The Sixth Word:
“It is finished!”
Another station from The Stations of the Cross at Serra Retreat Center, Malibu, California. Photo by Mark D. Roberts
I never saw a more difficult film to watch than Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. For most of that movie I wanted to avert my eyes. It was horrible to watch even a cinematic version of a crucifixion. And it was beyond comprehension to think that this actually happened to somebody, and not just anybody, but my Lord and Savior. I had studied the crucifixion before and knew in my head what Jesus experienced. But seeing a visual presentation of his suffering was almost more than I could bear. When The Passion of the Christ was over, I felt palpable relief. Thank goodness it was finished.
When Jesus said “It is finished,” I imagine he was expressing relief that his suffering was over. “It is finished” meant, in part, “This is finally done!” But the Greek verb translated as “It is finished” (tetelestai) means more than just this. Eugene Peterson captures the full sense of the verb in The Message: “It’s done . . . complete.” Jesus had accomplished his mission. He had announced and inaugurated the kingdom of God through his suffering. He had revealed the love and grace of God. And he had embodied that love and grace by dying for the sin of the world, thus opening up the way for all to live under the reign of God.
Because Jesus finished his work of salvation, you and I don’t need to add to it. In fact, we can’t. He accomplished what we never could, taking our sin upon himself and giving us his life in return. Jesus finished that for which he had been sent and we are the beneficiaries of his unique effort. Because of what he finished, you and I are never “finished.” We have hope for this life and for the next. We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. One day what God has begun in us will also be finished, by his grace. Until that day, we live in the confidence of Jesus’ cry of victory: “It is finished!”
Questions for Reflection
Do you live as if Jesus finished the work of salvation? To you have confidence that God will finish that which he has begun in you?
How can I ever find words to express my gratitude to you, dear Lord Jesus? You did it. You finished that for which you had been sent, faithful in life, faithful in death. You accomplished that which no other person could do, taking the sin of the world upon your sinless shoulders . . . taking my sin so that I might receive your forgiveness and new life.
All praise be to you, gracious Lord, for finishing the work of salvation. All praise be to you, dear Jesus, for saving me! Alleluia! Amen.
Resources for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter
The Seven Last Words of Christ: Reflections for Holy Week
(the seven-part series, of which today’s post is part 6)