“Transaction complete…please remove your card.”
I remember when I was in college and I would get to the checkout at a store and swiping my debit card came with a lot of anxiety. I was bad with money so I was rarely ever certain that I actually had enough money in my account to cover my purchase. The words “transaction complete” brought way more comfort than they should have!
[Jesus] said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.John 19:30
Jesus’ last words from the cross were the ancient equivalent of transaction complete. In the ancient world, “it is finished” was said at the end of a deal or a purchase to signify that the deal was done and both parties were completely satisfied.
What’s the deal with the cross?
The cross has become such a symbol in our world but few people really understand its significance. John wrote his gospel so we would see just how world-changing the cross of Christ is.
There’s a law written in the fabric of our world. Like gravity, it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not – it’s just true – our belief or lack of belief doesn’t change a law. Here’s the law: sin leads to death. We live in a world that is full of people who sin (fall short of God’s perfection) so we live in a world where everything dies. This law is written into the first pages of the Bible and all throughout scripture but it’s also evident when we look around. We see the deadly cost of sin everywhere: it kills our relationships (with others, with God, even with ourselves). It literally kills us – many sins shorten our lives. It hurts our world. It divides. Sin is a killer.
In the Old Testament, when the people of Israel became a nation they had laws and a sacrificial system that helped them deal with their sin and get right with God when they inevitably fell short. They brought sacrifices to a priest who would go to God on their behalf. These sacrifices at the temple were visceral reminders of 2 things:
- We don’t get to interact with a perfect and holy God unless we are perfect and holy. So a priest who followed rituals to become holy stood as the middle man to connect people to God.
- Death is the penalty for sin but God allowed for lambs, doves, grain, etc… to stand in and receive the penalty of sin instead of the people of Israel.
This might all sound strange but remember, it’s a law: sin leads to death. The sacrificial system was God’s gracious way of dealing with his people until a more complete salvation could be offered at just the right time. It was not a perfect system. The writer of Hebrews points out that the sacrifices had to keep on being offered because people kept on sinning. But God was planning a more lasting and perfect answer to the law of sin: the love of his own son.
When Jesus died on the cross he was both priest and sacrifice. He is our priest who carries our requests to God and brings us into the unapproachable presence of his holy Father. He is also the sacrificial lamb: A perfect, once for all, stand in sacrifice for our sins. We might like to think that God could have just wiped out the sins of the world like a debt forgiveness program. But where is the justice for victims of sin? At the cross, God found a way to be 100% just by still doling out the punishment of death that sin requires but also 100% merciful by giving the punishment to Jesus instead of us.
Have you ever doubted that you could be saved? Have you ever prayed but wondered if God was really listening? Jesus’ last words from the cross should dispel all doubt.
It is finished.
There was nothing we could do to save ourselves. People have tried to live perfect lives but no one has ever even come close besides the Jesus that you’ve been reading about in John. We needed help and we couldn’t help ourselves. We needed salvation to be done for us. It is finished means the transaction is complete. Whew! Jesus took the whole penalty for our sin (death) so that we could live (salvation).
We can’t do anything to earn this salvation. All we can do is respond by:
- Trusting the gospel – agreeing with John and Jesus
- Repenting – changing our lives by becoming followers of Jesus
- Getting baptized – being reborn to new life together within the church
- (Remember lesson 2? These were all the things Jesus tried to teach Nicodemus in John 3 – pretty cool!)
When you respond to God’s salvation like this, there’s no anxiety about where you stand before God. Your account is merged with Jesus and his finished work for your salvation is only the beginning!