The 3 Most Important Words in History


"What hath God wrought?" "The Italian navigator has landed and the natives are friendly." "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." These three sentences are words that don't seem all that important until you realize that the first was the first long distance message by telegraph. The second was the message that atomic energy was discovered, and the third was Neil Armstrong's words when stepping on to the moon's surface. Knowing the context we see the importance of those words. Today we heard the last words of Jesus from the cross, "It is finished," but we don't know how important they are till we hear them in context with all their details and history.

The context for hearing the dying words of Jesus, "It is finished" is that He should have said, "You are finished." It was our sins that pushed the crown of thorns down on His head; our sins that ripped His flesh with whips; our sins that nailed His hands and feet. The Jews and Romans were only servants of our sins, so don't get mad at them. You and I are no less guilty than if we had stood there and handed the soldier the whip, weaved the crown of thorns, and held the nails in place over Jesus' hands and feet.

Jesus' last words should have been, "You are finished." Because you did this to Him with your pride, your greed, your temper, your worry, and your lust. You did this to Him with your disobedience to your parents and your failure as a parent. You did this to Him with your lighthearted view of sins, with your refusal to hold the preached Word of God sacred, with your doubting of the mercy of God toward sinners. You did this to Jesus, and you know it. Therefore, you also know you should hear from His parched, cracked lips, "You are finished."

However, you should not hear, "You're finished" as just a threat from the Son, you should also hear it from the Father. If God the Father would so unmercifully and horribly strike the dear Child who was only carrying the sins of the world, what will He do to you? Doesn't the man with the gun get more of a punishment than the man just carrying the bank money? Doesn't the person who pulls the trigger get the death penalty rather than the one who drove the car? Well, if the Sin Bearer gets not just death but hell, what do you think we sinners should get?

"You are finished," is what we ought to hear from the cross. Our worse fears should come upon us. The diseases that only come to this one or that one among us ought to come upon us all. The death that strikes us here or there ought to strike us all. The pain we have now and then or even chronically ought to be so intense that we can only pass out. If God so frightfully judged His beloved Son who just carried our guilt, what do you think He will do to us? If a man walked into a store and shot his dear son right before you eyes, wouldn't you start to shake and tremble? If he did that to a son what will he do to me?

Jesus ought to have said, "You are finished." The context demands this. That's the message He should have left ringing in our ears today, but that is not what He said. What He did say we need to look at in detail so that we might know why they are historically so important. He said, "It is finished." He said, "It" not "You." You need not go away from the cross in fear constantly looking over your shoulder. Your dear Jesus said not "you" but "it." Jesus came into the world to do one thing, pay for the sins of the world. To pay for your pride, greed, lust, temper, and worry. To pay for your neglecting of God's Word and for your despairing of His mercy. To pay for the thousands of ways you fail your God and each other. To pay for sins you don't even realize you commit.

Jesus declares today that the paying for sins IS finished. We translate "is" but that's not really what Jesus said. He didn't say "is", a simple present, but, "has been now and forever", a perfect. Jesus puts a permanent period at the end of payment for sins. He closes the books. There can never, ever be anymore payment for sins. Do you know what that means sinners? It means all those things like sickness, death, and despair that Satan and your own evil conscience says come upon you to pay for your sins cannot be in your life for that reason. God the Father is not bill collecting today in hospital rooms, funeral homes, and troubled houses. The Son says today, "Bill collecting has been forever finished."

It being finished demands that you look at heartache, sorrow, suffering, and sickness in your life differently. You can no longer look at these things as a prisoner does the prison bars. You aren't sorrowing, suffering, or sick to pay for your sins. You can't be because Jesus has declared the payment has been paid once and for all. Therefore, the guilt has been removed from your tears, your pain, and your disease. These things remain but there need be no guilt whatsoever with them.

Haven't you ever been mad at a child because of something he or she did wrong? You have them suffer some consequence for their deed. They are in the midst of it when you go to them and assure them of your forgiveness and love. The circumstances are not changed. Whatever consequence they are suffering they are still experiencing, but you have taken away their guilt. Do you remember how relieved they were? That's how relieved you can be today dear sinner. Living in this sinful world as sinners all sorts of consequences come upon us, but in Christ there is no anger or guilt in them. That has been finished on the cross forever.

