What Did Jesus mean “It is Finished”?

The four Gospels tell us of seven sayings of Jesus from the cross when he was crucified on what we call Good Friday. Each of Jesus’ seven sayings are important, but my favorite is the sixth one, “It is Finished.” The question we ask ourselves in considering this saying is, “What was Jesus referring to with the “It” in his saying “It is Finished?”

I’m confident it’s not what at least a couple of authors suggest. One observer suggests “some may hear in Jesus’ words disappointment.” But as we’ll affirm later, even in the face of pain and pending death on the cross, Jesus certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Was Jesus referring to the reason for his coming? Are things coming to a sad ending in terms of his purpose? Do the words “It is Finished” mean that Jesus had failed or that his mission wasn’t accomplished?

Please note that Jesus did not say, “I am finished,” but rather “It is Finished.” Nor did anyone else who was there declare while Jesus was dying on the cross, or after he died, “He is finished.”

New Testament scholar Leon Morris explains, “It could mean that Jesus’ earthly life was over, he was about to die. But, while that was true, the more important truth is that the death of Jesus meant the completion of the work of salvation for which he had come to earth.”

The “it” in Jesus’ words “It is finished” refers to the reason for and purpose in his coming. The “it” in Jesus’ words “It is finished” points to the perfect plan of God the Father and the mission for which Jesus came. “It is finished” underscored the fulfillment of the Father’s will. It was a clear announcement that in dying on the cross Jesus completed what he came to do. In his book The Cross of Christ John Stott tells us the verb finished is in the perfect sense and it means “it has been and will for ever remain finished” (p.82).

The saying reminds us of what Jesus said early in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” It’s as if Jesus was saying, “I have done the task the Father asked me to do.” Jesus accomplished what he came into the world to do.

The words from the cross “It is finished” is a statement of triumph. His death finished the ransom payment for the sins of those – including us today – who accept him as our Savior. But Jesus’ statement “It is finished” cannot mean there is nothing else that he would do. The primary purpose of his coming was complete.

After Jesus died they took his body from the cross and buried it in an unused grave. But even though Jesus had finished what he came to do, on Easter Sunday morning he rose from the dead. According to the Apostle Paul in Romans 1, “Jesus was proved and attested to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection.”

Forty days after his resurrection Jesus returned to His Father, and multiple times the New Testament reminds us that Jesus was exalted and sits at the right hand of God. Not only that, we know that someday Jesus will come again to welcome and receive us to return with him to the Father and live forever in heaven. And we will do that because in his first coming he finished what he came to do.

On this Good Friday we are reminded and remember again that it was a Friday, and just before he died on the cross he declared, “It is finished.” And for that we thank and praise him who is both our Savior and our Lord.

Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this post on Facebook or other social media.

Image by <a href=”https://pixabay.com/users/jerzygorecki-2233926/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=2767528″>Jerzy Górecki</a> from <a href=”https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=2767528″>Pixabay</a&gt;


Isn’t it interesting that the Bible says virtually nothing about Saturday between Jesus’ crucifixion on Friday and his resurrection on Sunday?

The Sunday before is called “Palm Sunday,” Thursday that week is known as “Maundy Thursday,” the day on which Jesus was crucified is designated “Good Friday,” and the day of his resurrection is celebrated as “Easter Sunday.” But what about that Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday?

In all my years of going to church, leading Holy Week services, teaching about the events, and rejoicing on Easter Sunday I have never thought much about the Saturday between Jesus’ Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection. That is, until last night.

This week I have been reading a devotional guide published by Christianity Today entitled “Journey to the Cross.” Last night I couldn’t go to sleep so I moved ahead in my reading to the devotional for Saturday. Written by A.J. Swoboda, its heading is “Waiting at the Tomb.”

Swoboda’s opening sentence grabbed my attention and held my interest through the three pages. He begins the short devotional with the acknowledgment: “I call it awkward Saturday.” I don’t think that description will become as well-known as the others, but I like it.

What were Jesus’ mother, disciples, and friends thinking and doing on that Saturday? Swoboda points out that we “look at Saturday through the lens of Sunday” (the resurrection), but they couldn’t.

