It Is Finished–Good Friday 2015

It Is Finished–Good Friday 2015

Seventh Last Word: “It Is Finished” (John 19:30) Presented at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Cleveland Heights, Ohio on Good Friday, April 3, 2015 I had the privilege, the honor and the great sadness of being present at the deaths of both my mother and father. They did not die in a hospital or suddenly. They died at home, in bed. I suppose it is a common inclination to dwell on their last words.   We remember last words. My three siblings and I have agreed that Dad’s last words were: “Get some rest.” He apparently felt we were taxing ourselves hovering around his bed. And my mother’s? The ones I remember the best as she spent her nine last days in a semi-comatose state were: “Take time to smell the roses!” And so there are these three last words of Jesus: “It is finished!” They are only recorded in John’s Gospel. John was reportedly at the foot of the cross; he would certainly remember them. Or perhaps he wanted these words to sum up the story of Jesus, who was John’s hero, the person he equated with the Word, with God, and wasn’t John the disciple Jesus loved? So what did Jesus mean when he cried out: “It is finished?” What does the “IT” refer to? The words are translated in Latin as Consummatum est [“It is consummated!”] But look at the original Greek: The word is tetelestai which was written on business receipts in New Testament times indicating that a bill had been paid in full. And so to John’s Greek-speaking readership; it would be unmistakable that Jesus Christ had died to pay for their sins. [From: Bible.org]. So that’s the usual interpretation: And if we agree with it, if we feel we are now close to understanding who God is, if we feel that we owe it to hundreds of years of tradition to believe that Jesus was the scapegoat for our sins, we will feel—what? Guilty?, Repentant? –but comforted? grateful? We laid our sins on him and he was killed so that God could once again love us or see only the sacrifice of his son instead of our ugly sins. It is almost completely irresistible to accept this interpretation. “It is finished” then means that our sins were paid for; God’s wrath appeased; we are redeemed, bought back, restored by the Second Adam to the favor that the first Adam (and his wife, of course) screwed up, lost, forfeited—the original sin! It is comforting, isn’t it, to trace Scripture from that fateful third book of Genesis through the Exodus and Law and Judges and Kings and Prophets and Gospels and Letters and Revelation to conclude: Jesus...

Read More

Are You Chosen? Am I?

Are You Chosen?  Am I? The difficult line in John 13, in Jesus’ words after he has washed his disciples’ feet is: “What I say is not said of all, for I know the kind of men I chose.”  Right after that, he hands a morsel dipped in wine to Judas and tells him to be quick in what he is about to do. This idea of being “chosen” by God has deep roots and many examples in Scripture. Isaiah has God fondly refer to “Israel, whom I have chosen” (44:1).  Peter calls his early Christian readers  “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, …a people [God] claims for his own” (1 Peter 2:9).  There are detailed, exciting and deeply emotional stories of people being chosen to carry out God’s plan of salvation.   Think of the people chosen for the covenant relationship with God: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.  Sometimes they had their names changed: Abram to Abraham; Jacob to Israel.  If you were chosen, your status would be passed on to your children.  There are careful records of genealogies to show who this favored status included. Think of the choice of Moses to lead the most portentous deliverance in history; or how about the choice of his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam?  Think about the call to Samuel and the Judges, and Samuel’s anointing of that great King, David, son of Jesse.  Women figured into the plan as well: Sarah and Rachel and Ruth and Deborah just to name a few. Then there were the prophets, with some pretty dramatic choices in Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah and Jeremiah.  How about the choice of Job to be tested by the Accuser to the depths of his being?   In the New Testament, we have Zachary’s story and Elizabeth’s and Mary’s and Joseph’s, John the Baptist’s and Jesus himself.  In his time, Jesus chooses his disciples and apostles.  After his death, they chose Stephen and the deacons, and Saul—sprawling on the ground, unable to see, the voice of Jesus ringing in his ears–got chosen in spite of his venomous actions toward Jesus’s followers. Are WE chosen?  By whom and for what?  Do we want to ‘be among their number, when the saints go marching in’ to eternal life and happiness?  In his “priestly prayer,” was Jesus talking about US when he said: “For these I pray—not for the world but for these you have given me, for they are really yours” (John 17:9)? Don’t we imagine that we are chosen for some special purpose, some special mission?  Isn’t Paul implying that the Corinthians are chosen because they have different gifts, each one a benefit for the community (1 Cor. 12)?   Don’t we imagine...

Read More