"It Is Finished", by Greg Koukl
Crucifixion is a cruel form of execution, generally reserved for slaves and rebels. Death is agonizing and slow, the result of shock, exposure and, eventually, asphyxiation. Hanging from a cross constricts the diaphragm, inhibiting breathing. The only way to get air is to release pressure on the arms by pushing up against the nails that pierce the feet, requiring continual effort that could go on for days. Exhaustion eventually overtakes the victim and he suffocates.
For Jesus, though, the pain of the cross paled in the face of a greater anguish. There was a deeper torment that could not be seen, more excruciating than nails pinning Jesus’ body to the timbers, more dreadful than lashes ripping flesh from His frame. It was a dark, terrible, incalculable agony, an infinite misery, as God the Father unleashed his fury upon His sinless Son as if guilty of an immeasurable evil.
Why punish the innocent One? Nailed to the top of the cross was an official notice, a certificate of debt to Caesar, a public display of Jesus’ crime: “The King of the Jews.” The certificate of debt was a list of crimes committed against the state that required payment. When punishment was complete, Caesar’s court would cancel the debt with a single Greek word stamped upon the parchment’s face: “tetelestai.”
Being king of the Jews was not the crime Jesus paid for, however. Hidden to all but the Father was another certificate nailed to that cross. In the darkness that shrouded Calvary from the sixth to the ninth hour, a divine transaction took place; Jesus made a trade with the Father. The full weight of all the crimes of all of humanity—every murder, every theft, every lustful glance; every hidden act of vice, every modest moment of pride, and every monstrous deed of evil; every crime of every man who ever lived—these Jesus took upon Himself as if guilty of all.
At the last, it was not the cross that took Jesus’ life. He did not die of exposure, or loss of blood, or asphyxiation. When the full debt for our sin was paid, and the justice of God was fully satisfied, Jesus simply gave up His spirit with a single Greek word that fell from His lips: “Tetelestai.” “It is finished.” The divine transaction is complete. The debt was cancelled. (Colossians 2:13-14)
This was not an accident. It was planned. The prophet Isaiah described it 700 years earlier:
Surely our griefs He Himself bore….He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way. But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Is 53:4-6)
No other man did this. No other man could. Jesus alone, the perfect Son of God, the Savior of the world, He paid the debt so that whoever relies on Him would not perish under God’s judgment, but have life with Him fully and forever.
“It is finished.” It only remains for us to trust in His promise.
About Greg Koukl