“Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
John 19:28-30 NIV
“A jug of sour wine was standing by. Someone put a sponge soaked with the wine on a javelin and lifted it to his mouth. After he took the wine, Jesus said, “It’s done . . . complete.” Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit.”
John 19:29-30 MSG
What was finished?
What was complete?
What’s so “good” about this Friday?
It’s a story which makes no sense on the face of it. Jesus, the man on whom so many hopes had been pinned, is dead. Just another false dawn in a long list of Jewish “Messiahs”, God’s chosen one who scripture says again and again will deliver Israel from its oppressors. And least the others tried to fight, they raised some sort of army and actually revelled. This guy… well, he talked a lot, but he seemed more interested in upsetting the religious leaders and telling us how to love than in actually fighting.
And now he’s dead. He did nothing to avoid it. His followers did nothing to help him – one even betrayed him.
He was a great teacher, but Messiah?
Who has he saved?
What has he accomplished?
Well, since you asked…
We need to go back to “the beginning”,
“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
Genesis 2:1-3 NIV
“And so the whole universe was completed. By the seventh day God finished what he had been doing and stopped working. He blessed the seventh day and set it apart as a special day, because by that day he had completed his creation and stopped working. And that is how the universe was created.”
Genesis 2:1-4a GNT
God had made the universe. It was finished, complete, so utterly perfect and how he wanted it that he took time to rest and enjoy it.
What had been the finishing touch? Human beings. In his image. Someone to care for his creation and to live in a relationship with him.
Genesis paints a wonderful illustration of this, with Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden. God walks in the garden with these humans, talking, sharing time, having a close and personal relationship.
These humans are the reason it is finished. God has made his creation perfect by having somebody to share it and enjoy it with.
Then it goes wrong.
We all know the story of Eve and the serpent. She eats the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, gives some to Adam and then… all hell breaks loose. Quite literally.
Did this really happen? Well, not like this. The writer of Genesis is a wonderful parable writer, just as Jesus was. He’s trying to show us something about ourselves and how we have ruined God’s creation by breaking that perfect relationship.
The key to how is in the tree and its name; the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God made everything and decided it was “good”. God determines good and evil, as the he maker of all things should do.
Then we decide to rewrite the rules. We decide to define good and evil for ourselves. There was no tree, no fruit, no serpent. But there was a move away from God’s will to our own. We wanted more; more power, more wealth, more food, more land, more status, more sex, more everything. We redefined good and evil in our own interests, not in the perfect way God has done.
Then, we decided that we are God’s equal. We don’t need God. We are the true masters of this world and of how it should be run. So we see wars, poverty, inequality, bigotry, environmental catastrophe, oppression, torture, murder, slavery… all because of the want of humanity. All because we decide what is good, and that is whatever we want it to be.
But there’s still that part of us which knows true goodness. God made us “in his image”, so he included truth and beauty and love in all of us. And a need to be with him. We may spend our time filling that need with other things, things which don’t fill the hole, but that need is there.
So, we come back to him. Or we try to. But we need a way back, because all of the wrong choices we have made lead to death, so we need to do something to reverse that.
This is where the idea of sacrifice came in. Spilling the blood of an animal in place of our blood. It’s a pretty horrible thought, especially in this day and age, but that’s because we don’t need to do it anymore…
So, God’s people would do wrong, then make up for it with a sacrifice. But they couldn’t keep it going, so they needed to sacrifice again and again. Finding animals “without defect”, giving up the very best to make up for our very worst.
Something else, something permanent needed to be done. A sacrifice to end all sacrifice. A way of hitting the reset button on creation so that we have a way of going back to that symbolic garden of Genesis, walking and talking with God each day.
If you need something doing, you have to do it yourself.
I can’t even begin to explain the Trinity in a way which makes sense, even to me. I can make sense of it in my head, it just feels right, but I can’t explain it in words. What I do know is that God the Father sent God the Son (Jesus), both of them God, to finally put things right.
He teaches, heals, loves, calls people to follow him, points the way to the Father. He gives us the simple instructions of loving each other, caring for the poor and sick, putting others before ourselves and going out to tell others the same; always focusing on the Kingdon of God on earth – the garden.
Then, he starts speaking about his death. He knows what he is doing. He knows he’ll be betrayed. He knows he’ll be arrested. He knows he’ll be beaten, whipped, humiliated, condemned and, finally, killed.
God has sacrificed himself so that we finally have that way back.
“It is finished”
“It’s done… complete”
He’s talking of creation. Creation was only complete when God has that companion in humanity, now humanity has that way back to a relationship with him. No more sacrifice is needed, no more death. Jesus didn’t just die, he beat death and returned on the Sunday – the need to make up for walking away from God, for putting ourselves first, is gone. But so is death as the consequence of it.
“It is finished”
“It is done… complete”
Creation is a God intended again. It may not feel like it right now, but the goodness of that Friday was that we can become what we were always meant to be, people enjoying and looking after God’s creation, to love each other, and to walk with God.
Good Friday is about death and sacrifice. It is also about the ultimate love. But more than that, it is about the final completion of creation and the final perfection of God’s finest creation -us.
Don’t waste it.