Good Friday Reflection March 30, 2018
John 19: 16b-30
“It is finished.”
What exactly is finished? Samuel Wells of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields, London, in an essay, “Preaching Crucifixion,” (in Journal for Preachers, Vol. XXXIX No. 3 Easter 2016, pp. 2-6) guides my thoughts for this reflection.
Jesus’ life and ministry are finished and the reconciliation of God and creation is finished. Wells suggest our misconceptions of who Jesus are also finished. Finished is the image of Jesus as a conquering hero. Gone are any hopes that Jesus will use his power to rout the Romans and set up his reign. Destroyed is the image of a powerful, conquering God who blasts all evil-doers and infidels from the face of the earth in a mighty show of shock and awe. Looking at Jesus on the cross defeated, humiliated, puts an end to that lie.
Finished too is the sentimental image of Jesus, meek and mild – the smiling Jesus with white skin and blue eyes, that many of us saw hanging in our Sunday School rooms. Destroyed is the illusion that love or being nice is an easy answer. Jesus on the cross puts an end to easy answers. It is finished.
Finished is any notion of a Jesus detached from human suffering, untouched by the agonies of human life. Here he hangs on the cross as a common criminal, experiencing the worst that human beings can do to each other. Banished is the unmoved mover, the clock-maker God who set the world in motion and then stepped back to see how it would unfold. It is finished.
Finished, too, is the idea that God saves people from suffering or that God sends suffering as punishment. Standing before the cross, I am forced to say, if God didn’t save Jesus, the Beloved Son from suffering, I can hardly expect God to save me from the little suffering I might have. Finished is the Jesus that can be used to keep people in line. Finished.
Everything is finished – not wrapped up in a neat package but exposed for what it is. Our idols of God & Jesus are laid waste. Our carefully reasoned explanations for suffering or redemption are shattered. Our safe hiding places from the atrocities and incongruities of human life are upended before the cross. Our means of hiding from our own feelings of betrayal, despair, lostness, fear, shame, sorrow, vulnerability are ruined, finished.
“It is finished.” Jesus is finished pouring out everything he has, his whole life and all his love for the disciples who betrayed him, denied him and ran away. It is finished. Poured out to the last drop. “He loved them to the end,” John tells us. Finished is God’s pouring the divine self into human life in love. The Holy One cannot go back now; it is finished. God knows in deepest intimacy our capacity for love and for failure, all the evil and suffering we can inflict on one another and the potential we still have to receive love. God in Jesus has taken all of life into God’s self. It is finished.
When our illusions are gone, we can catch a glimpse of what it means that God desires to be with us in whatever comes. We see to what lengths God goes to show that God is in love with us. It is finished. Jesus bows his head and hands over his spirit. The seed has fallen to the earth. It has sown itself in the aching flesh of our hearts. It is finished.