Jesus, of course, had told his disciples more than once he would be killed but would rise again. You may want to take a few minutes and read Matthew 16:21, 17:22 and 23, and 20:17-19. In Luke’s report of Jesus’ third time telling them this he adds, “The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about” (Luke 18:31-34). Luke’s words are confirmed by the response of the disciples to the first reports that Jesus had been raised (Luke 24:11).

But what about Saturday? It is somewhat awkward, isn’t it? We can try, but we can’t really experience and feel what Jesus’ followers did on that Saturday. We know what was coming on Sunday, they didn’t. Swoboda suggests it was a day of waiting and ambiguity for them.

We can’t experience and feel what Jesus’ followers did on that Saturday, but we do know something about ambiguity and waiting in our lives. And that waiting and ambiguity tests our faith. During those times of Saturday disappointment, uncertainty, and holding on, don’t forget that after Saturday comes Sunday.

Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this post on Facebook or other social media.


As we come to Good Friday and think about the cross, I want to share three truths about ourselves, about God and about Jesus from one of my favorite authors: John Stott.

“First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross. For ultimately what sent Christ there was neither the greed of Judas, nor the envy of the priests, nor the vacillating cowardice of Pilate, but our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ’s resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgment and so put them away. It is impossible for us to face Christ’s cross with integrity and not feel ashamed of ourselves.

Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension. God could quite justly have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and to perish in our sins. It is what we deserved. But he did not. Because he loved us, he came after us in Christ. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by love like that. It is more than love. Its proper name is ‘grace’, which is love to the undeserving.

Thirdly, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He ‘purchased’ it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Nothing! Since he claimed that all was now ‘finished’, there is nothing for us to contribute. Not of course that we now have a license to sin and can always count on God’s forgiveness. On the contrary, the same cross of Christ, which is the ground of a free salvation, is also the most powerful incentive to a holy life.”

Taken from The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott, pp. 83 and 84; pub. by IVP, 1986.

Feel free to leave a reply below and/or share this post on Facebook or other social media.

photo credit: babasteve <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/64749744@N00/25306637214″>Easter Week No. 1</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;




What I hope will be a meaningful read as we come to Thursday and Friday of Holy Week this year.

The most dramatic and consequential questioning of Jesus took place during the hearings and trials He went through prior to His crucifixion. Actors have tried to capture the drama in a multitude of plays and movies ranging from small church youth-led Good Friday services to the big screen of Hollywood.

But the consequences were more important than the drama. For Jesus it meant His death on the cross. Of course He knew the reason He came was to die, but His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane gives us insight into His inner struggle. In addition, the consequence of His death was an opportunity for us to have life, through the forgiveness of our sin and restoration of our status as children of God.

Context and Setting

The accounts of the night of Jesus’ arrest and trials, all the way through His resurrection and ascension, are in many respects the most difficult to harmonize in the Gospels. The trials before His crucifixion and His appearances after His resurrection are most challenging. John’s account of Jesus before Pilate is the most complete of the four with Matthew and Mark being in the most agreement about the entire ordeal. I suggest reading and studying one account at a time and not investing a great deal of time and energy in trying to harmonize everything.

In terms of the questioning of Jesus prior to His crucifixion, the questioning from Pilate was the final stage. Prior to appearing before Pilate Jesus went before Jewish authorities two or three times. It seems clear Jesus was first questioned informally and then later taken before the Sanhedrin (the formal Jewish council). Only John tells us that Jesus was taken first to Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest Caiaphas (18:13). After that He was taken “to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered” (Matthew 26:57).

Early the next morning the night’s questionings came to a climax. This exchange is also the high point of all that had transpired between Jesus and His critics during His final week.

The Jewish leaders were looking for evidence to charge Jesus so they could put Him to death. In the first part of the “hearing” they couldn’t get two witnesses to agree. Finally, two agreed about Jesus saying He was able to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. Yet even with the high priest challenging Him to respond, Jesus remained silent.

