Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 (HCSB)
Each year, a local church sponsors a Good Friday community service titled “Seven Last Words.” It is a great event featuring seven pastors from different organizations sharing short messages about the seven last words that Jesus spoke on the cross. I have attended the service for several years and have been blessed to be one of the speakers for the past couple.
Each of those services has provided an opportunity to contemplate the final words of my Lord and Savior. One of the more attention-grabbing phrases, “It is finished!”, can be found in the Gospel of John:
After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now accomplished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, “I’m thirsty!” A jar full of sour wine was sitting there; so they fixed a sponge full of sour wine on hyssop and held it up to His mouth.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. John 19:28-30 (HCSB)
More than once, these words have prompted me to ask a question: “What? What is finished?” Christ’s work as the Messiah is the obvious answer, but what does that mean exactly?
The Passover Lamb of God
The answer comes more clearly when we view Jesus as the Passover Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world.
For hundreds of years, the people of Israel suffered under a heavy burden of slavery in Egypt, at the cruel hand of Pharaoh. That ancient Egyptian king refused to release the people at God’s request and stubbornly kept them in bondage. The Lord then sent a series of plagues. Each was painful in its own right, but the final plague was by far the worst.
A death angel came over the land and killed every firstborn male in the nation of Egypt. The firstborn sons of Israel, however, were spared. They had obeyed God’s specific instructions to coat the door frames of their houses with the blood of sacrificial lambs. And what did they use to spread that life-giving blood? Hyssop—the very same plant used to give Jesus a taste of sour wine just before He surrendered His spirit.
The connection between Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross and the timing of the first Passover is by no means accidental. The physical imagery of God’s people being delivered from slavery and death to a life of rest in a Promised Land—filled filled with houses that they did not build and vineyards that they did not plant—paints a powerful picture for us of the spiritual life and freedom we receive through faith in Christ.
The Work of Righteousness Is Finished
When it comes to meeting all of heaven’s standards of perfection, Jesus did all the “heavy lifting.” A Passover lamb, you see, had to be without spot or blemish. A perfect sacrifice was needed to cover the sins of an imperfect people.
Jesus Christ, as the eternal Passover Lamb of God, lived a life of sinless perfection, triumphing over darkness, and fulfilling every necessary aspect of the Mosaic law. Jesus accomplished all that was required to have right-standing with heaven, and nothing more could be added. The work of righteousness was forever finished.
How does Christ’s finished work of righteousness affect us? To the very core of our being! Do you remember the serpent’s big lie?—the one that promised that humans could be like God apart from God. When Adam and Eve believed the lie and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their eyes were opened. In other words, they became acutely aware of standards of good and evil. And even more significantly, God’s perfection became their standard.
There they stood, dumbfounded, suddenly aware of our Creator’s flawless nature. To make matters worse, they knew that their disobedience had destroyed the pristine beauty and peace of the created order. And to make matters worse still, they had inherited the “I will ascend!” nature of the serpent.
Adam and Eve could not have been more imperfect in the very moment that the awareness of God’s perfection overwhelmed their thoughts. That explains their futile efforts to cover themselves with fig leaves and to hide from God’s all-seeing eyes.
And the human dilemma could not be more painful. Adam and Eve could never attain to the status of God’s glory, and yet they could never stop trying. It is this compulsion that we, too, have inherited. Talk about exhaustion! To be addicted to something—glory—that we can never truly attain brings us to the depths of futility and frustration.
It Is Finished!
When Jesus cried out “It is finished! as He completed His sacrificial labor of love on the cross, He was proclaiming our freedom from the cruel taskmaster of righteous perfection. No longer would we have to labor under the heavy burden of moral and religious flawlessness. No longer would the power of sin have sway over our lives. And no longer would we be compelled to exhaust ourselves by trying to measure up to divine standards.
When a person truly believes in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, he or she is spiritually clothed in a robe of righteous perfection—one that only the righteous Son of God is worthy to wear.
What a beautiful picture of grace this paints! We, who deserve nothing but judgment and death for participating in a cosmic coup attempt, are given right-standing with the Almighty as a gift—one that we could never earn. We, who were once enemies of heaven’s throne, have now become the cherished sons and daughters of King of Glory.
The work of righteousness is forever finished, and a new perpetual rest has begun. This joyful proclamation is at the very heart of the Sabbath.
Do you think you need to add to what Christ has done? You will kill yourself trying. The work of righteousness is complete! There is nothing that we can add to the finished work of the cross. Through the person of Jesus, rest has returned to our earth!
Peace with God—purchased through the precious blood of the eternal Passover Lamb—is where it all starts!
*Bob Santos has authored several books, and this post is drawn from an upcoming work titled The Search for Rest.