‘It is finished.’ (John 19: 30)
‘It is finished.’…
…It well might not have been. Suppose that Jesus had yielded to the Tempter’s suggestion that what the people wanted was food for the belly, while Jesus knew that what they needed was God’s word. Suppose that he had yielded to the Tempter’s suggestion that what the people wanted was fun and excitement, while Jesus knew that what they needed was a life with the quality of eternity. Suppose he had yielded to the Tempter’s suggestion that what the people wanted was force, powerful leadership which would drive the Romans into the sea, while Jesus knew that what they needed was the worship of God worked out in service to their fellow human beings.
Let us suppose for a minute;
That Jesus had headed Peter’s enticing words: ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’
That at the crucial moment there had been no horrified rebuttal: ‘Get behind me Satan.’
That in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus had inverted the prayer and said ‘Not your will but mine be done.’
We should pause and reflect that at the last, as he looked up into the Father’s face, Jesus could not have cried ‘Accomplished! Completed! Finished.’ He would have had an incomplete offering to make to God. Our liturgy could never have contained in the 1662 version, the words ‘A full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.’ In this cry ‘It is finished’ we see the first rays of Easter light. We cannot and must not, separate Good Friday and Easter Day.
Good Friday, (which is a corruption of God’s Friday) would have been the Devils field-day if it had not been for the event of Easter. It would have signalled the final triumph of evil.
Our Christian faith is that at the moment of victory the whole human prospect was changed. At that point in history there was a new creation, the daybreak of the world. And the ratification was the resurrection. In one irreducibly miraculous act, baffling all human explanation, God raised him high and gave him a name above every name. And the early church took up the shout ‘Christ reigns.’
‘It is finished’ is a cry, a rallying cry, which the church needs to hear today. If that cry is heeded, it spells an end to that almost morbid self-denigration and defeatism which has marked some sections of the church for all too long.
Again we should pause and reflect and think that we follow a crucified Christ, we would follow no other. But we follow a Christ who at the moment when men thought they had defeated him, saw that he had defeated the forces of evil and cried ‘Finished!’ Accomplished!’ ‘Consummated!’ ‘Achieved!’ Here is our hope.
We who are baptised into Christ, who have taken up our cross to follow him, are heirs of that hope. True the forces of evil are on the rampage and we are in the midst of the conflict. But their final defeat is guaranteed, for, as we affirm at every Eucharist,
‘Christ has died: Christ is risen: Christ will come again.’
We pause and reflect on these words.
So while our heads are bent over the world’s pain and sickness and sin, and our backs ache in doing our part in alleviating them, our hearts are sustained by the triumph of faith.
‘It is finished!’
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.