It Is Finished

savingprivateryan It Is Finished

James Ryan arrives at a headstone, and falls to his knees, tears in his eyes. On the headstone is the name “John Miller”. Ryan looks up to his wife by his side and asks, “Have I been a good man? Tell me I’ve lived a good life.” His wife looks down and assures him that he has. However, the tears continue because James Ryan does not seem to be able to believe that he has been good enough.

Many immediately recognize this scene from the movie Saving Private Ryan by Steven Speilberg. The movie is well written. John Miller is portrayed by Oscar winning actor Tom Hanks who is tasked with taking a squad of men to find James Ryan. Ryan is the fourth son of a woman who has lost three sons already in World War II. Military commanders have decided that Mrs. Ryan will not lose her last remaining son. Miller’s squad eventually loses 8 men so that it can save this one.

Miller dies in battle with Ryan by his side. With his last breath, he looks at Private Ryan and whispers, “Earn this.” Back at Miller’s headstone, Ryan has clearly lived his entire life with a tremendous weight on his shoulders. Has he earned the sacrifice of John Miller and his men? Miller himself, earlier in the film, says, “He better be worth it. He’d better go home and cure a disease, or invent a longer-lasting light bulb.”

Christians too often hear these words, “Earn this,” coming from Jesus’ lips as he dies on the cross. We live our lives trying to earn it, to become someone for whom such a sacrifice isn’t so incredibly incomprehensible. We turn into James Ryans, questioning if anything we do could ever be quite enough.

It is Finished” is in the Gospel text the single word tetelestai. Being in the perfect greek tense, it means literally, “it has been and will for ever remain accomplished, completed, finished.”

Christ’s salvation is a free gift. He purchased it for us at the high price of his own blood. There is nothing left for us to pay. IT IS FINISHED. There is nothing left to contribute. Not that we now have a license to sin. On the contrary, the same cross of Christ is the most powerful incentive to a holy life. But this life follows the cross, it does not purchase it. First, we must humble ourselves at the foot of the cross and receive from him a full and free forgiveness.

But Jesus doesn’t say, “Earn this” from the cross. He says, “It is finished.” The message of the Gospel is diametrically opposed to John Miller’s “Earn this.” Miller applies the law to Ryan’s future in a way that Ryan can never escape. No matter what Ryan may ever do or who he may ever become, Miller’s words will never allow Ryan to live in peace, or safe from Miller’s judgment-from-beyond-the-grave. One word of law destroys the grace Miller shows in giving his life for Ryan.

No word of law escapes Christ’s lips from the cross. Incredibly, the word of law is applied to Christ (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). We are freed, and safe. Don’t allow your ingrained pride to rebel against God’s grace. Instead of stumbling on the cross because you insist on trying to earn God’s favor, bow at the cross and receive his gift.

Jesus doesn’t say, “Earn this.” He says, “It is finished.”

*My friend, Ricco Tice, Associate Minister at All Souls Church in London, gave me the original idea for this post.  He has graciously granted permission for me to use it.

  • Charity

    I love it! Great article!

    • Darian G. Burns

      Thank you Charity!

  • Jerry Broussard

    Very good article Darian. Thank you for your gracious comments on my blog.

    IN the light of the Blood Covenant, Jesus statement, “IT IS FINISHED”, refers to multiple events. (1) According to 1 Peter 1, “IT IS FINISHED” also means that the plan of salvation that was established before the Godhead created the world, was accomplished, and finished.

    (2) Jesus is referring to the prophetic word of Abraham when he and Isaac where walking up Mount Mariah for the sacrifice, which is the opposing hill of Calvary. When asked where the sacrifice was, Abraham, filled of the Holy Spirit, exclaimed that, “the Lord HIMSELF will provide the sacrifice.” God did, and Jesus declared the prophecy completed, because Jesus was the “HIMSELF” the Holy Spirit was referring to.

    (3) This is the part you wrote about so wonderfully. Sins price was paid in full.

    Darian, I pray in Jesus Name, that Name above ALL Names, that God the Father bless you and keep
    you; GOD smile on you and gift you; GOD look you full in the face and make you prosper. (taken from Numbers 6:24-26; from THE MESSAGE:)
    Jerry Broussard of

  • Royal Farris

    I think “It is finished” are three of my favorite words in the Bible … I taught that passage a couple of Easters ago … I may do it again next year … It is just so powerful a Word from Jesus ..

  • C Berry

    Very good post – appreciate the reminder that the work has been accomplished, now and forevermore! And it isn’t our doing that saves us – it isn’t our work. It is Christ’s *alone*!

    God bless.

    • Darian G. Burns

      Thank you!