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It is Finished.
A sermon preached by Sandi Albom on Good Friday, April 3, 2015.


Passage - John 19:30

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.”  Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

“It is finished.”

How many times have we heard those words from the Passion narrative according to John?  Actually, in our lectionary for Good Friday we hear them every year.  I find it interesting that none of the other gospel accounts tells us that Jesus said, “It is finished.”  Not Mark, who we heard last Sunday, not Matthew, not Luke.  In John, we don’t hear loud cries of, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” or the surrendering words, “into your hands I commend my spirit”.  The Jesus that John presents to us simply says, “It is finished”.

As I sat with this scripture I had to resist the impulse to go straight to what is so natural for me as a Christian in the year 2015.  I needed to put aside my post-Easter perspective for a time.  I needed to set aside my beloved empty cross.  I wanted to stand with the people there at the cross of Jesus as they heard him speak and breathe for the last time.  What was the impact of those three words for them?  “It is finished.”

Mary, the mother of Jesus is there.  How could she have ever imagined this?  She remembers kissing her boy’s brow as she put him to bed.  Now a crown of thorns mars that brow.  She remembers guiding his tiny hands and feet as he learned to walk.  Now those hands and feet are nailed to a cross.  Perhaps she is thinking, “thank God his pain and misery is finished”. 

And there is Mary Magdelene, who followed Jesus to the end; Mary, who did not run away; Mary who does not hide her grief and devotion for the teacher who saved her life and her very being.  This man has changed her life;  it would never be the same again…… she would never be the same again.  Is Mary wondering, “Now that it is finished, where will I go?”

As Jesus releases his last breath, slumping forward, ……… interest wanes the crowds move away ……the spectacle is finished. 

The Roman soldiers show visible relief that their terrible task is finished for another day.

And what about those that are not present to hear Jesus’ final words?  I think it’s a safe bet the Roman and Temple authorities are certain they have finished off the movement of this radical revolutionary from Nazareth once and for all.  No doubt, they will be sleeping well tonight.

What about Peter, devoted, bumbling Peter, who Jesus loved so very much?  Peter, who was the first of the disciples to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, is now guilt ridden, full of fear and in hiding.  His dear, dear friend and rabbi has been put to death.  Peter must be miserable and horribly grief stricken.  Was all that Jesus did for naught?  Was every thing they did together lost?  How can the disciples, now dispersed and in hiding, possibly continue without Jesus?  Peter cannot believe it is finished.

Finished, over and done with.  Jesus is gone.  Mary, his mother will go to live in the household of the beloved disciple; ……perhaps Mary Magdalene will accompany her.  The disciples will go back to their former professions: tax collector, fisherman, or whatever it was they did before they came together.  And, the Romans will continue as a superpower and will go on to kill thousands more as revolutionaries against the empire.

So, standing there, confronted with the crucified Jesus, we can ask only one question……….God, is it finished?  Over and done with?  Are you finished with us?  What now?  Does the world go back to the way it was before You walked among us as flesh and blood?  Is that what Jesus is saying?..............  Is it finished?

Here is something for us to consider.  Jesus did not say, I am finished, proclaiming his death.  He said “It is finished”.  So, what is this “it”?  There are many things that Jesus did, many signs he performed.  This is about the work and will of God, which Jesus came to do.  He spent his days healing, teaching, opposing the establishment…… all in complete surrender to the will of God.  In the end, this “it” is about accomplishment, not about finality of God’s plan.  “It” is about finishing God’s purpose in the here and now of Jesus’ time on earth. 

Jesus talks throughout the gospels about what he is called to do.  Several weeks ago we heard Jesus tell his friends, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  Jesus’ death is God’s overwhelming act of love and redemption, an eternal lifting up of all creation, and a promise of new life after death. 

The “it” becomes for us a call to action.  It is an invitation to be transformed, to fully embrace the Love poured out for us, no matter the pain, no matter the loss we are confronted with on this Good Friday.  And as the seed is transformed and is fruitful and abundantly multiplied, we are forever changed, just as those around the cross are changed…….. even if they do not know it yet………. even if we do not know it yet.

Several years ago I was given the opportunity to step into a new role in the hospital where I worked.  At the time, I was a manager in the Operating Room of a large trauma center.  My VP asked me to coordinate a large yearlong project.  It was challenging and pretty darn scary.  I needed to develop and learn skills I did not yet possess.  I had to reach far outside of my comfort zone and to ask for help and support.  This was a huge stretch for me.  I didn’t even know how to use a computer back then.  It was an incredibly exciting and stress filled time.  When all was said and done and the goal was reached, we were finished.  That was the end of it. 

I went back to my former role as a manager in the OR.  It wasn't long before I realized that where I was once comfortable and familiar, I was now restless.   Don’t get me wrong, the work I was doing was good work, interesting work.  But I had been changed by the experiences of the past year.  I found that although I enjoyed some of the daily activities and interactions of being a manager, I missed the atmosphere of project management.  I had learned new skills, grown in confidence and thrived in the atmosphere of mutuality and creativeness.  I had been changed forever and there was no looking back. 

My favorite spiritual writer, Richard Rohr wrote this about Jesus’ crucifixion, “Nothing changed in heaven on Good Friday, but everything potentially changed on earth”.  Their association with Jesus forever changed the people that surrounded him when they joined in his ministry to accomplish the realization of God’s Kingdom on earth.  Now, as they remained there at the foot of the cross or as they shivered alone and afraid in their hiding places, they continue to be unknowingly transformed for the rest of the work to be done.

Perhaps it is like that today for you.  I know it can be for me.  It can be so challenging to see past the stone rolled across the tomb to the heart of God that lies within.   It can feel like Jesus is in the tomb and that is where he will stay.  All we need to do is look at the last few weeks’ news reports of terrorist violence, gun violence and mean spirited legislation, to feel as though we will never see beyond the stone standing in our way to God. 

From now until the Great Vigil of Easter tomorrow night is a truly liminal space that we are living in.  Rohr tells us it is, “a time of in-between – when everything actually happens and yet nothing appears to happen.  For all of us this is the necessary handing over of time, when soul and Spirit rejoin with body.  The tomb is like a temporary womb.  Greatness does not just happen unprepared.  It must be waited for, needed, desired, and an inner space created.” 

We need this time and space where we recall that all is not as it should be in God’s world.  It is a time to lament those things in us and around us, which are contrary to the gift of Love we are given.  It is a time to consider our response to that Love. 

And there is the “it” that continues on for we who are people of God.  There is a quote often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”.  I believe that we are the change God made us to be in the world.   And for that very reason, Jesus lived, walked on this planet, and reached out to the poorest among us in purse and in spirit.   And then….. he gave himself over to be subject to greed, jealously, fear and ultimately to death.  Jesus did all of this, to be our example, that we might know the very real and live impact of Sin, and that we might then truly realize the meaning of loving one another as He loves us. 

I am in total agreement with what Michael said in his homily last evening.  I cannot do this “it” with any degree of perfection and……  I cannot do “it” alone.  This “it”, the continuing heartbeat of God in the world……… “it” is what the author of Hebrews is asking us to consider…..how might we provoke one another to love? 

Jesus has finished the work God sent him to do in his time here on earth.  Our relationships to God and creation are forever changed and are forever continuing to transform because of it.  And this is God’s BIG “IT”, my dear friends!  Jesus, the Word, God incarnate, One with the Beloved Creator from beginning, to beginning, and forever, is not finished with us yet.

Amen.

Last Published: April 8, 2015 2:52 PM