By Rev. Jacob Smith
Throughout the season of Lent we have been walking through the Seven Last Word’s of Christ. As I have said, the seven last words come from the seven last statements of Jesus found in all four Gospels and function as a thread which weaves the four Gospel accounts together, making the cross story one profound testimony of God’s unquenchable love for humanity, specifically you.
Back in 1998, that great radio show, “This American Life” aired a program which revolved around the theme of people’s last words. The host of the show Ira Glass pointed out, in his opening monologue, that people’s last words often times sum up whom the person is and what they have done. He used Arnold Rothstein, the person credited with fixing the 1919 World Series as one of his examples. In 1928 Rothstein was shot, and as he laid dying someone asked him who shot you, to which he replied, “My mother did it.”
Glass astutely pointed out that Rothstein blaming his mother–as opposed to his killer–was his way of summing up one last time that he was, even in death, not going to be a rat. Glass wrapped up the monologue with this insight: last words can capture the meaning of our life, the meaning of our existence, at the very moment of our annihilation.
Our text today comes from Jesus’ last words spoken from the cross in John’s Gospel, 19:30, “It is finished.” The church chose the word Triumph to go with this phrase, because indeed this is not the cry of defeat, but rather a cry of triumph. While Rothstein, or any human’s last words, may simply define their lives alone, Jesus’ last words while they do indeed sum up the meaning of his life as the Son of God, the perfect representative of all humankind, his last words also profoundly say something about our lives as well. This is what I want to talk about today:
1. What does, “It is finished” say about the summation of Jesus life?
2. what does, “It is finished” ultimately say about your life?
3. How does “It is finished” impact and inspire us for service in the here and now?
Adam and Eve…were intended to lead the entire cosmos in the worship and glory of God.
There is an old phrase, I believe it was originally attributed to Chaucer, that says “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.” The Bible affirms this to be true. Adam and Eve–the embodiment of every individual–were intended to lead the entire cosmos in the worship and glory of God. However they disobeyed God and the ramifications of this disobedience rippled through humankind as sin and death entered the world. We still experience its affects today at our very core: doing the things we don’t want to do and doing the things that we shouldn’t. Disobeying God in both Thought Word and Deed, by what we have done and what we have left undone.
This was not the case with Jesus–although like us in every way–everything about him was perfect and in harmony with God. From his birth, to his childhood, to his miracles, to his teaching, to his triumphal entry, to his dispute with the religious leaders in the temple, which led to his perfect passion, to this very moment on the cross where he perfectly give up his spirit and says IT IS FINISHED.
This is my first point: For Jesus the last words “It is finished” is the triumphal summation of not only his passion and perfect death on the cross, but the summation of the only life ever lived perfectly and in harmony with and thanksgiving to God. A perfect and complete life happened once and IT IS FINISHED!
The mainstream story is we are basically good people who have lost our way and what we require is a little help from our friend Jesus…
What I have just said runs contrary to the defining religious story of our culture today, even within much of the church. The mainstream story is we are basically good people who have lost our way and what we require is a little help from our friend Jesus, a superior human or example, to inspire us to become more Godly, be independent, and happy people. So that we can boldly live out our own stories, look back upon our own accomplishments and say over our own lives, not bad “IT IS FINISHED.”
But the Cross of Christ, Jesus’ final words here in John, were never intended to awaken some sort of slumbering higher self to its own achievement. Rather as the perfect representative of all humanity, Jesus word’s “It is finished” becomes our cry also, causing us to forsake our accomplishments and independence and cling to and rely upon Christ’s blood and his righteousness.
This is my second point: everything that ever needed to be done or will need to be done, when it comes to the grand story, reconciling you and the whole world back to God has been accomplished. We can not mess it up nor add to it because Jesus, his perfect life, his perfect death, which leads to his perfect resurrection, has also become all ours and “It is finished.”
Speaking of Last Words, I read in the news that Hugo Chavez’s dying words were, “Please don’t let me die.” The Venezuelan press remarked these words were out of fear for the future of Venezuela because he didn’t feel that his plans for Venezuela had been accomplished. Whatever the context, that is a true feeling. Have you ever noticed that when major decisions-not to mention eternity-are left in our hand the anxiety and pressures that comes with it are immense?
Hear me on this: When it comes to God and eternity enough has been done. You have been covered in Christ’s blood and been given his righteousness. Therefore, when it comes to this present life we need not be paralyzed by the fear of falling short. Because these words It is finished is a real promise from God which gives us the courage to face tomorrow, our problems, and all of the unknown factors of life with real courage because we know-because of his cross- that no matter what God is always with you and for you.
“It is finished!”
This is my third point: in life we are often ruled by anxieties, fear, lack of control and what it is finished says to us is that while we may not know what the future will bring, we know who is ultimately in control of the future and our eternity. And so no matter what we can live in hope because although our end has not yet come, by faith, it is finished.