son endured so much for our sin, our serious real, hell deserving, eternal separating sin, we like a bunch of sheep would do what we want, think what we want, and even after we understood the cost and the sacrifice necessary for our sin, still treat our sin but lightly. And to think he died for us? 

He did. Jesus stayed on that cross. It was completely voluntary. What do we read in verse four? “He took up our pain, bore our suffering!” Over and over, we find Jesus taking upon himself a punishment or a sin that was not his. Jesus didn’t have to do this. He certainly did not have to die in this way. So, what could have held his mouth shut, when but one word would have ended his pain? What could have bound the limbs of God to a cross? Surely not the nails? No, it was his love for you. And if we go back to verse 10, we are again reminded what God said about this sacrifice, this “was the Lord’s will.” 

And if you turn to John 19, our gospel reading tonight, you see that. Four times in this section we read that things happened to Jesus the way they did to fulfill the Scriptures. What does that tell us? It tells us that God’s plan of salvation was no happy accident, it wasn’t a rush job to fix our mistakes, God wasn’t caught off guard and forced into this situation. No, this was planned, even before the fall, as God created the qualities of wood to grip a nail, to hold the weight of a man, to hold our Savior. 

So, do you see why I said that we are simply spectators on this day? On this day, God asks nothing of us. On this day, we play no role. On this day, we watch as God did what we never could, he saved us. Jesus, in love, saved us from our sin, from our hell. And he gets the last word. “It is finished.” Nothing else is needed. As that truth settles in, hear then that last breath as Jesus “bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” See him die, and know he did this for you. 

Now, maybe, maybe in this moment we feel sorry for him, ashamed of what our sin did to him. “This should have been me. He didn’t deserve this.” And, yet, he willed this. So, let’s not rob him of this moment. Don’t cheapen his sacrifice with doubts about your worth. He said you’re worth it, and he went to a cross to prove it. And, with his last words, he has made it clear – there is no doubt! – it’s finished. 

Jesus did take up your pain and bore your suffering. He was punished by God and stricken by him. He was pierced for your transgressions. He was crushed for your iniquities. By his wounds, you are healed. It is finished! Take Jesus at his Word. The penalty for your sin is paid in full. It is finished! The devil’s chains are broken and hell’s claim on your guilty soul has ended. It is finished! God’s wrath is gone, heaven is unlocked, and hell’s gates slammed shut. It is finished! The burden that we must do something to earn God’s favor, and the dread of knowing that nothing in me can make up for what I’ve done, all that is gone. For it is finished. Jesus, and Jesus alone – the Son of God and Mary’s son – has done it all, fulfilled it all, finished it all. That is good news, it’s the gospel. 

But, if you keep listening, if you keep watching, what you will overhear and see next is better still. You’ll come across a woman standing near an empty tomb, crying, wondering what happened to her Lord, and then a word, one tender word, “Mary.” He lives. Amen. 

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