The seventh word is from John 19:30.
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
When Jesus said, “It is finished,” the It could be many things. For one, he has lived a full life as a human, from birth to death, temptation, joy and grief – He has set a perfect example of what a person can be.
And He has finished the work of reconciling the World with its Creator. He has laid the foundation of a new and deeper relationship between humanity and God. A relationship based on grace – not rules and regulations.
This “It is finished,” shows us how to break the cycle of violence and vengeance.
This “It is finished!” is triumphant.
Harold Frye, in one of his many devotions, helped me hear the note of triumph. He compared Jesus to a runner who has finished a race to the best of their ability. Jesus – after years of teaching, preaching, and healing, totally exhausted, crosses the finish line and reaches the goal. He is exultant.
In a parallel to God pronouncing, “It is very good!” on the sixth day of Creation; Jesus says, “It is finished,” before he rests on the Sabbath.
That is why we call this Friday “good.”
But then “he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” And there is no denying that this is a dark hour.
Dear Friends, tonight, we are here to remember the death of our savior and hero, Christ the Lord.
Jesus – convicted of blasphemy by the religious authorities – convicted of sedition by the empire – is taking his last breaths. Powerless, we are here to remember an execution.
As I have held this moment in my heart, my own emotions are dominated by fear, grief, and bewilderment.
I grieve because my hero was rejected and humiliated. I am afraid, because I am called to this same struggle against evil and because I will also lose my life – one way or another.
I understand why Peter denied Christ and why the disciples scattered: The cross is where those who challenge and question the status quo wind up.
And I am bewildered because I cannot figure out the theological accounting that balances our sin with Jesus’ death. I accept it. I am amazed and inspired.
But I do not understand it.
I do know this… Unless it gets dark. And I mean really, really dark; you cannot see the Milky Way. And the Milky Way is beautiful.
I think of it as the echo of “Let there be Light!”
Once upon a time, I saw the Milky Way.
It was after a week of wilderness backpacking with a mixed group of scouts from across the country. The landscape was breathtaking, and the experience was exhilarating; but I was young, and several of the boys teased me for being the smallest, the slowest, and the weakest.
Finally, the trek was over, and we were in basecamp. That night, I couldn’t sleep.
I left my tent, walked into a field, and cried. It was a dark, clear night. I was far from the city; and I could see the Milky Way.
As I stood there, I realized // how insignificant I was // how lucky I was to be alive. I realized // how trivial my troubles were // and that my tormentors were weak themselves.
When I regard Christ on the cross, seemingly defeated, I realize how much he loves us despite the mean, sinful, and evil things we do. He is more than the Milky Way. He is the human incarnation of “Let there be Light.”
If you have eyes, see:
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
The darkness cannot overcome it.
Please pray with me.
God, you are with us in our darkest hours. Shed your Light on us. We grapple with fear, grief, and confusion. Comfort us. Give us hope and the courage to face the night. Amen.