World War 2 officially ended on September 2, 1945 when the Japanese surrendered to the Allied forces on board the USS Missouri. Unfortunately, not everyone got the memo.
On March 10, 1974, Lieutenant Hiroo Onada became the last WW2 Japanese soldier to surrender. He had been left on one of the Philippine islands in December of 1944. For 39 years he kept up the fight – killing at least 30 Filipino nationals.
All efforts to convince him to surrender or to capture him had failed — including broadcasting messages over loudspeakers and dropping leaflets from the air.
When he finally handed over his rusted sword to President Marcos, he described his 29 yrs of unnecessary fighting as “complete unhappiness.”
Before we laugh too much at Lt. Onada, are we much different? Have you ever fought a battle that’s already been won?
For example, I believe all of us were created to be in a fulfilling relationship with our Creator. We were designed to find our significance and purpose in him.
Yet – what do we do? Instead of looking to God for our significance and fulfillment, we look everywhere else:
- We chase a career believing it will make us feel important.
- We maintain a certain lifestyle because we want to feel accepted.
- We might even become very religious hoping God will love us more.
Back in 1600’s, French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote these words:
“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
Beginning with Adam and Eve, God created us to have a true happiness and yet because of our disobedience and rebellion, all we were left with was a craving and helplessness.
Each of us has been fighting to find what only God himself can provide.
In today’s passage, we hear Jesus say – the search is over.
28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. — John 19:28-30
Jesus has been on the cross for approximately six hours when he utters these words: “It is finished.” A typical Roman crucifixion might last up to several days.
“It is finished.”
It would be easy to hear resignation in these words. After all, Jesus had been trying to teach these people for years – and this is what they do to him!
It might be easy to imagine Jesus thinking, “Well, I did the best I could with what I was given. What more could I have done?”
Yet John portrays Jesus as being in total control of his own death – just as he was in control of his arrest and trial. Jesus even carried his own cross.
This is John’s way of reminding us that even what seems to be a tragedy was still not out of God’s control.
A few key phrases …
- Jesus knew everything had been finished.
- Jesus knew that Scripture had to be fulfilled.
- Jesus bowed his own head and gave up his own spirit.
This in keeping with what Jesus himself had told his disciples …
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. — John 10:17-18
But what was finished? There were still sick to be healed, blind to be given sight, lame to be given strength. It seems like there was a lot left to do … So, what was finished?
Perhaps it would help to look at the phrase a little closer. “It is finished” is actually one word: tetelestai.
Tetelestai was a business term that would be written on documents or receipts indicating the bill had been PAID IN FULL.
“It is finished” is NOT a sigh of resignation but a declaration of victory.
Leonard Ravenhill called these three words, “The greatest words ever uttered by the greatest man who ever lived.”
What was finished?
Jesus had paid your debt and your sins could be forgiven! You cannot complete a completed work. You cannot finish a finished work. Your salvation is already won.
Could you imagine standing in front of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa and thinking, “I’ll just add a few more brush strokes.” Of course not! There’s nothing you can do to improve it.
In the same way, you can’t improve upon God’s gift; all you can do is receive it.
Some of you believe you have to clean up your own life in order for God to love you. To that Jesus says, “It is finished.” You simply have to reach out and accept the gift, putting your faith and trust in the work of Jesus on the cross.
What about the rest of us?
When Richard Neuhaus wrote about this passage, he put it this way: “’It is finished.’ But it is not over.”
That’s why you hear us say, “Found people find people.” The work of redemption is done, finished. The task of testifying to that good news continues on.
If Jesus has found you – has saved and transformed you – then join us in finding others who need to know “It is finished.”