OKEECHOBEE — Flash back for a moment to the scene at Calvary. There on Golgotha’s hill, Jesus is raised high on a cross – hanging between two worlds. And after six hours on this Roman torture device, Jesus raises himself up, pushing up with His feet, gasping for one last breath of air, and cries out in a loud voice, “It is finished!” “Tetelestai!”
It is the cry of a victorious Warrior: Victory! And victory in the perfect tense: It IS finished, and the results of this victory will continue forever. What exactly is this victory?
Jesus has lived the sinless life for us, and now dies a holy death for us – carrying our eternal weight of sin. Think for a moment on His life:
He enters the waters of baptism when He has no need of baptism. He tells us that it is to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). In other words, He does this to complete the perfect baptism, for all who are united to Him in faith. Every child of God – failing, weak, spiritually frail, and falling – has their baptism already perfected, in Him!
He then goes out into the wilderness to be tempted by that dark spirit. And there, alone, without food or water for forty days, He conquers the taproot of all temptation – for us.
And then, at every moment of life – every twist and turn, every motivation of the heart, every thought of the mind, every choice of the will in action or inaction – Jesus perfectly fulfills the will of the Father – for us. “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). “I always do what pleases Him” (John 8:29).
And then, the pinnacle of the work, leading up to the cross, where He is to carry the cosmic weight of sin, as the sacrificial Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, He weeps in prayer, in the Garden: “Father, if it is possible – if there is any other way – let this cup pass from me!” He agonizes in prayer, His blood mixes with sweat. He fears no wound. He fears no torture. But the reality of sin – evil, the turn of every child of God from the Father, across time – this dark cloud of sin descends, that He is to carry. Unseen in the physical realm, but filling the spirit realm, this monstrous, infinite weight of evil rushes toward Him – the utter inversion of the will of the Father, that He is to carry – the sins of the world. It is too much. The spotless Lamb, the Son of the Father, cries out, “No!” “Not this!” Yet even there, He does the will of the Father – for us. “Not as I will, but as you will, Abba.”
This is what He completes, on the cross. He has perfectly accomplished salvation’s plan: in our place, He has lived the holy life, and now carries our death in His death: our perfect Substitute, making full atonement for us. He drinks the bitter cup to its depth, and cries out, “It is finished!”
It is the Warrior’s cry of triumph. He has entered death’s hall and destroyed it from the inside out: fully bearing sin and sin’s ultimate effect, death, He has rendered it powerless for all God’s children, of all time. Alleluia! “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15).
This is the biggest “Oops!” moment in the history of the world, for the dark forces. In some sense, Satan knew that God was up to something in Christ – so he tempted Christ Jesus away from His mission. But Satan could not have known the ultimate effect of Christ’s holy death over the power of sin and death. Only the mind of God could conceive this reality. So when the dark spirit fails to tempt Christ from the Father’s work, he moves to take Him out. The Bible tells us, “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot” (Luke 22:3). Satan enters Judas and brings betrayal and death. But the result is far different than he imagines! It ends with Jesus shouting, “Victory!” “TETELESTAI!”
Our victory of victories – fully completed. Hold on, child of God, in the darkness. Every lesser moment of darkness that we encounter in our lives has already been conquered in this completed sacrifice of Christ, against cosmic darkness. Life has already exploded death; holiness has already defeated sin. Hold on! “The devil often overshoots himself,” my dad used to say. Or, as J.R.R. Tolkien put it, “Oft evil will shall evil mar.” When all seems lost, the victory is on its way: “The high tide and the turn,” on our worst day.
The cosmos still echoes with this sound: “It is finished!” And that great victory is for you and me: children of the living God. As Geerhardus Vos puts it, “The best proof that He will never cease to love us lies in that He never began.” In Christ, He has always loved us – for Christ was given for us before the foundation of the world. His life and death in human time is the accomplished work of the divine plan – fully atoning for us, forever. “It is finished!” Alleluia!