It is finished.
These scriptures are so powerful that I admit I have a strong inclination to simply say, “Amen!” and go home. It is difficult to say anything or give illustrations that do anything but pale beside these words.
It is finished.
I remember after no sleep overnight, about 18 hours of labor, some slow but the final three hours all together too fast and intense, no painkillers and not being completely on top of Lamaze control-of-focus, being completely exhausted and thinking, “It is over.” Our first child, a son, was born and I was elated, but at the moment, I was mostly relieved because it was over. We had achieved our goal. The nine long months and the hard work of labor were over, and our end had been met.
It is finished.
Jesus makes a simple declaration. “It is finished.”
At first hearing, we hear Jesus handing his life, his spirit over to God. His life is finished.
It is finished. His suffering and humiliation are finished. We can be relieved that his suffering is over, but it is more difficult to accept that at his young age, at the height of his abilities, that his life has abruptly ended. It is painful.
It is finished.
But the Greek we translate as “finished,” teleos, has a meaning of completed, accomplished, a purpose or end fulfilled. Jesus has accomplished what he set out to do.
He has served God faithfully, obediently, fully inspired, fully committed, and he has completed his task. It is finished.
Jesus came bringing a new understanding of God, and of being faithful to God and pleasing God, of serving God.
When Jesus lived, people the world over sought to placate angry, capricious, jealous gods, so that the gods would allow them some peace and prosperity, some happiness in their lives. People offered sacrifices to satisfy these gods or to make amends once they were “angered.”
The Jews had a slightly different understanding. They believed in one God, the God of Creation, the one true God. They sacrificed regularly to God. They did not believe in human sacrifice as being pleasing to God, but they did sacrifice goats and sheep and bulls and doves and grain offerings to atone for their wrongdoing and to keep God happy with them.
But it is finished.
Jesus came, introducing a new understanding of what God wants. He came teaching a New Way, inviting us into a new Kingdom of God, a different understanding.
God is love. God loves us without reservation or hesitation. God is like the father who ran out to welcome back his wandering son who has denied his father, squandered his inheritance, and wasted his life in unworthy pursuits. No confessions or burnt offerings were needed, just the decision to come back home. God loves us and forgives us and welcomes us.
It is finished, it is completed: the time of sacrifice is finished for the followers of Jesus. Through Jesus, we understand God does not require blood sacrifices from us. God wants us to love God and to love others.
Jesus came teaching and healing and living the example God wanted us to know and follow.
Jesus valued all people, even those who had no standing, or power or were downright outcasts. He included small children, women, the poor, the lame and diseased, sinners, outsiders, foreigners, even Samaritans and Roman soldiers. He didn’t just welcome them and speak with them and touch them and heal them, he ate with these people, ate with them (!) conferring a special level of intimacy and inclusion and hospitality, a defiant freeing message to the traditional ways of doing things.
Jesus was on a mission. He upset the regular traditions of his people: he valued healing and caring for people more than obeying the law not to work on the Sabbath. He cared more about what he taught and the example he set than the familiar rituals that forbade contact with foreigners or tax collectors or women. He was dangerous in his defiance of the traditional ways.
This is the problem for the Jewish leaders. Jesus is too compelling, his message is at odds to theirs, he is trying to lead the people on a different path, one less about fearing God offering sacrifices to the priests and more about loving God and God’s people. The see only one choice. Have Jesus killed. Better yet, have him killed as an enemy of the state, publicly, painfully and horribly so that no one would want to take up the mission of Jesus, no one would counter their authority again.
And so they think:
It is finished. Jesus is gone, dead, and no threat to us.
Pilate questioned Jesus, asking if he is the King of the Jews.
“You say that I am a King. For this reason I was born and came into the world: to testify to the truth.”
Jesus has done his part, his purpose is fulfilled, his mission complete. Jesus is obedient to his mission of revealing God’s love and God’s New Way and New Kingdom. He has prayed that if it be possible this cup be taken from him, this day of suffering, and humiliation and agonizing death. But he understands: this is his mission, the culmination of his life on earth. And he is obedient, obedient to death on a cross.
It is finished.
But of course, just one part is finished: Jesus living among us, teaching and revealing the love of God. The next part is for the followers to take up the teachings and the actions of Jesus. The people are to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in the world, continuing his good work, continuing his right actions, and continuing his teaching so that more people may come to understand the love of God, the everlasting forgiveness of God, and God’s love for all people.
In Hebrew, the understanding of “repent” was to turn or return; the Jewish people returned from exile, from the wilderness. When we are told at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to repent, we are invited to turn or return from the wilderness. Let the old ways be finished. Follow Jesus, and the New Way of God’s Love.
Jesus’ life on earth was finished, but his Message is not. He continues to invite us to follow him, loving God, loving and taking care of all people.
He shows us, through his life and death, a life of complete obedience to God. We are not Jesus and will not know complete obedience, but he shows us the way: a way to understand God, and our purpose and mission. A way to know that being just focused on ourselves is not our End, our purpose in life. Let Jesus inspire you, breathe new life and spirit into you, enabling you to be a faithful follower of Jesus.
When one endeavor is finished often it is really a new beginning, a new life begins. Our mourning period will soon be finished, and we will embrace the joy and hope of Easter. In Jesus, we should know love and hope and joy. This sermon is finished, but your invitation is ongoing.
Go. The work of Jesus is not finished.
St. Andrew Sermons