I preached this meditation on Good Friday 1973 in my first parish.
We are told that just before Jesus died, he uttered a loud cry. The Gospels are not in total agreement as to what this last cry was, but John, who was the closest witness, reports Jesus’ final cry – it is a single word – “Finished!” (John 19:30).
“Finished.” In this simple word we have the key to the history of the world, we have the key to who Jesus is; we have the key to who we are and where we are headed. “Finished.” This word can mean so many different things, yet as I meditated upon it, St. Paul’s famous hymn to love came to mind: “Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:8). And I began to think that the cry of Jesus from the Cross is above all a cry of love.
In the beginning, we are told, God created the world by His Word and he gave to us men a life and an image which were uniquely His. Why did He ever make this beginning but that His abundant love overflowed, as it were, into a world of creation? And God has never ceased to exercise that creative love toward us – it is by His breath that we came into existence and that we live from day to day, and every perfect gift comes from the Father of lights. And it was God’s purpose that we should live in society of other human beings – parents, children, husbands, wives, friends, neighbors and strangers – reflecting toward them that same love which God has toward us.
This is the love which Jesus expressed in that final cry, “Finished!” It is finished just because God’s love would not give up on us. It is finished just because God would not take sin as a final No to what He had so carefully begun. It is finished just because God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son so that we might not perish but have eternal life.
Do you realize what it means that Jesus finished His work on Calvary? It means that we can put away all that cumbersome baggage of our sins. Jesus has already finished dealing with our sins. Why should we continue to nurse them as if we secretly hoped they would recover. Let us put them away. They are done for.
Jesus’ completed work means that our life always has the potential to conform to the image in which God created us. Nobody is over the hill. Nobody is permanently injured by a traumatic experience, a time of suffering or temptation. Because Jesus is gone ahead of us, bearing all the traumas, trials, and tribulations we can have, He can always restore us to life if we let him.
Jesus’ finished life means above all that we can have confidence. We can have confidence toward God – that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. What a freeing thought – God is not after us like a hound but like a shepherd, and He has found us and gathered us into his fold. We can have confidence in ourselves. We can see our faults without the sinking feeling of inferiority and worthlessness. We can ask for help without feeling that this is an admission of defeat. We can act as a free person even if we do not feel free – because God is greater than our feelings and has pronounced us free in the love of Christ. And in this confidence we can extend God’s love to others. Rather than mistreating others to salve our needs, we can give because we have received. We can begin to be reflectors of that non-grasping total love which God has shown to us in the final word of His Son – “Finished!”
In Jesus’ last cry from the Cross, we know once and for all that God is for us – not tentatively or conditionally, but totally for us. St. Paul reflects this great fact in the eighth chapter of Romans:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)
It is finished! Thank God!
Today’s Hymn is “How Great Thou Art”
Cover Art: Tintoretto, The Creation of the Animals. (Web Gallery of Art). “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:2).