Sermon Crafting: “What Is Finished?”

Palm Sunday sermon

Triumphal Entry, Luke 19:28-44

“When Jesus had tasted it, he said, [tetelestai] ‘It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.” John 19:30

“Then Jesus shouted, ‘Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!’ And with those words he breathed his last.” Luke 23:46 …quoting Psalm 31:5, significance?

[So much to work with! Why did we make this sermon, the one on two of Jesus’ final words from the cross, fall on Palm Sunday?]

STORY STORY STORY

Joel Green on Lk 23:45, the curtain torn…

“What is signified is God’s turning away from the temple in order to accomplish his purposes by other means. Luke portrays the rending of the temple veil as a symbol of the destruction of the symbolic world surrounding and emanating from the temple, neutralizing the centrality of the temple in preparation for h centrifugal mission of Jesus’ followers – not to Jerusalem, but from it, and to the ‘ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).” (The Gospel of Luke. NICNT. Eerdmans, 1997; p.826)

Gentile faith upon watching (and hearing) Jesus die:

“Almost certainly a Gentile, this centurion exercises extraordinary insight into Jesus’ status, rivaled only by that of the second criminal, who had recognized that, in spite of Jesus’ current position on a Roman cross, Jesus was capable of saving him” (Green, 1997, p.827).

The tone of Jesus’ one-word declaration in John:

“John does not speak of the tone in which he uttered the word, but elsewhere we read that Jesus uttered a loud cry just before his death (Matt. 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; the first two mention that Jesus was given a drink just before this). It would appear then that the loud cry was, ‘It is finished.’ Jesus died with the cry of the Victor on his lips. This is not the moan of the defeated, nor the sigh of patient resignation. It is the triumphant recognition that he has now fully accomplished the work that he came to do. Then he bowed his head, a detail mentioned only by John, and possibly the touch of an eyewitness. It is perhaps worth noting that the same expression is used of going to bed…” (Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. NICNT. Eerdmans, 1995; p.720-21)

Adam Hamilton also points out (taking from William Barclay) that it is suggested that this short prayer (cf. Psalm 31:5a) was a bedtime prayer taught by Jewish mothers to their children. When I read this I immediately thought of “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take…” which I grew up saying and is part of the bedtime prayer we say with Noah. As I listened to Adam Hamilton preach on this, he referred to the same present-day comparison. (Sigh) Great minds…

What was finished? From John’s Gospel…

6:51 – “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”

10:11 – “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.”

11:50 – “You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.”

12:24 – “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” metaphor for martyrdom. someone dies for a cause and people find that death so compelling that people begin to follow that cause

12:32-33 – “’And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.’ He said this to indicate how he was going to die.” a compelling sight that draws people to Himself and the Father like a magnet

15:13 – “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” divine love that is powerful and willing to give everything for the people of God

  • Messianic prophecy
  • Redemption!
  • The ultimate example of love
  • The inauguration of a new reality, the Kingdom of God
  • The ultimate sacrifice of the Passover Lamb! (STORY)

History of the one-word declaration

Tetelestai – Warren Wiersbe tells us the word was a common one “used by merchants to mean ‘The price is all paid!’ Shepherds and priests used it when they found a perfect sheep, ready for sacrifice; and Christ died as the perfect lamb of God. Servants, when their work was completed, would use this word when reporting to their masters. Christ, the obedient Servant, had finished the work the Father gave Him to do.” (Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament. Victor Books, 1997; p.264)

continued from another source…

“Papyri receipts for taxes have been recovered with the word tetelestai written across them, meaning ‘paid in full.’” (Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible knowledge commentary. Victor Books, 1983; Jn. 19:30)

Illustration:

“There was once a rather eccentric evangelist named Alexander Wooten, who was approached by a flippant young man who asked, ‘What must I do to be saved?’

‘It’s too late!’ Wooten replied, and went about his work.

The young man became alarmed. ‘Do you mean that it’s too late for me to be saved?’ he asked. ‘Is there nothing I can do?’

‘Too late!’ said Wooten. ‘It’s already been done! The only thing you can do is believe.’” (Wiersbe, W. W. The Bible exposition commentary. Victor Books, 1996; Jn 19:28)

Redemption

“When, in the Fourth Gospel, having received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ he was referring, not only to the work of revelation through word and sign, but also to the great work of redemption.” (Kruse, Colin G. John. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, vol. 4. Morris, Leon (gen. ed.). InterVarsity Press, 2003; p.365)

Hymn

O Love divine, what hast thou done!

The immortal God hath died for me!

The Father’s coeternal Son

bore all my sins upon the tree.

Th’ immortal God for me hath died:

My Lord, my Love, is crucified!


Is crucified for me and you,

to bring us rebels back to God.

Believe, believe the record true,

ye all are bought with Jesus’ blood.

Pardon for all flows from his side:

My Lord, my Love, is crucified!


Behold him, all ye that pass by,

the bleeding Prince of life and peace!

Come, sinners, see your Savior die,

and say, “Was ever grief like his?”

Come, feel with me his blood applied:

My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

~Charles Wesley, UMH #287

The dotted line _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Before Jesus took his last breath he said, “It is finished” and “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” Jesus prayed in faith to the Father whom he knew would raise him from the dead. He trusted him to do that. He declared it out loud. And it was his final message to us before his death. Are you able to echo that prayer today? Are you able to trust that it truly is finished, believing in what Jesus said and what he did for us? And are you able to trust that the same God who raised Christ from the dead can give life to your deadness, and one day literally raise you to new life from the dead to live with him forever? May we respond like the centurion as we see God’s salvific hand at work in the death of Jesus upon the cross and “praise God.”

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