It is Finished
Jesus knew that by now everything had been completed; and in order to make the scripture come true, he said, "I am thirsty." A bowl was there, full of cheap wine; so a sponge was soaked in the wine, put on a stalk of hyssop, and lifted up to his lips. Jesus drank the wine and said, "It is finished!"
~ John 19:28-30
At about 3:00 pm, Jesus asks for something to drink. We can imagine that his voice was cracked and barely audible. One of the Roman cohort put a sponge on his javelin and lifted it up to His mouth to drink: we hear that it was sour wine and also that it was vinegar, but surely it was not very palatable. When He had tasted it, having fulfilled the last prophecy of His mortal existence, He declared, “It is finished,” and He died.
When we read and think about this every year, the terrible sadness we feel reflects the sadness of his friends, family, and disciples. What an unutterably horrible moment in the world's history. Nor is it wrong to feel this sadness, for Christ Himself wept at the death of Lazarus even knowing that Lazarus would rise again from death.
But this is the emotion of a moment in time, and we know it will not last. Because Jesus' last words, although they do mean “It is finished,” have a second shade of meaning: It is completed. The verb teleo, the Greek word He uses, had a sense not only of completion, but of successful completion, of fulfillment, and even of perfection. Nor was this a difficult or educated use of the word; it was an everyday word. A Greek sculptor who had finished a great statue, for example, might say the exact same words, or even a humble homeowner who had dug a successful well and tasted the first cup of fresh, cool water.
So the primary meaning of Jesus' word is not “It is all over.” A sports commentator might say, “It looks like the Lions are finished,” when they are defeated beyond hope of recovery, and this is not at all what Christ way saying. What Christ is saying is that His mission to earth has been accomplished. Everything that God had meant to do, by humbling Himself into the form of a human being and emptying Himself of divinity, was declared completed at that moment. A new age had begun.
And what exactly, in practical terms, is it that has been completed? The reconciliation of God and man! The perfect sacrifice has been made and the guarantee of our salvation, the new covenant, comes into effect. There will be further interaction between God and us during the following 40 days, but the chasm between God's expectations and our inability to meet them has been bridged.
God will still demonstrate His power over death by the resurrection, and bring the Holy Spirit to us to comfort and educate us during the new age, but the actual forgiveness of sin occurs at the moment. Christ has atoned for our sins and we can now find forgiveness. Nothing else needs to be done.
Thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of your own suffering, so that we might find you. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer