Broad Brook Congregational Church
April 20, 2014
Good Friday Service
“It is accomplished.”
Luke 23:46 “Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Mark 15:34 “At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? Which means, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Matthew 27:46 (the same as Mark)
The Synoptic Gospels have similar accounts of Jesus’s last words from the cross. However, the writer of the Gospel Matthew Mark and Luke all portray Jesus as having cried out loudly and speaking his last words.
For the author of the Gospel of John it is important to emphasize the calm majesty of Jesus’s death rather than the desolate cries of the other Gospels.
The Greek word tetelestai is translated as “finished” in the New Revised Standard Version of the Crucifixion in the Gospel According to John.
The New English Bible translates it as “accomplished.”
Thus Jesus’s last words, according to the NEB, were “It is accomplished.”
To hear “It is finished” from the lips of Jesus seems to recognize
only the finality of his earthly life. On the other hand, understanding Jesus’s last words as “It is a accomplished” places approval on his life and ministry. “It is finished” seems to put a period at the end of Jesus’s life. For those first century believers hearing such finality would have left little room for hope. “It is finished” implies that there is nothing more to come. Even for us, hearing the story as Easter people the tendency is to hear this as the end of the road. To hear Jesus say “It is accomplished” gives both the ancient audience and us the sense of hope; hope that the cross is not the end and that there is more to come.
“It is accomplished” should end with an exclamation mark, an exclamation of success. God’s plan through Jesus has been fulfilled.
Even though gospel writers tell the story of Jesus within the context of their particular audience there is a unity of theme beginning with Jesus’s temptation and moving all the way to the cross. Jesus is introduced to the manifestations of evil as he experiences the wilderness.
Now, as he hangs dying on the cross, evil seems to be victorious over the kingdom of God. But is it?
We hear the words “It is accomplished.”
Throughout Jesus’s ministry he reveals a just God in the midst of a world in which evil rears its ugly head. Jesus brings the kingdom of God
to bear against the injustices of the world as he heals the lame, feeds the hungry, ministers to children, and challenges the Jewish religious leaders. These two worlds have been on a collision course, which explodes during the final week of Jesus’s life. Last week we celebrated Palm Sunday remembering the joyous celebration of Jesus into Jerusalem. He was accompanied by new followers, hungry to hear the message he proclaimed about the kingdom of God, as well as those who have followed him from the very beginning of his ministry. But as the threat of evil from Roman domination emerges the faithful have fled.
The writer of John’s Gospel tells us that there are only a few women and
the disciple whom Jesus loved present at the foot of the cross.
Peter has denied knowing Jesus. Once again Jesus is alone, as he was during his time of temptation in the Desert, and evil seems to be victorious.
I wonder what Jesus’s followers were thinking, what they were feeling.
They must have been afraid, fearing for their own lives. If it is known that they were followers of Jesus will the violence of the political powers rain down on them also? They must’ve been terribly confused.
How is Jesus’s death on a cross a victory for the kingdom of God?
Then there are the questions from Pilate: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate asked (18:33).
“My kingdom is not from this world,” replied Jesus. “If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here” (v. 36).
By now Jesus’s followers and the disciples should have realized to expect the unexpected. The confrontation between Jesus and world powers has always been other than what was expected. He will not match earthly power with earthly power. Jesus’s approach to evil is nonviolent. “You say that I am a king,” says Jesus. “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (18:37). The evil we see, hear, or experience in today’s world leaves us with a similar feeling of desperation just like Jesus’s followers. The cross did not destroy evil.
Yet, we have been given a gift, the gift of hope in our ability to deal with evil. This hope arises out of Jesus’ offer of a kingdom of justice and compassion in the face of evil.
We face our own Pilates and Caiaphas. Only today they take the form of
unethical business practices, terrorism, unjust actions of our own government, political tyrants on the world scene, and even immoral behavior within the church. The cultural and social context of the cross has changed little since the first century. Evil is still present. Then what exactly did Christ accomplish? Will our human reality always end at the cross? Did Jesus’s utterance of “It is accomplished” end with an exclamation mark? Is there hope beyond the cross? Unlike the ancient faithful followers of Jesus, we Easter people know that the cross is not the end.
Their hopes were dashed as they saw life waning from their Messiah as he hung on the cross. For them, it must have seemed to be finished, the end of hope.
Tonight as we observe the cross event, we do so through the lens of the Easter, knowing that resurrection is just around the corner. But before we move to that celebration, I invite you to spend time with the cross. Let the cross remind us of the real character of God, that in the face of evil, oppression, and injustice, it is not lifelessness that we see on the cross… it is indeed a life of accomplishment. It is through the life and death of Jesus Christ that the kingdom of God is ushered in. “It is accomplished!”
These thoughts are offered in the greatest of hope. Amen.