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. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19: 29-30)
What does the "it" in this 6th word from the cross refer to? His short life? His suffering? His ability to draw breath? I don't think so. I think, and I am not alone in this, the "it" is all that he came to accomplish, his calling, his mission. That being said, to say it is "finished" is not simply a statement that it is over and done with. It is to say that what he was born to do and to be had been completed, accomplished, fulfilled. Not unlike the artist stepping back from her masterpiece that has been in the making for years and declaring, "It is finished."
This, of course, is the great mystery of it all: just what had he accomplished? From the Disciples point of view, from the point of view of anyone standing by on that first Good Friday, Jesus was finished in the sense of utterly and ultimately defeated, overtaken, and dashed against the rock forces of injustice. Done in. Finished.
Things go dark at noon that Friday as if to confirm the ending. A deadening silence follows and the the sabbath begins. Holy Saturday. The 7th day.
And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2: 2-3)
When the notion of "finish" is applied to God, things are anything but over and done with. The earliest Christians talked about being people of the 8th day.
In this life, it feels like nothing is ever finished. Way leads on to way. Life gets cut short in so many ways for so many people. Even when one dies in old age, we who are standing by feel a deep and profound sense that the life was not finished....whether the life lived exemplified the best or character traits or the worst.
The truth is, we, all of us, everyone and every part, find our completion, finally, in the love of God.
I want to leave you on this Good Friday with a quote from Reinhold Niebuhr.
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.
Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.