It is finished, completed, fulfilled. In our world with all its half-finished tasks, its jobs which never seem to stay done, those words ring strange in our ears, perhaps even a bit presumptuous. How can it be finished? Does not the world go on, with its comings and goings, its joys and its sorrows, loves and hates, living and dying, its giving birth, and yes, even its violence and killing? How can it be finished? Yet that is the claim of this word of Jesus from the cross. There was one task, at least, that got done. It is finished.
What is finished? Nothing less, I think we must say, than all our business with him whom we call God. For the fact is that since the beginning we have not gotten on very well with God. Oh, I suppose you might say that we have tried in a way. We have flattered him with some of the best names we can think of: Divine, The Supreme Being, The First Cause, The Almighty, The omnipotent, omniscient and all the other “omnis.”
Since the beginning when we listened to the voice of the tempter, “You shall not die, you shall be as God,” we have been trying to do away with God. And now, at last it has happened.
We have built some of our most beautiful buildings in his honor, done heroic things in his name – as long as it seems to suit our purposes. We have undertaken great moral crusades, made sacrifices and laid many a burden on ourselves to do him justice – or at least we tell ourselves we have. But through it all, as the Scriptures amply testify, there has been an undercurrent of resentment against a God who really undertakes to come into our lives, to intrude upon us.
“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us” (Ps. 2:2–3). “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matt. 23:37). Since the beginning when we listened to the voice of the tempter, “You shall not die, you shall be as God,” we have been trying to do away with God. And now, at last it has happened. The truth about us is exposed. God’s Son is dead. It is finished – our business with God.
When Jesus uttered that last cry, it meant that not only our business with God is finished, but also God’s business with us, God’s way with us, God’s seeking us is finished, consummated, perfected.
But that, of course, is not all of the story – thanks be to God! When Jesus uttered that last cry, it meant that not only our business with God is finished, but also God’s business with us, God’s way with us, God’s seeking us is finished, consummated, perfected. Since the beginning he has been seeking us, trying to get through to us, to reconcile us to himself, to say his “I love you, nevertheless. You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.”
Now he has said it, done it. Wonder of wonders, this is the moment God has planned for. “He was delivered up,” St. Peter said, “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). He came to bear our sins in his body. He took it all the way to death. He speaks in his last word to us. He completes his way with us. He spares nothing that we might see the light. So in John’s Gospel, from which these words come, this is the moment of the supreme glorification of the Name of God. Jesus said, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all to me” (John 12:23). Before his crucifixion he prayed, “Father, the hour has come, glorify thy Son, that the Son may glorify thee…!” (John 17:1). And now it has happened. The Glory of God has been manifested.
And so it is finished. The Scriptures have been fulfilled. And what does that mean for us? Shall we arise from this dreadful place, this death, and live? That, I suppose, remains to be seen. It awaits the message of Easter Morn. But it does mean that we are finished. Our old way with God has reached its goal. And that means that we are finished. It means, dear hearers of the word of God, that you are finished. You cannot be the same now. All that is ended, over.
All the selfishness, the refusal to believe God and to take him at his word, the prejudice, the hatred, the protecting of self, the fear of death – all that has no point, no purpose, no future. You are through. God has put an end to that. He has decided to have done with the old because he is creating something new. So hear this word from the cross: It is finished, and that is final. Hear it and know that it is not just an end, but a completion, a consummation, that in that end is a new beginning. Nothing remains now but to await the dawn of a new day, the Easter Morning, the resurrection, the new life of faith in God. God has made an end to the old so the new can begin once again. He has reached his goal. It is finished. Repent, and believe. Amen.