Finally, exasperated, the high priest challenged Him: “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah of God” (Matthew 26:63). By the things He had done and said, especially in recent days, Jesus had given enough reason for the high priest to ask the question. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report Jesus’ answer a little differently; Matthew has Him saying, “You have said so” (Matthew 26:64a). As we will see later, this is very similar to the response Jesus would soon give to Pilate.

But the answer that brought everything to a head was what Jesus said next: “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64b). It was a bold statement claiming a special relationship with God no human being could have. The high priest tore his clothes (a sign that blasphemy had been committed) and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” (Matthew 26:65 and 66a). And all agreed Jesus was worthy of death.

The final note of context and setting is Matthew 27:1 and 2: “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.”

Questioning Jesus and Considering His Responses

Since John’s account of Jesus before Pilate gives the most detail, we will use it in this part of our study. Pilate began the proceedings by asking the Jewish leaders what charges they were bringing against Jesus (18:29). These enemies of Jesus knew they didn’t have a charge that would stand up in the Roman court so their response was Jesus was a criminal. In the first of several efforts to remove himself from the situation, Pilate told them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law” (18:31).

The leaders’ response was they did not have the right to execute anyone; this was the very reason they had taken Jesus to Pilate. The Roman government did not permit its subjects to convict and carry out the death penalty. That was in the hands of the local governor. The leaders’ problem was compounded in that blasphemy was a serious infraction for the Jews, but meant nothing to the Romans.

It was at this point that Pilate asked the key question. The question is identical in all four Gospels: “Are you the king of the Jews?” (Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; and John 18:33). The question is identical, but the recorded response of Jesus is not. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have Jesus responding, “You have said so,” the same response Jesus had given earlier to the high priest. R.T. France notes this answer “is a qualified affirmative,” indicating yes to the question, but not in accordance with the meaning the questioner has in mind.20 In other words, Jesus was agreeing He was indeed a king, but not in the way Pilate was using the word.

John’s fuller account of the exchange between Jesus and Pilate bears out France’s interpretation of Jesus’ answer recorded in the other Gospels. John tells us Jesus’ responded with a question: “Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?” (18:34). It seems pretty clear that Jesus’ accusers had set Him up ahead of time. Pilate responded, “Am I a Jew? Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” (18:35)

The final part of Jesus’ response to Pilate is one of His best-known sayings: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (18:36). He had a kingdom, but it was not like the world’s kingdoms. If it was His disciples would have fought for Him.

Only Luke tells us that at this point in the proceedings Pilate learned Jesus was from Galilee and sent Him to Herod (Luke 26:6:12). This was the second attempt by Pilate to opt out of dealing with Jesus. But Herod sent Him back to Pilate.

Pilate made two more attempts to get out of dealing with the charges and requests the Jewish leaders brought to him about Jesus. He brought up the custom of releasing a prisoner at the time of Passover and offered to release “the king of the Jews” (John 18:39). Instead they chose Barabbas. Pilate also repeated his view that Jesus was innocent by declaring, “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 19:6b).

In John’s account Pilate also continued questioning Jesus, concluding with, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” (19:10). In Jesus’ final words to Pilate He gave another bold and powerful answer: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (19:11). Jesus told Pilate the only power he had over Him was given to him by God. And even though Caiaphas (probably) was guiltier, Pilate was also guilty.

Wrap Up

Pilate was a conflicted leader who tried hard, but not hard enough. John tells us, “From then on Pilate tried to set Jesus free” (19:12a). But the Jewish leaders would not accept it. The final straw for Pilate was no doubt what these leaders had in mind when they first took Jesus to him. They told Pilate, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar” (19:12b).

Even though I have known the account since I was child, and have heard it more times than I can count, I think one of the saddest verses in the Bible is John 19:16: “Finally Pilate handed him to them to be crucified.”

This is chapter 13 of my book Questioning Jesus: Considering His Responses. To learn more about the book, read endorsements, or order the book go to Amazon’s website:


Feel free to share this post on social media and/or leave a comment below.

photo credit:

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/60532802@N07/5613765246“>Scourged 08</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com“>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/“>(license)</a>