Original post at http://wrestledwithangels.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/it-is-finished/
Good Friday 2014 Sermon preached at Liberty Hill United Methodist Church http://www.libertyhillumc.org
It is finished. I said those words proudly as a junior in my high school craftsman class. I spent a semester in wood-working building a rocking horse. It was with pride at the end of the class to stand back and declare, “It is finished.” It did not fall apart. It did not wobble. It actually rocked. And it was finished.
An artist who completes a painting can declare, “It is finished.” A carpenter who builds a house can assert as the new owners move in, “It is finished.” A writer who pens the last sentence of her debut novel says confidently, “It is finished.” A teacher who turns out the lights of her classroom the final time after a long school year affirms, “It is finished.” “It is finished” are powerful words that speak of accomplishment and fulfillment.
They can also be words that speak of defeat. A spouse who walks out of a relationship declares, “It is finished!” A business owner who flips over the closed sign for the last time says, “It is finished.” A report that the cancer is inoperable sounds like “it is finished.” “It is finished” speaks to finality. It is complete. Nothing else is left to be done. It is finished.
On this Friday night that we call good, we have heard, “It is finished” as the final words of Jesus on the cross. However we decide to take those words, defeat is not an option. When Jesus was asked by his mother to perform a miracle at a wedding he said, “My hour has not yet come” (2:4). When asked by his brothers to make his miracle-working presence more visible Jesus reminds them, “My time has not yet come” (7:6). Speaking boldly in the temple about his relationship with his heavenly Father no one was able to touch him because “his hour had not yet come” (8:20). The gospel writer wants us to understand that Jesus was fully in control of his life. The cross is not a defeat. His whole life leads up to the moment of him being lifted up and being able to declare in the affirmative, “It is finished.” We are told that when just like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness as a sign of salvation for the people, Jesus will be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life (3:14). Jesus says it is only when he is “lifted up” that we will begin to understand who he is and who sent him (8:28). After he rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus pronounces, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified” (12:23). He continues, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (12:32). When Jesus states boldly, “It is finished,” he is not crying defeat but words of affirmation for a life lived on purpose.
Dr. Tom Long says, “People die pretty much how they lived. If someone has been enraged throughout life, we can expect rage at the end. A person who tries to bargain with life, family, physicians, and God on death’s door has probably tried to cut a few deals before” (Accompany Them with Singing: the Christian Funeral). We die much like we have lived.
Jesus took his own story seriously. He turned the other cheek. He loved his enemies. He took up his cross. On that cross we see through the window on the very heart and character of a loving God. It is finished. Peter sobs. Redemption found. It is finished. The women wail. Love fulfilled. It is finished. The crowd stands in silence. Heaven and earth clash. It is finished. The veil in the temple is torn. All are accepted. It is finished. Earth quakes. Heaven weeps. It is finished. The power of sin is destroyed. Satan has lost. It is finished.
Jesus finished so that we can begin. Our guilt he nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). He took upon himself our shame (Gal. 3:13). His death opens up the way for us to God (I Peter 3:18). His death on the cross shattered the power of death (Hebrews 2:14). It is finished, done, completed, accomplished, and fulfilled, so that; we can live fully, abundantly, and eternally.
What shame is keeping you from living fully? What guilt is keeping you from living abundantly? What fear is keeping you from living accomplished? You don’t have to live with it. He nailed it to the cross. It is finished so that we can begin.
(As we closed out the service, I invited the congregation to come down and put a nail into the cross. The nail represented for them their fear, guilt, shame, or sin that is keeping them from living fully. It served as a reminder that Jesus declared it finished so that we can go on living.)