It is Finished

“28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19: 28-30 NRSV

 Good Friday, I wrote about it last night and published it very early this morning.  I just completed the Good Friday Liturgy at the hospital and am set to get an early start on the rest of the Easter Weekend.  I am not going to repeat last night’s article here, just something that struck me as I prepared for the service and read the Passion narrative from John’s Gospel.  The words It is finished” which come from the lips of Jesus as he dies convey a finality that sometimes we miss as we fast forward to Easter. Upon the Cross Jesus really did die and this can be very uncomfortable in fact a number of major religions reject the notion that God would condescend to become human and certain would never consent to death.  Such a stream of thought was even evidenced in Gnostic Christianity where God is “pure spirit” and the God of the Old Testament was corrupt being powerful enough o create humanity and wicked enough to do so as for the Gnostics the flesh was evil and the spirit good.  Likewise the Aryan Heresy invoked the notion of a Jesus who was not really God, more like a superman as God could not die.  The thought of the Aryans is still present in Islam as Mohammed the Prophet had exposure to Aryan Christianity and the image of Jesus in Islam is nearly identical to the Aryans.

 “It is finished.” They are haunting words and when one reads the words of Isaiah one gets the picture of something that if we passed by on the street that we would probably turn our heads away from to avoid the unpleasantness of the sight as “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.”   

 The hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross is particularly vivid in painting the picture of the crucified Christ: “See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown.”

 The fact that Jesus dies on the cross and dies rejected is a paramount truth of the Gospel and is necessary if we are to comprehend the Gospel, we do not get to the resurrection without the crucifixion and any attempt to do so especially by his people creates a false Gospel, a Gospel devoid of the forgiveness of sins and a Gospel where God knows not our sorrows.  It is the Gospel of Theism where God is not involved in the real world; untouched and unmoved by human suffering and even arbitrary and capricious in his dealings with humanity.   Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote Jesus is a rejected Messiah. His rejection robs the passion of its halo of glory. It must be a passion without honor. Suffering and rejection sum up the whole cross of Jesus. To die on the cross means to die despised and rejected of men. Suffering and rejection are laid upon Jesus as a divine necessity, and every attempt to prevent it is the work of the devil, especially when it comes from his own disciples; for it is in fact an attempt to prevent Christ from being Christ.” 

 The fact that Jesus did not let the cup from him has implications for his disciples which again are not comfortable as they stand opposed to the “Gospel” of those who present the faith as one of respect, prosperity, earthy power and health.  It is not the “Gospel” of materialism where we remain in relationship with God only for the blessings but the Gospel of discipleship and suffering.  It is the cry My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” which Jesus utters as rejected by man and by God as Bonhoeffer said “It is not suffering per se but suffering-and-rejection, and not rejection for any cause of conviction of our own, but rejection for the sake of Christ. If our Christianity has ceased to be serious about discipleship, if we have watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fails to distinguish between natural and Christian existence, then we cannot help regarding the cross as an ordinary everyday calamity… We have then forgotten that the cross means rejection and shame as well as suffering.”

 Again, such a Gospel is not comfortable for the disciple the Gospel of the Cross whereby we come to know God is the Gospel which “bids a man to come and die.” This is not the kind of martyrdom sought by fanatics who seek to destroy their and presumably God’s enemies but a call that is unique to every disciple:

 “But each has a different share: some God deems worthy of the highest form of suffering, and given them the grace of martyrdom, while others He does not allow to be tempted above that they are able to bear…. The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. … we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. … When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.…death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man [or nature] at his call. Jesus’ summons to the rich young man was calling him to die, because only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ. In fact, every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts. But we do not want to die…”

 There is a hymn that means much to me is “And Can it be” which personalizes the great mystery inherent in the Gospel.

And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior’s blood!
Died he for me? who caused his pain!
For me? who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’ Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
to sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.

He left his Father’s throne above
(so free, so infinite his grace!),
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race.
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!

 It is finished and with it we wait. Like the disciples we know not what tomorrow holds we live in a tension knowing Christ’s suffering and awaiting resurrection.  The Centurion Loginous at the Cross saw what no one else saw that day knew that “surely this was the Son of God” and like the disciples would lay down his duties to follow Christ.

 I pray that God will richly bless us this Good Friday with his peace which as he says passes all understanding.

 Peace

Padre Steve+

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