Yes, that's the last word Jesus uttered, "finished." But it doesn't feel finished, does it? Your conscience troubles you. Your heart despairs. Your sins are just too many and too serious to be done away with so completely. More fitting it is for you to mope about feeling down and out about your sins. How dare you! How dare you deny the words of your Lord. He has declared the payment for your sins finished. He didn't say, "If you think it is finished, it is." Let your Lord worry how about the hows and wherefores of the payment. Let your Lord worry about the sufficiency of it. I suppose you go to the bank after they say you're finished paying for a loan and dispute with them? Of course not. It is up to the person owed to declare when something has been finished being paid for. God Himself declares today that your debt of sin has been finished. Since He is satisfied, so you can be.

We have looked at the words "It is finished" in context and in detail. It remains to look at them historically so that we might see why they are the three most important words in history. For one, all history had been going towards this point. Leading up to the cross, God had dealt with humanity from the perspective of this point. He tells us in the Book of Romans that because one day His Son would finish paying for the sins of the world, He passed over sins. The Book of Acts tells us He "winked" at them. Friends, what we have witnessed going on at the cross must have been incredibly powerful for God to have passed over and winked at sins for thousands of years.

All of history was orchestrated so that Jesus might come to this cross to suffer and die. Stop looking at history as if it were a collection of events made by men and their plans. The rise and fall of the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans all revolved around this event. O you can study history and ignore this event. You can see history as the movement of people and ideas. But you don't really see history till you look at it from the cross. That's how God sees it. This was the great thing that God wanted done in history.

Everything before Good Friday was flowing towards it. Everything after Good Friday flows from it. God orchestrated all things so that the message of the cross would go into all the world. Actually from God's standpoint, all of history could've ended with Good Friday and Easter. The world could've ended with Christ rising. But it didn't because God the Father wanted this message preached into all the world and eventually into our ears. God will not be satisfied till the last of His children hear the Good News that it has been finished. The world goes on simply for this reason. It's not continuing so that man might land on Mars, or so that world peace might be established, or hunger wiped out. The Sun continues to rise just so the words of the Son, "It is finished," can sound in the ears of poor, lost sinners.

This message is so historically important because it means the impossible has happened. The breach between God and mankind has been healed. You know God didn't create Adam and Eve so they could live separated from Him by sin, fear, and death. He created them to be in communion with Him for all time and eternity. But you know what happened. They sinned and a horrible, gut wrenching tearing happened. The breach was so big and wide that nothing mankind could do could heal it, repair it, or cross it. This God had to do, and He did by coming into our flesh and blood. He stepped into our flesh and blood and claimed us as His own.

"With this cross He us weds," someone has said. The cross is that moment in history when God reaches down and claims sinners as His own. The cross is the bridge between heaven and earth. The broken, bleeding, suffering body of Christ is what we walk on to reach heaven again. There is a statue that depicts this beautifully. Christ is on the cross. His left hand is nailed to it, but with his right hand He is reaching down and embracing a person who is standing at the base of the cross. "With this cross He us weds."

You can bet He is not saying to this person, "You're finished." No, He is saying what we know He did, "It is finished." On behalf of Christ, hear from me those same words today. "It is finished." The warfare between you and God is over dear sinners. The breach between you and God that was created by your sins has been crossed by God. O it cost Him dearly to do this. It cost Him hell and death. But He did cross the breach. And He crossed it in history.

Friends if the history of the world was changed, and it was, when men first heard a message by telegraph; if the world was changed, and it was, when people first learned of atomic energy being discovered; if the world was changed, and it was, when the world first heard from a man landing on the moon, how much more has the world been changed by men, women and children hearing from the lips of God, "It is finished." The payment for our sins having been finished is the dawn of something incredible, but more about that on Easter. Amen

The Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Good Friday (4-13-01)