There are some things in life that improve when you add to them—adding a couple of zeros to your paycheck, just to name one. But some things are destroyed when you try to add to them. You might call this subtraction by addition.
Consider the human face in all its beauty and symmetry. The human face is not improved by the addition of a second nose to the middle of the forehead or by the placement of a third ear in the middle of the cheek. The human face is complete just the way it is. To add to it would be to disfigure it.
The finished work of Jesus Christ is like that. There is nothing you can contribute to the payment that Jesus made on the cross for sin. There is no penance you can undergo, no good work you can perform, no pilgrimage upon which you can embark, no punishment you can endure to clear your guilt before God. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” he meant it.
He meant that he had completely paid the price to release his people from their bondage to sin. So for you to try to pay for your own sins is to deny that Jesus really did finish paying for sin. For you to try to do something to earn your own salvation is to make Jesus Christ out to be a liar.
Since Jesus Christ is finished suffering for sin, you cannot add anything to what he has already done. Since Jesus paid it all, you don’t have any more payments to make. You cannot refinish his finished work.
From beginning to end, Jesus Christ lived a life of suffering. From the moment he left the heavenly palaces of light to the moment darkness descended upon him on the cross, he suffered. But that is all finished now.
Jesus “made himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7, NIV). He was born into a poor family, born in a smelly cave of a stable, for there was no room for him at the inn. His crib was a feeding trough, his pillow straw, his nursery mates some cows and donkeys. But all that is finished now.
Jesus “came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11, NIV). When he began preaching in his hometown his neighbors threatened to stone him, and they drove him out of town. Even his own brothers didn’t believe that he was the Son of God. He became homeless, a wanderer, for there was nowhere for him to lay his head. His miracles were not always believed, his teachings were not always obeyed, and his claims were not always accepted. But all that is finished now.
He was forsaken by his Father on the cross. But all that is finished now. No one will give Jesus the thorny crown or the rugged cross ever again, for he has finished his sufferings.
Jesus was “despised and rejected by men” (Isa. 53:3). He was opposed by the priests and politicians of this world. The King of Judea pursued him with a sword, forcing him to become an exile and a refugee in Egypt. The religious leaders sought to trap him in a falsehood so they could kill him. Even his own friends betrayed him. Simon Peter, the best and truest of his disciples, denied Jesus three times and called down curses from heaven to disown him. Judas Iscariot, the close companion who reclined with Jesus at the table, greeted him with a kiss and betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver. But all that is finished now.
Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). He was mocked by soldiers and criminals. They put a crown of thorns on his brow, stripped him, abused him, and crucified him. And then they ridiculed him some more. He was thirsty. He was in agony. He was forsaken by his Father on the cross. But all that is finished now. No one will give Jesus the thorny crown or the rugged cross ever again, for he has finished his sufferings.
Finished for You
If you’ve never asked God to let the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ count for you, then you have some unfinished business to take care of. If you try to pay for your own sins, you’ll never be finished making the payments.
But if you come and meet Jesus at the cross, you can be finished with the debt that you owe to God once and for all. All you need to do is tell God that you are sorry for your sins and that you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross so your sins would be completely forgiven. If you do that, then Jesus’s mission will be accomplished in your life, and what he said on the cross will be true about the price he paid for your sins: “It is finished.”