It is finished. St John gives these as the last words Jesus utters before his death. Not “it’s all over”, or “I am finished,” but “it is finished.” The project is done. The mission is completed. The purpose has been accomplished. John tells us that death is part of God’s plan to lead us to life. He even calls the death of Jesus his glory, the crowning moment of his earthly ministry.
We struggle with the notion that a death can be anything other than tragedy. Why did Jesus have to die? Why did my loved one die? Why do we have to die?
On Good Friday we arrive inexorably at this sad, lonely place at the foot of the Cross. This year it’s even lonelier than usual, as we observe the days of the Passion alone in our homes.
I remember a Good Friday when the church I served had not yet started to offer the liturgy of the day, when the only service available was the ecumenical preaching of the seven sayings from the Cross in a Methodist church where there were no kneelers. I left that service feeling incomplete: it didn’t feel like Good Friday until I got down on my knees.
So I went across town to my church, where we had stripped the altar and chancel the night before. The heat was off; it was a chilly, rainy day; and the worship space looked forlorn and abandoned, like the body of someone who has died without friends. I slipped into a pew and opened a prayer book to the Solemn Collects. “Dear people of God: our heavenly Father sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved … we pray, therefore, for people everywhere according to their needs.” As I prayed, I felt like Good Friday was complete. It is finished.
In some ways, praying alone is very appropriate on this day. We need time and space to ponder this mystery. Jesus is the way, the truth, the life. His way is a way of peace, of healing, of love, and he encounters obstruction every step of that way. Telling truth to power puts him on a collision course with the corrupt structures of the world. And now he willingly hands over his life – John’s language makes clear that this is done only with his consent – so that we, who do not deserve it, will receive the free gift of eternal life in him. It is a deep mystery, that God should yield to the forces of evil in order that good might triumph.
It is finished: the salvific work of God is accomplished. Jesus has come into his glory and we are redeemed. But there is more to come. We watch and wait in prayer for the final mighty act that proclaims to the world that Jesus is king. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Amen.
Good Friday 2020